The role of coaching in the development of an NBA Draft prospect

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

How important should a team's coach be when making a decision on who to draft?

One of the things I've harped on consistently in draft-related posts is the importance of looking at the actual player selected and the development of said player in lockstep. It's impossible for the pick to have been the right one that was developed incorrectly, for development is part of the draft process. With so many players grouped together in similar tiers these days, a team's ability to turn one's natural skills into something useful long term is often what determines which players succeed and which turn into busts.

But of course, "development" is this huge, broad concept for which we have little frame of reference. Nobody yet has cracked the code in figuring out how much development is on the player and how much is on the team. We also have little concept of what it actually means to develop a prospect. Do we mean skill development? Emotional development? Development within the context of the current group? It's a very difficult question to answer.

It's with this perspective that I wanted to consider a smaller question: how much should we consider a team's current coach when deciding which player to pick? Specifically, how much should Ernie Grunfeld consider Randy Wittman's disposition when trying to make the right decision?

There are two sides to this. On the one hand, of course you consider your coach. If a coach doesn't like the player you, the GM, has selected, he won't develop him in the way you, the GM, hoped. So much of a player's future success is dictated by what happens in his formative years in the NBA. If he is buried too soon, or worse, if he is given too much responsibility too early and sees his confidence shaken once he can't handle it, that will dramatically affect him for the rest of his career.

It's also worth noting that being in good graces with your first coach can go a long way towards improving your game. One front-office member from another team put out this theory to me a while back: if you have a player that has earned the trust of his coach, at least in terms of proper positioning, demeanor and unselfishness, the coach will give him more rope to challenge his skills in games. Maybe the player will be given a longer leash when he tries a dribble move he hasn't yet mastered and fails. On the other hand, a player who hasn't quite earned his coach's trust, whether it be failing to mold his game to the team setting or just not being the right fit in the coach's style, will not receive the same rope when trying that same move in a game. The former player will have more of a frame of reference when trying to develop a skill; the latter player will be put in the doghouse and never really be given a chance to try out his new move in a game again.

On the other hand ...

You don't want to think only about your current coach when drafting a player, particularly one like Wittman that has just one year left on his contract. Especially at No. 3, you're drafting a player that you hope will be with the team for the next eight years. (That's four years on his rookie contract and four years on his first extension if he pans out). Unless Wittman rises like Gregg Popovich, he's not going to be the Wizards' coach in eight years. It's just very rare to see that happen in the league. Drafting a player that will only fit in with your current coach's style may prove problematic if that coach departs and a new one comes in with very different notions on player value.

So, what's the solution then? I always fall back on the idea of "fit" as meaning more than just a coach's philosophy. If you have a strong sense of identity within the entire organization, all other pieces fall in line. This includes coaching and player development. Finding players that "fit" the organization's ethos is the goal, not necessarily just the coach's.

What do you think? How much should Randy Wittman's style of coaching and philosophy factor in to the Wizards' choice?

More BF draft coverage:

• Scouting reports: Trey Burke | Anthony Bennett | Alex Len | Nerlens Noel | Otto Porter | Ben McLemore | Shabazz Muhammad | Victor Oladipo.

What now at No. 3?

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