AT's Blog – From A to T

Occasional observations and random musings from Cali to DC

The 2K11 WNBA Draft from a Former GM’s Perspective (Part 3 of 3)

Posted by ataylorblog on April 10, 2011

BEHIND THE SCENES IN THE WAR ROOM

WNBA Fans….Draft Day has finally arrived.  This is one of my favorite parts of the WNBA season.  Watching the look of sheer excitement on the faces of the draft picks & their families is heartwarming!

As fans, players, and coaching staffs know…the off-season in the WNBA can move at an excruciatingly slow pace.  Coach Brian Agler and the Seattle Storm raising the WNBA Championship trophy last fall seems like a distant memory at this point.  The beauty of the long off-season is that it gives the staffs an incredible amount of time to prepare for this important day.  Today is the culmination of all of their hard work.

As you drink some Starbucks and check your Twitter account this morning in anticipation of the WNBA Draft, I thought I’d paint a picture about what happens behind the scenes leading up to the draft and on draft day.

Before I officially sat in a war room and was part of the draft preparations during my stint in Minnesota with the Lynx, I always wondered what it would be like and what goes on behind the scenes.  So, after revealing my quick mock draft analysis earlier, I thought I’d share some of the behind the scenes action that may be happening in the war room of your favorite WNBA team as staff get set to turn in their picks for Renee Brown to read off at the podium.

Behind the scenes & in the war rooms:

  • There is more time between the Final Four and the Draft this year, so coaching staffs are undoubtedly on the phone with agents, college coaches, and the draft prospects they are interested in selecting.  When the pre-draft camp was eliminated, it eliminated the opportunity to meet in person with many of the prospects you were considering.  Therefore, the last few weeks, teams have been doing their due diligence by talking with as many individuals they can to gain greater insight into the prospects’ character, potential, work ethic, health, and abilities.  These calls can be with high school coaches, athletic directors, opposing college coaches, USA Basketball coaches, former teammates, trainers/team doctors, academic advisors as well as with the college coach and player herself.  Any ounce of information that can help paint a picture is invaluable.  While I didn’t make it a habit, it was even important to glance at her Twitter account or to peruse her quotes in articles just to give us an edge in getting a clearer picture about the type of person & player we were considering adding to our team.
  • Sometimes these calls were as much about gaining further insight into which teams may have a strong interest in that particular player as they were to get to know if she fit into your culture.  College coaches and agents are generally very candid with information about who has been following & inquiring about that player all year.  Some even offer their opinion on where she’ll end up in the draft.  All of which, helps you to hone in on how the draft will go down and who may be off the board when you are on the clock.
  • During the last few weeks, there undoubtedly has been an inordinate amount of video and video edits reviewed by staffs in order to further break down a player’s tendencies or strengths.  You video staff is so important for the draft and throughout the season.  At this time, there are some players who may not have received a lot of exposure who all of a sudden are on your radar (maybe from an NAIA school or an international prospect) that may fit the profile.  Similar to preparing for the GMAT or LSAT, a general manager never feels as if he/she has seen enough.  They will use every last second to make sure they have done their homework and are prepared to have a successful draft.
  • In the weeks leading up to the draft, we would establish a ranking of the Top 50 prospects overall, the top prospects by position, and the top prospects for our system based on needs.  This rankings would constantly be tweaked in the days and weeks leading up to the draft until we knew exactly what order we would select a player if she was on the board on the morning of the draft.  So much happens in the moment when you are on the clock, so we didn’t want to be scrambling for answers.  Surprises or not, we would be prepared to take the best person for our team based on how we had them ranked and depending on if we needed a certain position or the best player available.
  • In order to hone in on the prospects we truly would have to consider at our picks, we constantly revised the pool of players who we believed would be available “in our box”.  For example, if we were picking at 8, we would project who consistently would be top 5 picks and eliminate them from our scope of possibility.  Then we would identify the next best 5-6 players most likely to come off the board.  That allowed us to pinpoint the 1-2 players we would actually consider with the pick.  Oftentimes, there may be a surprise pick who ends up falling down into your box.  This happened in Minny when Anosike fell into our box at #16 and Houston fell into play at #30.  Both pleasant surprises whom, in addition to Wiggins, made up a great rookie class.
  • We also would conduct daily mock drafts (one version depicting where we thought other teams would select players & one based on how we would make selections).  For fun, we would conduct a draft that outlined how we needed the draft to go in order to get the player we coveted based on projected trades or movement.
  • Equally as important as how talented the players are or what they are like as a person is how healthy they are.  In the absence of the league-wide physicals that usually took place during pre-draft camp, the league provides teams with electronic data on the health of each player considered for the draft.  In conjunction with our discussion with college trainers/doctors, we would have our team doctors and trainers assess the information for all prospects with extra care to those who were high on our list for each pick we held in the draft.  We would meet with our medical staff in advance of the draft to discuss any health concerns they may have & if necessary, to devise a plan of action in the event that was a player we drafted.
  • As you can imagine, with about 24 hours remaining until the draft, the phones are ringing off the hook.  Coaches and/or general managers are trying to get a line on who is going where in the draft and if any deals are on the table.  Other general managers are trying to make deals happen, trying to trade up in the draft, or looking to trade back to get the player they want at the value spot.  This will continue up until the picks are made on draft day.  On several occasions, I would receive a series of phone calls when we were “on the clock” from other teams who saw someone on the board that they wanted at our pick and who may be gone before they get to their pick.  It is critical that you entertain these conversations while making sure you get your pick to the league within the allotted time (3 or 5 minutes).  The phones don’t slow down until a solid hour after the draft in the event any additional trades take place.
  • This year will be the exception as the top two picks seem to be solid, but in years past, agents of the Top 3-4 players would call on a regular basis to get a feel for where their player was going (especially if you had the #1 or #2 pick) because they want to have their client ready.  Agents were also a great source of information on where certain players were going as they often were provided with accurate information from other war rooms.
  • One of the worst things that can happen on draft day is if you miss a phone call that you were expecting, so rest assured that there will be a plethora of phones (land lines and cellular lines) sitting around the table.  In addition to cell phones where GM’s & coaches can be reached for trade conversations, each team will have a conference line to listen to the conference call, a direct line to communicate with a league representative when making picks, and a land line for other teams to call.  Trust me when I say that I had our IT contact on speed dial on draft day because you just can’t afford to lose a connection.
  • During the draft, things happen pretty fast & furious (at least for the 1st Round and most of the 2nd Round), so while we loved to have the ESPN/NBATV feeds on in the room, you rarely found yourself being able to watch what was happening in the studio.  We always did make a point of pausing & “turning up the volume” when our pick was coming up.  Hearing Donna mention Candice, Marissa and Jacinta’s name on television was like Christmas morning.  I got goosebumps all three times.  Special memories!
  • One of the most important things for me was the set-up for the draft.  I tend to be a bit anal about the little details, so it was imperative for me to make sure that every detail from the positioning of the chairs, staff assignments, prospect board, conference phones, etc…were positioned properly so that we could focus on the task at hand on draft day.  We also had to make sure we had plenty of food and beverages in the room.  I’m a bit of a choc-a-holic, so the menu included a plethora of sugary snacks, lol.
  • General Managers, the community relations staff, and the public relations staff are trying to figure out how soon they can fly their draft pick(s) in to “meet the fans” and speak to the local media.  The great thing about the timing of this year’s draft is that the league is conducting their Rookie Orientation session this weekend prior to the draft, which will allow some players to head to their new markets immediately following the draft or soon thereafter.
  • One of my favorite parts of draft day was when we were able to call the players immediately after we drafted them.  We usually put them on speaker phone for the entire room to listen.  You could hear the excitement in their voice.  After they are drafted, there is a lot of logistical information to provide as they prepare to pursue their dream of playing in the WNBA.

There wasn’t much sleep going on in the days surrounding the draft.  In my case, there wasn’t much healthy eating going on either.  But what I can tell you is that as you are preparing for the upcoming season, draft day is truly one of the most energizing days for the entire organization.  The staff is excited about their hard work in the off-season coming to fruition, the current players on your roster (especially those completing their rookie season) are excited about bringing in a fresh who will be tasked with picking up breakfast in the morning, and you are looking forward to seeing how the talent you have assembled will mesh on the court once practice starts.

It’s the beginning of another exciting season and all twelve teams are ready to begin their journey towards the historic 15th WNBA Championship!  I hope you all enjoy watching the draft!

Minnesota is officially on the clock…

Stay tuned later for my WNBA Draft Winners & Losers

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2 Responses to “The 2K11 WNBA Draft from a Former GM’s Perspective (Part 3 of 3)”

  1. Thanks for taking the time to make this series of posts. Your perspective is interesting and I appreciate the insights!

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