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Aftermath: Reconsidering the Scout Firings

It has been a tough week to be a Grizzlies fan. We've seen the giving away of Hakim Warrick's rights in restricted free agency, the firing of our entire scouting crew, and the realized that with the summer winding down the Grizzlies will likely be just above the salary minimum for next season. If you're a Grizzlies fan and NBA fan chances are your team is the running punchline in every forum and comment list. Getting hit with all this dispiriting news at once is borderline painful, in fact it was a PR nightmare.

But when we step back and look at the news a second time, some of it doesn't seem so bad. We needed to commit time for Darrell Arthur to grow since clearly the Grizzlies aren't in win now mode, and he looked good in summer league. Yes, we should have protected our asset since Warrick might have been solid trade bait, but I doubt we could have gotten much more than a backup point guard and 2nd round pick. And the scouting decision is beginning to make just a little bit more sense as more details emerge. The whole salary things is still a letdown, but lets focus on the positive. Come over the jump with me for some good news.

When I originally posted the Geoff Calkins "Scouts' honor, Grizzlies' cutbacks revealing priority" article it was only in the form of a FanShot. I didn't understand how much legs this story would have in the national media, otherwise I would have originally posted with a take on the matter. It didn't seem like that big of a deal in the information age from a practical standpoint. 

Then the story got its legs, and as everyone else in media said, "Wow, well isn't this just representative of all Heisley's cost cutting?" and murdered the Grizzlies I was inclined to agree. I still agree that it's the perfect focusing event for Heisley's ownership on the cheap routine. But in reality it probably is not meaningful, with a day of thought I estimate that most people are only outraged because of the symbolism. And as Bethlehem Shoals pointed out over at The Baseline, it didn't help that it came in the form of a column instead of news from the beat reporter.

The watershed moment in this realization was Chip Crain's excellent second-take over at my favorite Grizzlies blog, 3 Shades of Blue. Chip knows a hell of a lot more than me about the front office work in Memphis, and I definitely respect his opinion on the matter:

Low and behold, Memphis is not alone in having a team devoid of scouts. Another penny-pinching, watch the bottom line team has no one listed as a scout on their team page. That scum sucking, cheap team that cares little for their fans (just like Calkins implied the Grizzlies are) was none other than the San Antonio Spurs. The same Spurs who managed to overcome that huge problem to locate such notable talents as Tony Parker in France plus Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili in Argentina. 

Other teams with few or no scouts include Portland, Utah and Cleveland. Funny but I seem to remember all of those teams in the playoffs last season.

After doing a little of my own research, I found all three of these teams have just two domestic amateur scouts. So lets add to that list of players: the Jazz grabbed high-flying, master thief Ronnie Brewer in the mid-first round of a 2006 draft stocked with busts. They also stole near All-Star Paul Millsap from that year's second round. Portland managed to find Nicholas Batum, an athletic Frenchman who managed to short-minute start for their playoff team in his rookie season, the young sharpshooter and open-court phenom Rudy Fernandez, and Sergio Rodriguez over just the past few years. Cleveland hasn't exactly drafted lights out in recent years, preferring to surround LeBron with seasoned players, but they did discover Anderson Varajeo.

Am I saying that Memphis is going to instantly become a model small-market franchise like San Antonio, Portland, or Utah with this move? No, that would be just as foolish as overvaluing the importance of these scouts, which everyone seems to be doing. When the story broke on one Spurs message board, Black and Silver fans couldn't believe it and raved about the terrible conditions in Memphis:

They can't pay scouts who are infinitely more important to the team, considering they'll be in the lottery for next few years? Stern should really step in and have that team downsized after this season.

Exactly what i was thinking.

Wow, and I legitimately thought this thread title was a joke. Maybe they're hoping for a bailout to "stimulate the fans"?

Now I'm not trying to say that ignorance always correlates with 'stimulus package' jokes, but, FYI buddy, your team doesn't have dedicated amateur scouts either. I'm assuming he wants his bailout to come in tax break form.

The responsibility of scouts is to find talent other teams have undervalued or aren't aware exists. And if there were you would assume the players are international, which the Grizzlies still have a scout for. At this point in the information era I think we can agree that there are no teams completely unaware of a draft pick. Only around 75 players enter the draft each year for 60 picks. As far as undervaluing goes, every draft ends up being a crap-shoot, and it's questionable just how much voice the dedicated scouts really have in most team's front office since typically higher ups like the GM, President of Basketball Affairs, and others also assist in scouting. In Memphis's front-office, where it's becoming increasingly clear that even Chris Wallace is prisoner to Michael Heisley's whims, I'm going to guess the dedicated scouts had to shout to be heard. I'm infinitely more concerned with Heisley taking over Wallace's player evaluation duties than with them not having a circle of scouts to ignore.

Look I'm not going to deny that this is proof of cost-cutting representative of the entire franchise outlook, and I really wish the money we were saving was for a Tim Duncan max contract. It's not though. With our payroll the money saved is most likely going to the bank, which obviously isn't an ideal scenario for the fans. But count me fully aboard with Chip in  the "We Have Marco Jaric on the Roster, So Let's Worry About Bigger Issues" party. This wasn't a bad move, it just broke at a bad time and in a bad way.

So what is the biggest issue at hand? The way I see it, Heisley really needs to be concerned with beefing up the public relations department. Lets hear your thoughts in the comments section.