First, like all things at HBS, know that this is a competitive event. There are winners and losers. There are teams. There are rules, regulations, penalties. There is media buzz. There will be mistakes made, trades, roster cuts, and star performances from the players you least expected. The season will have its ups and downs and as we head into the most pivotal of moments – the draft – there will be plenty of opportunities for pitfalls and rookie faux pas. Inexperience can defeat a first attempt at putting a quality roster together. Fret not, I am here to help you pick the stars, ditch the duds, and find those one or two sleepers with something truly special.
Tip #1: Pay attention during the combine (colloquially known as section retreat.) There are not many opportunities to see and compare the full pool of talent side by side. Go in knowing what to look for (kindness, humor, candor) and what to watch out for (every story begins with “One time when I was playing Edward Forty-Hands…”) Be mindful that others may be looking for the same things you are, so reserve your judgment in public. Above all, do not make any premature commitments – it is a long season and you don’t want to get locked into a bad contract without adequate time for evaluation.
Tip #2: Take Advantage of the Trade Deadline For better or worse rosters get bloated and cuts occur. It happens every year. Know that good talent will come online right around the trade deadline at the end of November. Be mindful that this influx of free agents can be a great opportunity to amend your roster. Be ready to swap and swap fast. You don’t want to be caught off guard!
Tip #3: The Star Premium isn’t worth it
Just because your roster isn’t full of tall, fast, aggressive men, doesn’t mean you’ll go scoreless. Be sure to have a good mix of consistent performers and established stars. Yes, we would all like to have our starting lineup filled with the studs everyone wanted last year, but they come at a high price. If you over-index here, a single stroke of bad luck may end your season. Instead, take a chance on players that other drafters have overlooked. They may not seem appealing right now but with proper coaching and patience they may be able to eke out a quality performance or two over the course of the year. Better to have them on your team now than want them later!
Tip #4: Evaluate the Intangibles
Performance is multi-faceted. Be aware that not everything you will need to know about a player will be on his stat sheet. Yes, he worked for McKinsey. Yes, he has his own microfinance startup. But when he is confronted with a cold call after clearly not having read the case, does he stammer his way into a corner or eloquently redirect the question with another question? “Why are we talking about cranberries when there is a war going on? Have you no heart?
Tip #5: Find your franchise player
But at the end of the day, we all want to find that one special someone that you can throw a franchise tag down on and say “You’re mine.” Despite what you may hear, it is possible to find love at HBS. Don’t lose your wits. Stay true to yourself.
And enjoy the ride. After all, dating season comes but once a year.