Some Pre-Draft Mitch — UPDATED, 6.27
The new stuff is down at the bottom...
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak powwowed with the media this afternoon, and just to make sure the Times doesn't think we're stealing from them, AK and I decided to stop by. We'll have more up for you ASAP, but for the time being, here's a smattering of what he had to say. As you might guess, most of the questions centered around the draft. Go figure.
On moving up:
"I think everybody wants to move up. I've talked to every GM in the league, sometimes several times. Everybody wants to move up. There's a cost associated with moving up, whether it's a player or another pick. At the end of the day it doesn't happen very frequently."
Is it something you'll try to pursue?
"Yeah, we'd like to move up. I think every time you're in the draft, if you're at 26, you wish you were at 25. If you're 25, you wish you were at 20. You always look and say, "Wow, I wish I had a little better pick than I actually have." Last year we were at 10, and I'd have felt more comfortable if we could have gotten to eight, although we got the player we wanted at 10. So that's just the way your mind works this time of year. You never have a great level of comfort with who you're gonna get and who you like, because you don't know what the other GMs think. You don't know exactly who is going to fall to you when draft time rolls around."
Are you thinking point guard? Big man?
"In terms of the draft, I don't think we're pinpointing a position. When you look at the draft, with a team that wants to win games... we won 45 games, we want to get to 47, get to 50, we want to get past the first round in the playoffs, it's unlikely that in this day and age that the 26th pick is going to play a lot for you next year. Although you look at our roster and you may say we need help in the backcourt, I don't think we're going to get a backcourt player that's going to play for us to help us next year. That would be great if we did, but we're not going to draft just a backcourt player. We'll see who's there, whether it's a big man, small forward or a ball handling guard, and the guy that we feel will have the best chance to play in this league for 8 to 10 years will be the guy we take."
On how having a D-League team will change things:
"...That will be a factor in developing our players. Whether it will be a factor in the draft this year is too early to say. We're limited to how many players we can carry on a roster... Once you have your roster at 15, or 13 or 14, you're limited as to what you can send down to the NBDL. So it'll be a factor, but it won't be an overriding factor."
As a team, you do seem to need guard help.
"I would agree. Laron Profit seemed to be finding a little niche for himself in January and February when he tore his Achilles tendon. And at that point, I felt we really raced through the season one guard short. We didn't have a deep backcourt to begin with. We brought on a guy who played great the whole year in Smush (Parker), but I don't think anybody had any expectation level for him. Sasha was a big unknown also. He became our third guard. So it's not a stretch to say that our backcourt is an area that needs to be addressed."
On Brandon Roy:
"He's a heck of a player. Of all the players available for the draft right now, I could name two or three that could probably play right away. Because of his maturity level, his size, his athletic ability and his skill ability, he'd probably be one of them. He's the most ready to play."
On trusting what you hear at this time of the year, when GMs aren't always telling the truth to each other:
"A lot of it is gamesmanship. We have an owner that likes to play poker, likes to play cards. And to some degree, in an odd kind of way, that's what it is. You work towards the moment of truth, which is draft day. If there are going to be deals, teams are going to play their cards close, and you're not going to really know what their feelings are until the next day or two (leading to the draft). And the closer you to a deadline, that's when you really get a feel for what teams will and won't do. Which makes sense, because you haven't seen a lot of deals made here in the last three or four weeks, even though we've been allowed to do it. Teams are assessing their hand, they're trying to get a feel for the draft. Everybody's talking to each other trying to get a feeling for what they can and can't do, and they're making lists, just like we are...."
On contingency plans as the draft day goes on:
"...I don't know what the other 25 teams in front of me will do. I have a pretty good feel for what we think will take place, and of course we know the 26 players that we would like to take.... The scenario always exists that a couple of players that you didn't think would be taken are taken, and then (conversely) you have two or three players to choose from that you didn't think would be there that are all of a sudden there."
On where Bynum might have gone in this year's draft, his progress this summer:
"Based on the number of calls I've gotten on him in the last four weeks, I'd have to believe that there's a really high demand for a player like that. A lot would have depended on what kind of year he had at Connecticut...I can't answer the question. He remains a player with an awful lot of promise. He's in here every day working. I know the teams in the NBA know about him, because every time (we) talk they ask me about him.... We're expecting some progress this summer with him on the court. He's working pretty hard, and we're looking forward towards the summer league....
...It's just so hard to get players that size that are true centers. I've got to believe he'd be selected higher than 10, which was our thought process (in last year's draft)...."
On Bynum trade rumors:
"There's no discussions of a trade. I've seen some rumors, and Andrew, I kidded with with him the other day- because there have been a couple of things written about him being traded — I kidded with him that we're not going to trade him. I said I want to see another year of play before I make that decision...but we're not going to trade Andrew. We're very happy with him. He's grown an inch, he's gotten bigger, he's in the weight room, he's gotten stronger.... We haven't measured him recently. We measured him about two months ago, and he had grown an inch. So he's over seven feet tall."
On Odom and Bynum, discussing concerns they might have as their names pop up in rumors:
"With the veteran players, we don't sit down with them. They understand this time of year, they understand what goes on before the trade deadline. I have not sat down with Chris or Lamar. I explained in a joking fashion and more serious fashion with Andrew and his representative how it all works. And nobody is guaranteed to be anywhere, so that's not to say something couldn't pop up, but we're not trying to trade any of those players....
...As a young player, Andrew Bynum doesn't really understand the whole concept of trade talks prior to the deadline, prior to the draft this time of year. I try to educate the young guys, first of all that nothing is guaranteed, and second you're going to hear a lot of rumors. That's just the nature of the business... We don't have a trade about to happen, and we're not trying to trade Lamar, Chris, or Andrew."
More to come later...
UPDATE — TUESDAY, 11:30 p.m.
Here's the rest of Kupchak's media session...
On the impact of not having high school guys in the draft this year:
"... It's a really good high school class. If you're a college basketball fan next year it's going to be an exciting year... There's going to be a lot of players next year available. I would guess that five or six of those guys if they were in the draft this year, they'd be first round picks. So that clearly would move five or six players down towards us."
People talk about this as being a weak draft (on top), but a deep draft. Would you agree with that assessment?
"I wouldn't call it a deep draft. I wouldn't call it a deep draft. We feel confident that we're going to get a good player down there, but I just get a feeling that it's getting a little bit tougher for us to get a great comfort level with 26 players right now. Whereas in years past, whether you have 20 or 22, or last year we had 10 and you know you're going to get a pretty good player. So we think we're going to get one, but I sense in the league that there are a lot of teams that are trying to move out of the first round because they don't have a great comfort level with the talent in the draft. I just get that sense."
Does that lack of consensus at the top and throughout make it harder to trade up? Trade down? Easier?
"I'm not sure it's any different than any other year in terms of making a deal. If you want to move up, there's normally an associated cost with that. You have to give up another player or give up another pick. Two firsts to move up a couple of places. But GMs don't normally want to move down. They'll move out of the draft, but they really don't want to move down. Most GMs want to move up in the draft."
How much different would it be if you still had the 21st pick (traded away in the Mihm deal):
"Well, it's five slots. For the novice, a spectator to look at it and say, "Well, it's 25 or 26 versus 21, it doesn't seem to be a whole lot." But as I mentioned earlier, you always like to have a pick one or two or three earlier. So to that degree it's significant, but it's not like 10 versus 26, or 15 versus 26. You're going to get the same quality of player."
Hypothetically, if you decided to move up, what would you do? How could that be done?
"What kind of deal could you do? You could trade this year's pick for a future pick. You could trade this year's pick for a player. We have an exception. Normally, when you trade to get a player, you have to give up a player because the salaries have to meet. You have to create room. But we have an exception for about $1.9 million, which means we can take a player without giving up a player. So that would be an option. Take a player, give up a pick."
How do you keep track of all those exceptions?
"That's what we do. It's our job. Believe me (the list) is not in my head. We have a book that's updated every day. We spend a lot of time on it, and if I ever lose the book I'm in trouble."
With all the rookies (and young players) on the roster last year, do you feel like you need another rookie?
"That's a concern. Not so much bringing in another rookie, but overloading your team with too many players of the same age window. There's something that's not really good about having a lot of talent that's really young, because they all kind of have the same mindset. They all want to play, they all want to prove themselves, they all need minutes. They're all very similar, in our opinion anyway you have to have a good mix of veteran players that play big minutes, young players that play, maybe a veteran or two that's going to play some minutes, and maybe is a little bit past his prime but he brings something to the locker room or he brings something to the huddle. And he understands that his role later on his career is not about the minutes but is being part of something. So all those things factor in. So we don't want to have a team with just young players, because number one, as I mentioned we want to have a good mix, but we also feel that we want to win games too."
You believe that the 26th pick probably won't play much. Will the pick have any impact on what you might go out and get in the free agent market? Are they separate issues?
"They're separate. Although I'd like to think that the player we pick in the draft is going to help us immediately, I know that's unrealistic. So we'll try to look to bring a young player on board through the draft if we keep our pick, which I assume we will, and we hope that player will be in the league eight to ten years. We won't, when we look at our depth chart, put that player in a position where he's going to play a lot of minutes. If he does, that's great. But we'll look to improve the team in terms of its on the court performance via a trade or free agency. That's how we're probably going to help this team."
So if you draft a guard, for example, that won't keep you from signing one?