While in Chicago for the NBA’s pre-draft camp, Mitch Kupchak took a few moments to answer some questions about what he’s seeing, where he’s headed next and how the Lakers are approaching the June 28 Draft:
MT: Let’s start with a general summary of what you and your staff are going through at these pre-draft camps?
Kupchak: Last week we were in Minnesota for a pre-draft camp, are now in Chicago and tomorrow head to Treviso, Italy, for the camp on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. All of these are repeat venues. In other words, they occur every year about the same time in preparation for the draft. We believe that you have to prepare for the draft the same way every single year no matter where your picks are, because you never know what might happen.
MT: Right now, the Lakers have only the final pick of the second round (No. 60). You’ve maintained that you will still be prepared at every one of the 60 slots should a trade or acquisition of a pick happen, but does that change your opportunity to see some players?
Kupchak: This time of year, the agents arrange workouts for their clients that are expected to be first round picks and specifically lottery picks, but they won’t send those players to visit the Lakers at No. 60 only. So to some degree you’re at a disadvantage, and you can’t possibly be as prepared as a team that’s picking in the top five and hosting the top players. Those teams sit down, bring the players in, interview them, give them tests, spend the day with them. Based on your order in the draft, that’s how the agents look at the world. If you’re drafting 15th and they think their player has a chance to be taken there, they will send him to you. And that helps more than just watching a kid play in college. Having said all that, after years of scouting, you end up knowing many of the players pretty well regardless.
MT: Will you be looking to move up in the draft?
Kupchak: We always look at ways of moving up in the draft if we like a player. And that doesn’t have to involve a trade of a player on our roster, necessarily. You can always trade a future pick, as well, or you can also look to buy a pick. There are plenty of ways aside from trades, but I can’t give you a percentage as to the likelihood we will do so.
MT: With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, are younger players on rookie deals more valuable commodities than in years past?
Kupchak: You have to look at each team, the circumstance that surround that particular team, to answer that. The problem really becomes when you have veterans that have been All Stars for several years on their third and fourth contact; it gets tougher and tougher to surround them with good players. If you look around, the good teams all have the same problems. Us, Boston, Miami, Dallas, San Antonio. It is a good problem to have, however, because if that’s the case, it means you have excellent players on your roster and that you’ve probably been winning. Oklahoma City is in a good spot right now, but they’ll have tough decisions to make down the road.
MT: Is it fair to say you have a system down pretty well for what works in approaching this whole process?
Kupchak: Our system has been good to us, and we’re always looking for ways to improve and having new things to do. There will always be tweaks, but the process remains similar.
MT: At these pre-draft camps, how much discussion occurs between all the general managers and team personnel about trades and such?
Kupchak: It’s natural for all the executives to have conversations about personnel. Sometimes it’s awkward to pull somebody aside with 300 people in a room, but other times it’s natural to have conversations evolve. Most of that stuff does take place via telephone, but there is a natural process that takes place with 30 GM’s and 150 scouts in a gymnasium.
MT: The organization recently promoted Glenn Carraro to assistant general manager. I know you’ve been working closely with Glenn for some time now…
Kupchak: Glenn is not a new variable to our organization. He’s been here for 10 to 12 years, and every year he’s acquired more and more responsibility. This year, for several reasons, it resulted in a title change. It’s not the first one he’s had since he’s been in Los Angeles, but this is significant. Our working relationship hasn’t changed that much … but maybe he feels more responsibility, which is good, because he does have more.