Schmeelk: Knicks GM Rose Making Strong Hires Early in Tenure

John Schmeelk
May 19, 2020 - 3:52 pm
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Leon Rose might be moving at a snail’s pace, but he is slowly filling out the Knicks front office staff with very experienced and well-respected basketball people from other organizations with a track record of success. First it was former Cavaliers capologist Brock Aller, who became the team’s Vice President of Basketball Strategy. Yesterday, Shams Charania reported that the Knicks were going to hire Utah Jazz Vice President of Player Personnel Walt Perrin to be their Assistant General Manager with a focus on college scouting.

Unlike Aller, who seemed to deal more with the business and math side of basketball, Perrin is a pure personnel man. He worked with the Jazz in their scouting department since 2001, and they listed his responsibilities with the team as involving evaluating talent on all levels and assisting GM Dennis Lindsey with potential player acquisitions. The focus over the course of his career has been college scouting. He will work alongside for Scott Perry, who was given a one year contract extension as General Manager, and worked with him in Detroit from 2000-2002 when he was Director of College Scouting.

I haven’t found his age reported anywhere, but he graduated the University of Northern Illinois in 1973, probably putting him between 65 and 70 years old. Despite his age, whether he is a potential replacement for Scott Perry after his one-year contract extension expires remains to be seen. The hire indicates Rose is operating like any Team President should: hiring the best people from other organizations around the league with a long history of success at their jobs.

Aller and Perrin are not big names, or people with connections to the Knicks. They aren’t New Yorkers who always dreamed of coming home. They aren’t flashy splash hires. They are good basketball people with credentials and pelts on the wall. Rose is putting his imprint on the Knicks with people that have nothing to do with the past. It has been a long time coming.

Utah’s success with Perrin running their drafts and participating in their pro personnel decisions has been fairly consistent. Despite losing Karl Malone and John Stockton after the 2003 playoffs, the Jazz have only won fewer than thirty games only  TWICE. They’ve won 40 or more games times 11 times in 17 seasons and made the playoffs in nine seasons despite never having a true superstar player on the roster and losing two of the players closest to one in Deron Williams and Gordon Hayward

Utah is not a free agent destination, and their success was enabled by strong drafting and player development. They did it without picks in the top three and made the most out of mid-round and late-round picks.

Top draft successes included Deron Williams (3rd overall in 2005), Paul Millsap (47th overall in 2006), Gordon Hayward (9th overall in 2010), and trading for Donovan Mitchell (13th overall pick in 2017) and Rudy Gobert (27th overall in 2013) on draft night. There have been misses, including players like Trey Lyles and Eric Maynor. Dante Exum and Enes Kanter were their two highest picks other than Williams, selected at fifth and third overall. Neither blossomed into all-star players.

The Jazz also haven’t been shy trading on draft day, executing at least one in each of the last seven years to move up, down, get extra picks, or acquire veteran players. They also executed large trades like the Deron Williams one at different point of the seasons to acquire extra picks. As a small market with limited appeal to free agents and limited financial resources, they had to be creative in building their roster. It will be fun to see how much more effective Perrin can be with the Knicks resources at his disposal.

There have been several interesting quotes regarding Perrin from the internet in the recent past that are worth examining.

Here’s an interesting video interview with KSL talking about how the Jazz landed a workout with Donovon Mitchell, that motivated them to trade up and draft him.

Here’s something from former NBA executive John Hollinger on Perrin:

From a sports anchor in Utah:

Here are some quotes and audio from a podcast Perrin did with Ben Anderson from KSL Sports in Salt Lake City. The podcast is worth listening to.

He talked about the importance of face to face interviews, even if they are virtual, and how character impacted his thinking about players.

“With a phone interview, you’re not able to see body language,” Perrin warned, “In a live interview you can see how guys react to certain questions that may not be facial. I feel you may get a better sense of how well they answer a question, how much trouble or the struggles they may have coming up with an answer. I personally think it’s better to see them live.”

“Personality for us is very big,” Perrin said, “Background intel is big with us. Certain franchises and I would not say us per see, but speaking in generalities, talent outweighs character, other teams would be character over talent, and other teams would be character plus talent. I would hope when we look at it character is big naturally, but talent is also big.”

He also indicated the draft process will be a little bit different this year, given that players can’t come in for workouts. It is a piece of the puzzle that will be missing on draft night.

Then he spoke about how he views the 2020 draft class as one of equality.

“I would say from the 15 pick to the 30 pick,” Perrin said, “You could probably have 40 guys that you’re looking at, maybe more … and it’s who you like in that particular range that is going to dictate whether or not you take them. There could be players taken in the late teens and early 20’s that other teams may have on their draft board at 35 and 40.”

Perrin has been heavily involved in the 2020 draft process with the Jazz, and he should be able to quickly bring all that he has learned about the class to the Knicks, who will likely be picking three times in the top 40 selections. With future picks and the Knicks financial might giving them an opportunity to move around on draft night, Perrin will have a chance to target specific players and bring Utah’s successful drafting methods to the Knicks to add young players to an already developing roster.

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