Gregg Polinsky is a Nets lifer who’s not well-known among fans ... and he probably likes it that way. He’s been the Nets Director of Player Personnel for 10 years and chief scout since 2004, when Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin roamed the court at Continental Airlines Arena. He was hired as a Nets scout five years before that, around the time John Calipari was fired.
Although he has an office at HSS Training Center, he operates out of his home in Birmingham, Alabama, and every year around this time, he goes on Alabama’s Tide 102.9 to talk playoffs and the NBA Draft, taking time out from his travels. So, when he talks, we listen.
In two long interviews with Wimp Sanderson on April 25 and Scott Griffin on Monday, Polinsky talked about the extent of the Nets scouting process, how they’ll whittle a starting field of more than 600 players —400 in the U.S. and 200 overseas — down to the guys they like on Draft Night.
And he hinted, no surprise, that with three picks —a late first and two early seconds— the Nets could use one of those picks to stash a young European player overseas, letting him playing near home while getting more experience.
Polinsky talked Monday about how he’s headed to Chicago for the Draft Combine, where the 60 top prospects will gather for measurements, workouts, etc, but also for interviews, which can turn out to be critical.
“At the combine, we get to interview 20 guys. We put in for 30 and we get 20. That’s the way it works for the whole league,” Polinsky explained, noting the Nets have already interviewed the players they’ve had in for workouts ... about 20 to 25, by our count.
The overall process is a constant whittling, he said, and not much different between team to team.
“Conservatively, I’d say we start with a baseline of about 600 guys every year,” he noted to Sanderson. “It’s a process of elimination. I compare it to those old guys who pan for gold. You get on the bank and you dip your pan in and you shake it around. A lot of times there’s nothing in there, but every once in a while, you pull out one nugget.”
From there, the Nets look at video of a smaller group.
“We’ve probably looked at 75 players already through video study with our group throughout the year and we’re doing a different study now to make sure that we are thorough and then still hope that we get it right,” Polinsky told Griffin.
“So it’s a measure of the background you’ve done on players. It’s a measure of the video study you’ve done on players. If you’re waiting till now —” he noted, laughing.
Now comes the critical piece, ranking the 60 players who the Nets think will get drafted. He told Griffin the Nets still have “tons of work left” as of Monday, joking with the Tide 102.9 host, “If you guys have a few extra hours, come on in.”
The process at this point, he said, is a combination of going back over what they’ve seen and adding what they’ve gathered on the players’ character — what he called “our intel” — and medical information.
“We’re nowhere near yet ... we’re not far ... we’re nowhere near,” he said of the Nets internal mock draft in his conversation with Griffin. “Because we still have to come together as a group, get to our last video study, add our intel in, add our medical —what our doctors think. All of that is a slice of the pie. and balances out how we order up our board for Draft Night.”
The process, he noted, is never ending.
“There’s a lot of players. You got to be thorough, you got to do due diligence. We have a guy who’s our director of global scouting (Gianluca Pascucci). He has over 200 guys at least on their list. I know we start well into the 400’s. So we try to prepare as early as we can. So the question, ‘when do you start?’ The answer is ‘as early as we can.”
He noted to Sanderson that although NBA scouts can’t go to high school games any more but they are allowed to attend the McDonald’s All-American Game, the Jordan Classic, the Nike Hoops Summit ... and they do.
Polinsky added that no team is perfect in evaluating players and any team would be happy to get a grade of 50 percent.
In the interview with Sanderson, Polinsky talked as well as European talent in this year’s draft. Without naming names, he said he thought there were “two maybe three lottery picks” in Europe this year.
“I can’t go into names, but I can talk about the talent there is in Europe,” he told Sanderson. “In my own opinion ... I think there is two lottery picks there, possibly three, a guy who will be taken in the first two or three or four players in the draft (no doubt referring to Luka Doncic) and another kid there,” his voice trailing off as if he realized he might have said too much. (Interestingly, ESPN’s latest mock draft has only one European in the lottery, Doncic, and only one other, Dzanan Musa, a 6’9” forward from Bosnia, in the rest of the first round.)
“There’s some other kids that you look at, they’re potential first rounders,” he said of European talent, noting that with multiple picks, the Nets could do the draft-and-stash route.
“When they’re young and you have multiple picks like we have — we have three picks this year — or Philadelphia who has God knows, maybe five (actually six) ... you don’t necessarily want another young player,” he told Sanderson. “So what you do ... you ‘stash’, you ‘draft and stash’ overseas. There will be a bunch of that this year. There’s some intriguing young guys over there.”