Warriors exec. Kirk Lacob breaks down team’s pre-draft strategy

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The Golden State Warriors welcomed NBA Draft prospects into their facility on Thursday for their first batch of pre-draft workouts — a process that involves the team scrutinizing each young hooper on everything you can imagine.

Of course, the Warriors look for the usual telltale signs that these young athletes will become successful NBA players — traits like fast-twitch athleticism, an accurate jumpshot, and sound knowledge of the game. But the Warriors’ evaluation process extends far beyond what the prospects show on the court, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Kirk Lacob explained in an exclusive interview with KRON4 (full interview above).

It starts when they are picked up from the airport. The prospects are trained to treat high-up executives with courtesy and respect, but will they treat their driver the same way? The Warriors take it all into account.

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“How do they treat people behind the scenes? I always like to ask people who aren’t necessarily our talent evaluators, ‘What were they like?” Lacob said. “That’s when they don’t really realize they’re being interviewed. They’re not turned on.”

Drafting NBA players entails striking the right balance between talent and fit. Of course, a player needs to be good enough to hack it at the NBA level, but the Warriors are also dialed in on how he will fit in with their franchise, both on the court and in the locker room.

Each front office has its own philosophy in crafting a pre-draft visit that allows it to glean as much information about the young men as possible. Lacob said the Warriors have recently placed high importance on film sessions, an area where Brandin Podziemski shined.

“How do they read the game? What are the types of things that they notice and focus on? How have they been taught? What are the things that are really ingrained in their brain to look at from a basketball perspective?” he said.

On the court, they value competitiveness, putting the players through drills that will showcase their work ethic.

“That’s really a lot of what we’re trying to get out of this. How hard does somebody work? How bad do they want it?” he said.

The Warriors test players’ toughness in a variety of ways. Lacob said they will even pit a player they perceive as less tough against a tougher, less-skilled player to see how he will respond.

Competitiveness is not black and white. If a player is on his first workout of the cycle, he will have more energy than someone visiting his 10th team in the span of two weeks. In the latter case, will the player keep battling if he is out of juice physically? The team must factor all of these variables in.

Each player has his own strengths and weaknesses, and the Warriors tailor their workouts for each guy that comes in. For example, the team believed center Trayce Jackson-Davis had great hands, so they had assistant coaches deliberately throw him inaccurate passes to see if his catching skills were good enough to reel them in.

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Current players can drop in and watch workouts as well. Lacob said Draymond Green is active in the process and likes to talk to players who come in. He provides the front office with insight into prospects from his own unique perspective. Some of the young players on the team have crossed paths with certain prospects during their youth careers, and intel can come from that as well.

What the team picks up during a workout can help even if they don’t have a chance to draft the player. Players often become available to be acquired via trade or free agency early in their career, and the team leans on information gathered during workouts when deciding whether to make a move for them. In some cases, this path is preferable.

“Is this a player we’re interested in but we kind of like them to go somewhere else first?” Lacob said.

While some principles stay the same, the Warriors’ process evolves around the edges each year. Lacob told KRON4 that after each draft, the team brass conducts a “post-mortem” where they analyze the last season, reflecting on what went right and what went wrong. They incorporate factors like new technology to determine how they can make their process better going forward.

As of the time of this report, there is still uncertainty as to where the Warriors will pick. In the unlikely scenario that they move up in the NBA’s draft lottery into the top four picks of the draft, they will get to draft a player. If they stay at their No. 14 position, the pick will go to the Portland Trail Blazers. Golden State also has the No. 52 overall pick in the second round of the draft.

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