In the latest edition of P.I. Pulse, we debut a new column, 'P.I. Confidential.' Penned by an anonymous NBA scout with a decade of experience within multiple pro front offices, the idea with this endeavor is to provide them a platform to pull back the curtain and openly discuss scouting philosophies, procedures, processes, and of course, prospects:
Welcome to P.I. Confidential. I am a 10-year NBA front office veteran across operations, scouting, analytics, and strategy. While a free agent, Pro Insight has given me a medium to write about, well, anything...and I plan to use this opportunity to talk about some of my own personal, first-hand scouting experiences as well as help give some pointers to aspiring basketball scouts.
I would start with this for everyone out there who is aspiring to work in the NBA and has put out content, video and reports across Twitter, Reddit, websites, etc.: NBA scouts and executives view your work, and I can promise you that there are people who I have read across these mediums who could absolutely work in the NBA today. A huge part of scouting is essentially information gathering, and there are countless times I have been alerted to a player, or a statistic, or a video that makes me go back and watch or re-evaluate. For example, Pro Insight’s own Alex Brown and Zach Welch just wrote a great article outlining names to know for the 2024 draft that is NBA-team grade stuff. To Alex and Zach as well as all the others out there producing quality content — keep up the great work!
Today, which we are calling “Chapter 1,” I wanted to talk about the use of prior rankings and highlight some examples from last season in how it is hard to evaluate prospects — especially young prospects — with limited high-level basketball experience. With AAU and newer endeavors like EYBL Scholastic, we are getting more video and data on prospects from an earlier age that we in the NBA utilize when setting our rankings throughout the year. While every organization is different, I feel confident in saying most teams have some caliber of stacked ranking to start the college/international season where they internally rank prospects in tiers or 1-60, 1-100, etc. For me, I think the bigger threshold is best used to identify the main prospects positionally, but I do not rank them against each other for one simple reason: Anchoring Bias. I find it is easy to move a prospect up as the year goes on because, simply put, you see something translatable while watching or a stat that jumps out, which propels them. Counterintuitively, when I have ranked prospects and someone has a disappointing start to the year, I am too hesitant to move them down because of what I thought I knew at the start of the year. You can make up a litany of excuses: small sample size, he was injured, he’s in the wrong system, his coach hates him, and so on. As a general rule, I like to see a 15 college or international game sample before starting to move players into different tiers.
One exercise I was taught in my first couple years in the NBA is using different college and international draft analysts to make a cumulative mock. It usually varied between 5-7 different writers and scouts at different publications and I liked to do it approximately once every six weeks depending on when writers would release updates. This is a good way to start gathering names that you may not have had prior and it can help draw attention to the most polarizing players in a given cycle. Everyone has different methods when evaluating, especially early, but I’m always prone to first hone in on the players who have the widest ranges.
Below is the first cumulative mock from last season formed on October 13, 2022, featuring the top-30 players. For example, every mock had Wembanyama #1, so his average is 1.0 and his standard deviation is 0.0. A player with a wide range of rankings will have a higher standard deviation. For example, one mock had Brandon Miller #61 (what I used for unranked) and one mock had him #5.
Now we can look at the last cumulative mock I did this past cycle, from March 15, 2023. As a general guideline, I like to complete the process before the combine, because I feel like mocks and big boards begin to implement intel more and more as we get closer to the draft. Interestingly enough, two players ranked at #16 and #17 with high variances were indeed high variance: one moved substantially up and one moved substantially down.
As we can see from the above changes, comparing the two iterations (using the same analysts), there are 12 players who entered the top-30 in the last cumulative mock. This is slightly cherry-picking because many of these 12 were initially in the 31-40 range in the first mock, but we also had some big risers. Then we can look at how the first round played out and the final compilation mock — minus Filipowski who went back to school — had 21/29 first round picks as well as a handful at the top of the second round.
In Chapter 2, I will repeat the process for the 2024 draft and talk about some players who I believe may rise and fall as we are about ten games into the college season.
Any feedback, questions, agreements, and disagreements please let us know! I hope we can get enough collaboration to eventually do some mailbag-type write-ups and I also want to use this platform to continue to improve my own processes. (Note: get in touch here via 'X')
Until next time!