Near the top of the list of factors that made Arturas Karnisovas such an appealing candidate for the Bulls executive VP of basketball operations job was the Nuggets' record of talent evaluation and player development during his time there.
Think Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Monte Morris, Gary Harris. The list goes on. It's one thing to identify talent in a young player. It's another to draw the maximum potential out of that talent.
This is something Karnisovas understands, which he proved by preaching the essentiality of player development to his tenure with the Bulls repeatedly in his introductory press conference call and subsequent media appearances.
But what does the term "player development" mean? We discussed that on the latest episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast.
From host Jason Goff:
Pick the right players, and then once you get the right players in your building, know what makes each one tick. You can't treat everyone the same, so you've got to have a multitude of personalities maybe on your coaching staff, different access points that you can have in terms of people on your staff and how they're having relationships with their players. And you know, you gotta have people that are teaching the right things and know how to get through to people. Like, you can be the greatest teacher of all time, but if your students aren't listening, it don't matter anymore...
You've got to make sure you're in touch with what makes your players tick, and hopefully, you can tap in on that that shows that your scouting eye was like, OK, yeah, we saw that in this person, and this what they became.
And Bulls Insider K.C. Johnson:
The NBA is filled with human beings. I know these people are specialized. That's what they do, and they have a unique skill that earns them a lot of money. At the end of the day, this is still a human being business and this is about exactly you said. Figuring out what makes players ticks. You can't reach all players the same way. And the best organizations, well, they focus on players' weaknesses, but they limit the weaknesses and draw out the strengths. And you do that by drafting the right people, surrounding themselves with the right people and putting them in positions to succeed.
One of the biggest misnomers I've always thought about the NBA is these players don't want to be coached. That's bullcrap, man. These players loved to be coached, man. They want to be coached as much as anybody. Because, you know what, they want to get that chip. That's what a lot of these guys are about. I know they make a lot of money, and I know they have endorsements and all that stuff. At the end of the day, most players that you deal with this in this league, you can't say all of them, but I would say the large, large majority are about getting a championship.
The natural follow-up: How will Karnisovas put all of the above into practice? He offered a window into his process in a one-on-one video interview with Johnson Monday afternoon.
"They’re going use (this line) a lot of times, ‘Well, I’ve never seen this before.’ I’m going to be there in practice facility first. I’m going to be working out before them. We’ll eat breakfast maybe together. We’re going to talk about family. I’ll be around all the time until we establish a particular culture and expectations," Karnisovas said. "I’m to call every player on the roster to introduce myself. I know them all because we obviously profoundly scouted them when they were coming up. We’re one of the youngest rosters in the league. There’s a lot of talented pieces.”
The day after a new hire is made, it's easy to see the world through rose-colored glasses. Still, there's reason to be encouraged by the Bulls' trajectory and the role Karnisovas can play in improving it.
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