No tournaments. No combines. No group workouts, with waves of young NBA hopefuls traveling city by city, drilling, scrimmaging and interviewing.
Instead, the 2020 NBA Draft on Nov. 18 will be a virtual event, staged from ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., with limited on-site participation from select prospects and league personnel. Replicating the traditional booing of Knicks fans after the New York franchise makes its pick will be only one of many challenges.
For the teams involved, the order in which players’ names get called — Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball seem likely to hear theirs earliest — will be stitched together out of thousands of hours of research, video reviews, phone work and Zoom availabilities. And include a lot fewer frequent flyer miles accumulated by the scouts and other front-office executives involved.
Drafting during a pandemic might not look all that different, but how everyone got to that point — nearly five months later than usual, navigating newfound restrictions and obstacles — certainly will have been.
“It’s a situation of expansion and contraction,” said Chris Ekstrand, longtime draft expert working again as a consultant to the NBA. “There’s been a huge expansion in the amount of time teams have had to prepare. The contraction would be, well, we did not have the NCAA tournament; we did not have a 5-on-5 combine. There are a lot of components of it that we haven’t had.
“If you’re a team that has a lottery pick, you could watch every minute of every game that a guy ever has played and go through everything with a fine-toothed comb. But there has been a reduction in the events that you’ve been able to see.”
The Nov. 18 date has been fixed for a while — well in advance of a tentative Dec.