The following is a transcript of Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan's remarks to the media after the 2009 NBA Draft. The podcast of this interview is available here.
Kevin Pritchard: It’s getting a little busier around here! Thanks for coming out. We feel really good about what we did today, and a lot of credit goes to Tom (Penn), Chad (Buchanan), Mike (Born), but specifically to Jason Fillipi, our international scout. Doc (Martin) Joe Cronin - you know, they really get us to this point and I’m really proud because sometimes at the draft, it’s not just about what happens in the draft, it’s your preparation before. We felt like going in today, we had a good handle on some things.
We always have a pre-dinner the night before, and Mr. Allen comes in, Nate, myself, and the things we thought were going to happen happened today, which is a little unusual. Usually, there’s a little more audible-calling as we call it. Very happy with the draft.
Q: How did the pick for Victor Claver come about?
Pritchard: Victor Claver is a guy we’ve targeted for a long time. 6-10, athletic swing guy, can really shoot it. Really skilled. High talent guy. I really thought that he had a chance to go pretty high in this draft and as we were looking at it, him falling back to where we were at we were really happy to get him.
Overall, with Pendergraph and Cunningham, four year college players, guys that know how to play, but also bring a whole lot of toughness. As we saw in the playoffs last year, you’ve got to have some toughness. I would expect those guys battling for minutes. Now, whether they can crack it, I don’t know, but they’ve been through the wars in college, successful programs, I think that they can help us. And then, Patty Mills, Nate and I talked a little bit about it, talked a lot about it, his experience in the Olympics with the Australian team was a factor in us drafting him. He’s played against the best, he’s a tough kid. He’s really quick north and south and he can shoot it, so he’s got a chance for the 55th pick, he’s got a chance in our league.
Q: What is the plan for Claver in regards to coming to the NBA?
Pritchard: I expect Victor to stay overseas for a couple of years. I don’t want to put a timetable on it, what I will tell you is that he’s going to improve. We hope that he makes the Spanish national team. He was the last cut the previous year going into the Olympics. We think that experience will be great for him. You know, he’s 6-10, he can shoot it. We like size. We think that makes a difference in our league. He’s athletic. In a couple of years we hope to have him over.
Q: Do you expect the other draftees to make the team this season?
Pritchard: On Pendergraph and Cunningham, I certainly do (expect them in camp) and it’s gonna be – we were just talking about practices. Pendergraph and Cunningham, in our workout here, they were both at the same workout along with a couple of other kids. It was war. It was at the tail end of the workouts, and those guys get tired during those times, it was all-out war. We need to bring that to our team, we need to bring that toughness. Guys that aren’t scared to play, they’re not scared to play in big games, they’ve been part of successful programs. Then Patty Mills, he’s got a chance. He does have an international passport, we hope to have him on the summer league team. Then we will see.
Q: How have the events during the draft set you up for free agency?
Pritchard: We’re going to be active in free agency, no doubt about it. We want to add the right pieces, not just be out there. We’ve talked a lot about it, we’re going to target some guys, we’re going to talk to people and we’re going to try to help our team with free agents, but we do feel that we’ve helped ourselves today in the draft.
Nate does a great job of developing, but with this group of draftees – Victor going overseas, Pendergraph and Cunningham having four years of college experience, there’s not that teaching curve. Those guys can step in and contribute. Now whether they do, we don’t know, but they certainly have a chance.
Q: Talk about trading Sergio Rodriguez.
Pritchard: First of all, Sergio is a great kid and we appreciate everything he has done. He’s been an amazing part of this turnaround, so I want to compliment him and honor that. That’s the biggest thing. But I felt like, and we all felt like, it was Sergio’s time. He struggled with his role. I don’t think there’s a doubt about that. We never faulted Sergio for wanting to play more, we want guys to play. We had a lot of conversations, Nate and I had conversations with him at the end of the year. It was just his time.
Q: Does shedding some salary in this draft help when it comes to free agency?
Pritchard: It helps, especially this summer when you don’t know where the cap will come in. It could come in lower, it could come in the same, it could come in higher. We don’t know is my point. We want that flexibility for sure.
Q: What is the status of Claver’s buyout?
Pritchard: It’s significant, but it also decreases. As he plays overseas, he’ll have a better opportunity to come over. I can’t really say right now, but we expect him to be over in a couple of years. I don’t want to put a time frame on when he comes. That’s not what we like to do. He won’t play in the summer (league). He’s going to be trying to probably play in the European Championships this summer.
Q: Nate, talk about Sergio’s situation
Nate McMillan: The one thing, he wanted a larger role. I thought he did some good things for us. I tried to put him in a situation where he could help us. And I thought he did some good things for us. When he came in, he backed up Blake. We wanted a spread offense and allow him to create. I thought he did that when Blake was out. He did a nice job of filling in that starting role, but he wanted a larger role on this team and it just wasn’t possible. He talked about wanting to be moved and having an opportunity to have a larger role. I thought he did some good things for us, now Bayless will slot into that position and we’ll look to give him a ton of minutes at the point guard position in summer league and develop him and get him ready for this season.
Q: Did you try to move up farther in the draft?
Pritchard: Anytime you make a trade and you’re looking to move up, you have to give away, or give up pieces. We’ve worked so hard to get where we’re at and we don’t feel like that’s the right thing to do. If there’s a good one available, we’d have done it. We have no problem picking. We like adding talent, but we like this team. This team, although being young, they did an unbelievable job. They won 54 games, they can still grow and now we have some cap space. It wasn’t as important as it has been in the past to be aggressive to move up, but we moved up because Victor was being talked about in that area. If we see a player we’re not afraid to do it, we did it with Victor and we did it with Jeff and Cunningham.
We wanted Victor. We think very highly of Victor. He fits into that Rudy, Nicolas, best European player we could get at that time. Jason Fillipi has done an amazing job of identifying talent over there. Those guys seem to be more ready than you think too. He’s young, but he has a very high ceiling.
Q: Where you surprised Mills was still available that late in the second round?
Pritchard: We didn’t think Mills would be there at 55. It got to be in the late 30s and 40s and he was pretty high on our board and we were really hoping he would get there because as we go through our process, he was the highest watermark for us. We feel pretty lucky to get him.
I don’t want to get too excited about the 55th pick in the draft, but it’s really not where you get picked, it’s how you feel about a kid. This kid is going to come in and compete. We know that. He’s competed at an international level; he had success at the Olympics. He broke his hand and that probably hurt him in the draft. Nate knows him as well as anybody. Nate had a lot of input on him.
Q: Nate, you must be familiar with Pendergraph considering he played with your son at ASU.
McMillan: I think Kevin and Mike and Chad and our scouting team do a great job. They prepare themselves for any scenario possible. As Kevin mentioned, last night we went into our meeting and we had guys that we targeted that we wanted in this draft and it pretty much unfolded the way that it would for us. Pendergraph was a big guy that was available in the second round that filled a need. I have seen him. He played with my son. I think he’s a solid player. I think he’ll be a guy that will come in and work to get out on the floor. He’s a big body that can play the 4 position and, as Kevin mentioned, has been in school for four years. This draft was about taking the best talent at the position we were drafting in, and I felt like we did that. I felt like our guys were ready again this year, and what we set out to do.
Q: Talk about how satisfied you are with the results of the draft.
McMillan: I think as far as this draft and what we got out of the draft, I think we got some very tough guys in Cunningham and Pendergraph. Both of those guys, as Kevin mentioned, worked out with Hansbrough. It was our best workout of the summer when they came in. Dante is a guy that can play the three and the four, very physical at that position. Pendergraph at the 4 position, doesn’t mind giving up his body, banging and getting on the boards. I like what we did today.
Q: Have you decided who you’re going to target in free agency?
Pritchard: Obviously, we can’t comment specifically on players. We’re going to talk to a lot of people. We’re one of multiple teams with cap space, and were a desired team now because of that, but also because free agents want to play with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus, Oden, Blake, Przybilla. We’re starting to become a good destination for free agents. If the right situation is there for both sides, we’ll pull the trigger.
Q: Now that Sergio is gone, Bayless slides into the backup point guard position?
McMillan: That’s the way we’re going for right now. Those are the two guys at the guard position.
Q: Are you worried at all about Claver’s injuries?
Pritchard: The one thing we’ve always been very lucky with, Dr. Roberts and Dr. Reis, our two team doctors have been spot on everything, including our own guys and evaluating the rest of the league. We feel very comfortable with that.
Q: Where you surprised by the way the draft played out? Did it go the way you expected?
Pritchard: There’s always surprises in every draft. I guess what I was trying to say is that we targeted guys and we got the guys we were looking for. We were active we got to where we need to go and we got those guys.
Q: Talk about some of the trades for veterans that have taken place over the last few days.
Pritchard: It’s an arms race. It always is an arms race. It feels like now that it’s moved a little to the East. Hopefully it continues that way. But we know what we have, we know that we need to make some improvements, but we know our guys internally have to improve. We’ll look to improve our team. We’re not afraid to do that. We’ll sit down this summer, be active in those talks and also in free agency.
Q: Nate, What do you think about the Shaq trade?
McMillan: Good. Get him to the East. I was happy about that. It’s a good move.
Q: Are you contemplating any trades?
Pritchard: There’s nothing. We have our guys. That doesn’t mean something can’t happen in the future, but there’s not going to be a major surprise right now.
Q: Can you start targeting free agents before you know what the salary cap is going to be set at?
Pritchard: Well, What you can do is start talking to free agents on the first. The moratorium begins on the 7th and you can sign guys on the 8th so … no, it’s too tough. You gotta know what that number is first before you know what you can offer free agents.
Q: Nate, what are your thoughts on Claver?
McMillan: He worked out last year. On tape, I’ve seen him. Our guys, again, I think they’ve done a great job over the years, you just learn to trust their feel on guys. They were really high on him, so I really feel good about him.
Pritchard: You can tell that too. Nate’s first draft, I think he asked 5 million questions. He’s down to about 2 million. I really have to give credit to Jason Filippi. He’s finding these Euro gems. We feel great about it. We feel we have a high talented kid in Claver and we feel we got some toughness.
Q: Do you integrate advanced statistics in your talent evaluation or is it more of a decision based on scouting?
Pritchard: I would say it’s a blend. A lot of teams are using it more and more. Everybody feels like they have a secret sauce, so it’s more important. It’s not the whole thing. It is a part of the process and what it allows you to do is identify players you need to look deeper at, or you need to eliminate. It’s part of the process.
Q: This wasn’t as busy a night trade wise as we’re used to seeing over the last few years.
Pritchard: You know what’s funny is we have an owner who is ready to go. Combine that with my eagerness to do things, sometimes it’s great; sometimes it needs to be controlled a little bit. That’s where Tom, Nate, the rest of our scouts control us a little bit. We’re not afraid if we see a guy out there, If Mr. Allen feels like it’s the right thing, he’s willing to go for it. That is as unique as it gets. In this cost-cutting time, he’s willing to figure out how to make this team better.