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15 Questions With

RapsHQ: Let’s get right to it, how has this year been? We noticed the "donations" campaign (which we contributed to as an aside) and were wondering if it’s inevitable that you’ll have to switch to a pay site format?

Givony: It’s been great. As you noticed we put substantial time into redesigning the site. There are a lot of new features and we’ve been trying to make it look a lot better, more organized, and professional. We’ve also changed the ways we do things, including scouting reports by putting up everything we have written on a guy, having followed them all year, scouting them all year and writing at different times. Then when we have scouting reports from different times during the year you can monitor the progression of that player and that is going to end up being really interesting in a couple of years when you look at some of the freshmen that we scouted or wrote about, and even guys in high school, you can see their progression in terms of their strengths and weaknesses and how they evolved.

This year we have also gotten more recognition, more people are on the site, we are getting more mentions in the mainstream media, more interview requests, and a lot more travel. This year we’ve become more accepted in the NBA community. We’ve been to more events, met more people and this has really opened up a lot of doors for us.

We haven’t decided whether we are going to make the site a pay site as of right now. The donations campaign has been pretty much a failure, which has not really surprised us. We are really not sure what the next step is. We’ve been throwing around all kinds of possibilities out there, including sponsorships, going pay, being bought out by a variety of people, or maybe just giving up and doing something else.

I really want to do one more draft, but at some point if it doesn’t work then it doesn’t make sense for us to invest all of our money to educate the world on the draft. It just doesn’t make sense. Some people say we should have a better business plan, but maybe the internet is just not ready. This summer we are going to spend a lot more time thinking about it, talking about it and looking at different directions. We’ve partnered with a big company that packages sports sites together and puts together advertising and although nothing much has come of it yet, maybe more will come of it in the future. We are still open to all options.

Travel is how we really get paid at this point. I have put way more money into DraftExpress then I have gotten out of it. I have been able to travel all over the world, meet a lot of people and open up the door for myself in terms of future jobs, and really it has been an investment in myself.

RapsHQ: Let’s go back in time and revisit our conversation from last year. Prior to the draft you said the Raps should take Morrison with the first pick. What has surprised you more: The play of Bargnani or the poor season Morrison had in Charlotte?

Givony: The poor season that Morrison had. Bargnani has been a phenomenal pick for Toronto and the team made the right move. He came to a great situation, not only culturally, the players that are around him, and the whole environment has been great for him. It really looks like he will pan out. He obviously has a long way to go in terms of his rebounding, but he is definitely on the right track. He’s made a really nice transition and he is a really exciting prospect.

In terms of Morrison, I think it is a little too early to give up on him. He’s been a disappointment there is no doubt about it, there really is no other way to slice it. He needs to go into the gym this year and work on his game because he has a lot of holes in his game. He has a ways to go. He has to add weight, he needs to become a better shooter, he needs to become better off the dribble. He needs to read the article that David Thorpe wrote on him in the middle of the year on the ESPN insider and take it to his trainer or whoever he trains with and work. He has a lot of potential and I still think it’s too early to write him off.

RapsHQ: So it seems safe to say BC made the right pick last year? If Bargnani was in this draft where would he fit?

Givony: I think Bargnani would be in the mix at number three. He wouldn’t be the sure fire number three. I think he would have gone between 3 and 5.

RapsHQ: With no picks right now in the draft it is hard for Raps fans to get excited about the draft, but it could be one of the best drafts ever. Obviously this has everything to do with Durant and Oden. Talk about each one and the best parts, and weakest parts of each of their games.

Givony: This is mutual for both guys, the best part about them is their personality, their intangibles, their character, their work ethic, all of the behind the scenes kind of stuff. Off the court they are phenomenal people and this is one of the reasons why they are so exciting as prospects.

Besides that they are very different. Oden is a back to the basket guy, a phenomenal defender, a phenomenal shot-blocker, he’s a great athlete, he has an unbelievable body, awesome timing. Now Durant is an offensive juggernaut. It’s incredible the way he puts the ball in the basket a million different ways. What’s scary about Durant is just how good he is now. He’s still got quite a few holes in his game, his ball-handling still has a ways to go, his post game needs to improve even though he showed more of a willingness to go down in the post more as the season went on, but he is that good right now just getting by on flat out instincts. Imagine how scary it will be once he adds a little weight to his frame, he becomes a better ball handler and is strong enough to go into the post and make his presence felt. I still think that Durant is the best prospect in this draft. In three or four years people are going to look at him as the guy who should have went number one.

RapsHQ: You had Durant going first on the site for a while, why was that and why did it change so that you now have Oden at the 1?

Givony: I just think that is who Portland is going to draft now. Our mock draft is now who we hear is going where as opposed to who we think should get drafted. Maybe we should do a who we think should get drafted but right now it’s who will. I am pretty sure…..I am 100% sure that Oden is going one and that is why we have him going number one.

RapsHQ: After Oden and Durant ,who are the five most talented players in the draft?

Givony: Top five? I would put Conley, definitely in that mix. I would put Horford, Noah, Brewer and that is the tier of next level guys. After that there is definitely a big drop off. I wouldn’t put anyone else in that group.

RapsHQ: You attended the Orlando draft camp. What were your impressions coming out of the camp? How did the talent match-up to last year’s pre-draft camp?

Givony: I thought it was similar in terms of talent. A lot of guys pulled out, as usual, but we came in knowing it was going to be that way and took it for what it was. Honestly, the pre-draft camp is what it is and if you come in and are disappointed and moan and bitch then why even come. I thought it was good. I thought there were players that were good and will play in the NBA for a long time. A guy like Jared Dudley, Demetrius Nichols, Taurean Green, Dominic McGuire…..these are guys that are going to be rotation players and solid player in the NBA. I thought it was good. It was obviously good to network and catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while, prepare for Treviso as well, it’s a nice little spot.

RapsHQ: Last year you were saying there was very little energy in the building. Did that change?

Givony: Yes, I think there was definitely more energy. I think they did a good job this year. Last year on the last day nothing was going on and it was like a graveyard. This year they brought in Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Spencer Hawes, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and all these guys did workouts on the other side of the gym. Everyone stayed and everyone loved it and I bounced back and forth between the work-outs and the games that were going on at the same. They also mixed in Horford, Noah and these guys with the pre-draft participants, so they were kind-of doing drills together and that was a nice thing to do there.

RapsHQ: As of today, who do you think is the most underrated player in the draft? Who do you feel is the most overrated?

Givony: I think Rudy Fernandez is underrated. He should have a little more buzz. He had an unbelievable year in the Euro league and is a really solid player. He can do a lot of different things. He can pass, he can shoot, he can defend, he’s proven himself at a very high level, and he’s not going to be a top 15 pick. Some of it has to do with his buy-out. Of course if he was going to go top 15 he wouldn’t have a problem with a buy out so that really isn’t an excuse. He’s only about 180 pounds, but he’s just a really good player. If the Raptors do make a play for a player, I think it’s going to be for a guy like Rudy Fernandez.
I don’t know what kind of assets they have to move, in order to get where they need to get which is 18-21, but if they do it wouldn’t shock me if it were for a guy like Rudy.

In terms of overrated, if you are going to draft a guy like Yi at 3, then he is the most overrated player in the draft. If he is going to go 10-14 which seems to be more of the indication lately, maybe not 14, but later in the lottery than 3 or 4, then he has value there. He’s a guy with really good potential and he could end up developing into a nice player down the road. If you take him at three, then that is just crazy. I don’t think he can warrant that in terms of his mental and physical toughness. His upside to me has been a little bit exaggerated. He’s not really 19 years old, he is actually 22, so that’s probably the most overrated guy.

RapsHQ: Last year you were really impressed by Ronnie Brewer and the character he showed. Has anyone blown you away this time around?

Givony: Morris Almond absolutely as well as Petteri Koponen and Rodney Stuckey. I was absolutely blown away by Joakim Noah, just meeting him and seeing what a gigantic personality he has. I think you can say that about Oden and Durant too. Add in Conley and Jeff Green, and Spencer Hawes who we interviewed and is a great guy and really smart. There is definitely a correlation between being a good person and being a good basketball player. Every year we walk into the green room and every guy there is really a good guy. The guys have good work ethic, come from great families and there definitely is a correlation.

RapsHQ: Because the Raps don’t have a pick let’s look at another Atlantic Division team, the Boston Celtics. The team was disappointed with not getting one of the top two spots but there is so much talent in this draft…who do you think they go after?

Givony: Honestly? I think they are going to trade. They have some good trade offers on the table already and I think it’s inevitable that once they are on the clock they will get a pretty good offer and trading is what they are going to do, whether it’s Marion or someone else. Maybe the Mavs come around, not offering Dirk but someone else. Someone will make them a pretty good offer for the number 5 pick and I think they will end up taking it.

RapsHQ: While Toronto does not have a pick, have you seen any players that you feel might be good fits for the Raps if Bryan Colangelo can get back into the mix?

Givony: Well other than Rudy the team needs a 3 or a 2. I actually think Morris Almond would be a pretty good fit. He is more of a two but can slide to the three. I think Jared Dudley would be a great fit. Those are the two guys I would pick out right there.

RapsHQ: Can you give us some thoughts on PJ Tucker? Was Toronto just a poor fit or do you think he’s got a ways to go before he can be a productive NBA player?

Givony: He’s a guy that needs to be in the right system. He doesn’t have a position in the NBA but I think they gave up on him too early. You can’t take a guy who is a junior, take him in the early second round and expect him to make an immediate impact in almost any scenario. I don’t know if they saw something in practice that they didn’t like, but I think he could end up being a decent NBA player. I don’t see the difference between him and say Justin Reed on the T-Wolves who has been around forever. So I think he will find his way back onto an NBA squad.

I don’t think they missed out on the talent of the century but I think he is an NBA player.

RapsHQ: Now a Canadian content question. What about Levon Kendall, our Canadian boy. Any chance you see him getting drafted?

Givony: This is funny because I went to watch Levon Kendall is Las Vegas about a month ago and going into his first workout I was thinking, ‘whatever, Levon Kendall, he has averaged about 6 ppg, 5rpg, why am I even watching him’? Then the 5 on 5 games starts and he is guarding Jemario Davidson and he just shuts him down. He must have gone 1-18 in that game, and then offensively he is reading the floor, making great passes, showing great range, knocking down his shots. He’s not a great shooter, but he has worked on his body and was in phenomenal shape. The day before they were doing conditioning stuff, running up and down for 45 minutes and wind sprints…everyone is dead tired and here’s Kendall still running. He is in great shape and very serious about basketball.

I hear he has an Irish passport so the guy will make a lot of money. I heard he had a great workout in Seattle. He’s not an NBA player right now, but he is better than what he showed at Pitt, and it wouldn’t shock me if he turned into a really good pro. Maybe not NBA but he will be a nice player and will help out somebody. He is the consummate role player. He is kind of stuck between the three and the four but he is a nice player.

RapsHQ: Obviously the hope is that we don’t have another Carl English, where a draft party is held and then he is not drafted.

Givony: Well Carl English…he is going to shoot the rock pretty much every time he touches it. Everyone loves Carl English in Europe and he is getting a lot of workouts and invites to NBA mini-camps. He had a great year in Croatia, but he is Mr. I will take 30 shots in a game and I don’t give a damn if anyone’s gonna stop me. He will steal the ball from the PG and jack-it up from half court. He’s awesome like that, though, because he makes a lot of shots.

He’ll make a lot of money that’s for sure. He’ll make more money abroad than a lot of NBA minimum players. I wouldn’t shed any tears for Carl English.