Ryan Carr on the Pacers’ draft prep, pick 23, and valuing fit

Ryan Carr, Pacers, 2018 NBA Draft

Final preparations are underway at the St. Vincent Center in downtown Indianapolis as a dozen or so in player evaluation push to gather additional intel on players and who teams ahead of the Pacers may draft.

After going 48-34 and losing a four-way tiebreaker to decide the draft order, the Pacers will select 23rd and 50th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, which will be held Thursday evening at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. ESPN will again be televising the two-round draft, which will begin after 7:00 pm ET.

The Pacers visited with players at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, the NBA Global Camp in Treviso, Italy, and 29 draft hopefuls who came to Indianapolis for a workout.

The pre-draft workouts are less about the workout and primarily about three things: 1) Getting to know them better, especially in an off-court setting over lunch, 2) Medical evaluation, 3) Building a relationship.

Victor Oladipo is the star of the team, named to the All-Defensive First Team and Third Team All-NBA last month. He had a career year in his fifth season as a pro, a friendly reminder that it takes time and for a player to be in the right environment for a player to excel as Oladipo, the second overall pick in 2013, has.

Ryan Carr heads up the Pacers’ 365-day scouting operation. The Indiana University grad began with the franchise as a video intern for Larry Bird when he became head coach (1997), and then the Sumner, Washington native returned to the franchise when Bird became President of Basketball Operations in 2003.

One year ago, he was promoted from Director of Scouting to Director of Player Personnel.

As he joked on Tuesday, Carr was allowed out of his scouting cave to visit with media ahead of Thursday’s draft, where they are looking for fit as much as talent.

“We feel like we’d like to build a team where the sum is bigger than the parts,” he said. “When a guy like Victor buys into that and is that kind of player and person, it really helps a lot.”

This will be the first draft where Kevin Pritchard has been team president the entire year leading up to it. Bird stepped down and into an advisor role on May 1, 2017 and Pritchard was promoted. Bird enjoys watching basketball and evaluating players so he has been present for the six pre-draft workouts.

Watch Carr’s full comments, and read his answers to key questions below:

On his feelings before the draft:

“There’s good players at 23. We’re trying to figure out who exactly will be there, based on intel and what other teams like. It’s a good draft. I’d say it’s a little deeper than probably what we thought at the start of the year as different kids emerge and show that they’ve gotten better.”

On Thad Young’s Player Option and how not knowing his decision might impact what they do:

No, as far as I know, we don’t [know what he’s going to do]. I think in the draft, we’re drafting in the 20s, you’re trying to find the player that has the best chance to be an NBA player – at least a rotation player. I don’t think you’re too worried about trying to fit a certain guy in, not in the 20s.

If you look at the statistics over the year on hits and misses in the draft, you better pick the guy that you think has the best chance of having a career [in the NBA].

On whether there is an importance on drafting a player who ready to contribute:

This year, you’re balancing one-and-dones with overseas guys with four-year college guys. You’re doing your best. It all comes down to who you feel is gonna be the best player. I hate to just keep saying it, it’s probably a boring answer, but at the end of the day that’s what it is.

On the benefits of bringing players in for workouts:

It really helps. You’re getting a chance to have our coaches work with our players. We’re getting a chance to have them interact with our staff and, again, be able to spend time with them, take them to lunch, get more time with them to get to know them. No draft workout, whether it’s in the middle of May or June 19th, shoots a guy up a draft board immeasurably.

It’s a part of it. And we always talk about how it’s like a pie. There’s a lot of different pieces that go into it. You have to, as a team and as a strategy, figure out what each of those pieces mean to you and how much you value them.

On whether there’s a chance the person they draft was not one of the 29 players brought in for a pre-draft workout:

Ugh, that’s a good question. I’d say there could be a chance. The draft is two things: If you’re going to stay at 23, 1) who is going to be gone, 2) of those guys that are left, who do you like and in what order. We have a pretty good feeling that 15 or 16 guys are gone for sure, so you start with that group and there’s some guys in that group that, for different reasons, didn’t come visit us.

On the importance of the draft in a small market:

We always talk about the draft as essential for a team like ours where we feel like we’re going to need guys to overachieve where they are drafted, whether it’s 11, 23, 19, or whatever it is. We do put a big emphasis on getting these that we draft better and putting a lot of value in it.

The draft is not an immediate thing, the draft is kind of a grassroots thing. You’re drafting them, you’re starting to work with them, you’re going to bring them along. When you’re drafting at 23, it’s pretty rare to get somebody that’s going to step in and be a starter or even a high rotation guy next year as a rookie. It’s gonna take some time, it’s a big jump. Especially as the drafts now have become full of younger players.

On Vic’s presence impacting scouting:

Vic’s infectious. When you come walking into work and you hear him singing or just the smile he brings — as a former IU guy, a long time before Vic was there — when I see him at games when he was playing for Orlando, he would always come by and say hi. He’s that kind of guy. Vic has “it,” whatever “it” is.

On the final 48 hours before the draft:

We have some guys that we want to continue to watch some more film on and talk about. The process is a lot of phone calls to try to boil down what other teams are doing, and then just make sure we are dialed in, make sure we are organized. We want Thursday night to be as smooth and calm as it can be. When calls come in for Kevin [Pritchard], we want to be organized, have the answers for him. We want it to be at our fingertips and we don’t want to be disorganized with anything. That’s my job to make sure all of that is ready to go for Thursday night.

On Kevin’s war room vs. Larry Bird’s:

They’re very similar. They operate the same from a preparation standpoint. From a function standpoint, not really much different.

Is Pritchard sitting back to hear everyone’s opinion before weighing in?

That stuff’s all done by [draft night]. There’s no arguments going on during the draft. That would not be good. You don’t want confusion, you want clarity when you have to make decisions. Those things, for the most part, been ironed out already.

On the role of analytics in the draft:

Yeah, another piece of the puzzle for sure. We look at them. We have two different guys that have their own models of analytics that we use, and we trust them. It’s definitely something that gets talked about and is part of the decision.

On the difference in evaluation and gathering intel overseas vs the United States:

We have two great overseas scouts that work really hard. One lives in Barcelona, one in Belgrade. They grew up in that world. One was a GM for a team in Spain and played in Barcelona. They have great contacts that make it easy for us to go over and meet people and get to know people and build those relationships ourselves. When I first took this director [of scouting] job eight or nine years ago, that was a big point of emphasis for me. I hadn’t been over there a whole lot so meeting as many of those people and getting as acclimated over there as I feel like I am here.

It’s fun to go meet people, they all love basketball. They’re all trying to be good coaches. We’ve had some foreign coaches come help us in summer league. … Basketball is a great language.

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