Warriors assistant GM Travis Schlenk: On what team looks for in a player, what they saw in Draymond Green, why Anderson Varejao fits in, etc.

Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk is in his 12th year with the organization and is the only member of the team’s front office who has been around for every move the team has made assembling the current roster.

Schlenk joined the “NBA This Week” from Baltimore, Md., where he was scouting the CAA tournament. We talked in detail with Schlenk about the ins and outs of scouting and what he’s looking for in the next Golden State Warriors player.

Here is the link to the interview with Travis Schlenk on 95.7-FM The Game.

Here are bullet points from the interview:

–If you look at the Warriors’ core, you see their players have played for great college coaches. Steph Curry played for Bob McKillop at Davidson, a very respected coach; Andre Iguodala played for Lute Olson in Arizona; Andrew Bogut played for Rick Majerus in Utah; Harrison Barnes for Roy Williams at North Carolina and Draymond Green for Tom Izzo at Michigan State. Is that something you look for, that kind of pedigree?

Schlenk: “And you forgot Klay Thompson with Tony Bennet at Washington State. Great coach as well. It’s obviously a huge advantage for players if they’re coached by good coaches, even before they get to college. If you’re a young kid and fortunate enough to have a good youth coach, a good high school coach you could be light years ahead just in your knowledge of the game and having it taught the correct way since Day 1.


“It’s important. Certainly not an end all, be all. I’d never really thought about it until you just said it. Our guys have been fortunate to play for good coaches and be taught good fundamentals from Day 1, or at least since when they got onto college campuses.”

–Back in 2012, the Warriors drafted Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Green. What do you remember about the discussions surrounding Green, who was a second-round pick but obviously has blossomed into a star player?

Schlenk: “I’ve actually gone back and looked at my notes over the past few weeks on him to see, because I was curious. Going back and looking, I watched him since he was a sophomore there. So three years in a row. You noticed his ability to rebound the ball. Every single one of my notes from those games say: great hands, great nose for the ball, good passer.

“The one question mark on him: Would he be able to shoot the ball from distance? And you think back from when he came into the league until now, he’s really put in a lot of time working on his shooting. That’s made him a threat from the 3-point line, which has been a huge factor for us. When you’re looking at him, you’ve got basketball IQ, ability to pass, you’ve got ability to rebound. And his improvement on his shooting has made a world of difference.

“The one thing that really stands out to me, he was a pudgy guy at Michigan State. And he put a ton of work in on his body and he’s lost weight which has helped him a lot. He used to have some knee and back issues in college. He doesn’t have those issues anymore because he’s dropped the weight. He’s done a lot of things that people may not be aware of to turn himself into the player he is.”

–How much time do you spend on NBA scouting, and then how does that come into play let’s say, when it comes to acquiring a player like Anderson Varejao?

Schlenk: “I watch every team play in the NBA at least twice a month. So when Anderson became free, I had seen Cleveland play 10 times already. In those 10 games, Anderson had played in seven of them I believe for 60 minutes. So I can sit there and tell the group, ‘listen this guy isn’t who he was two years ago, but he’s still going to go in there and rebound, still going to go in there and play hard.’ But he’s not going to be the guy he was three years ago when arguably he and Joakim Noah were the best centers in the league.

“This morning, getting on a flight, I watched the Denver Nuggets vs. the Brooklyn Nets and then I watched the Charlotte vs. Indiana game. I download games every night and try to watch two a day. That’s a huge part of it, in my opinion. Obviously the draft is a big part of building your team and we’ve been real fortunate in that aspect.

“In my opinion, when you start making mistakes in free agency those contracts can really hinder your team. If you make a mistake in the draft you’re talking about a two-year commitment and a fairly nominal deal, a few million dollars. But if you go out and give a guy a four-year and now we’re talking $100 million contract, those can be disastrous mistakes.

“So I really put a lot of stock in getting free agency right because … the college draft is a gamble. You’re trying to project sometimes what 19-year-old and 20-year-old kids are going to be in three or four years. You should be able to know what NBA guys do because they’re playing against NBA players. I spend a lot of time on that, and I think it’s very important.”





About Steinmetz

Matt Steinmetz is a veteran San Francisco Bay Area sports journalist. He covered the Golden State Warriors for the Bay Area News Group for more than a decade before becoming a television analyst with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Steinmetz can be heard on "Steiny & Guru" on 95.7-FM The Game in San Francisco, from 12-3.
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