The inevitable NBA shutdown has happened. Without a doubt, everyone has felt the weight of the entire league putting itself on pause in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Games aren’t being played, and frankly, news around the league has been slow. It’s been more than a week since the NBA suspended play (I know, it has felt WAY longer than that), and it seems like right now things won’t pick up in the sports world for a long time.
Honestly, they probably won’t. This situation not only has an effect on the present season, but beyond it. We’ve seen recently that the NFL will still hold their upcoming draft in some manner that will be closed to the public. Nobody can predict the future, but the NBA will likely follow this trend with their draft in the summer. While not being able to attend the draft is a bummer for most people, we should probably understand a perspective from the eyes of an NBA front office figure.
The COVID-19 outbreak will drastically affect the scouting of any prospect entering their name in the 2020 NBA Draft. Recently, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported that the Sixers canceled advanced scouting efforts:
According to multiple sources, the #Sixers have cancelled advance scouting due to the coronavirus. No one can deny that this team is serious about protecting its employees from the virus.— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) March 11, 2020
This is a pretty big deal for most teams, as they typically ramp up scouting efforts around this time.
Most of the elite prospects in the NBA Draft are “One-and-Done” players, meaning they only spend a year in college before declaring for the NBA Draft. Teams will only have a 30-or-so-game sample size with some of the best college prospects upon which to base their scouting reports. It’s a huge disappointment for these college players, as March Madness is usually a time in which players can drastically boost their draft stock. Teams like to see how players perform on a big stage.
Having the inability to scout a college prospect is rough, but teams will also be unable to hold individual or group workouts with draft prospects. This is another “make or break” moment for a lot of fringe NBA guys, as these workouts can convince teams to take a chance on them. CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein’s report goes in-depth on some specifics in regards to discussions of the draft process for this upcoming year:
Sources: Several NBA teams are preparing to make their selections for the 2020 NBA Draft based on Skype interviews and prior in-person scouting. Many are moving forward with the expectation of no combine, no workouts, and no in-person interviews.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 21, 2020
It also affects situations beyond the North American coast. We’ve seen other basketball leagues around the world suspend their season, such as the CBA (Chinese Basketball League) and EuroLeague. (Editor’s Note: The CBA recently recalled American-based players back to China in preparation for the league re-commencing play.) League suspensions along with global travel bans will make scouting international prospects even harder than it was before. That’s a pretty big deal considering most mock drafts have four international-playing prospects going in the top-10.
We also have to take into consideration that the 2020 NBA Draft is unlike any draft in recent memory. There is no consensus overall pick if you compare draft boards among people. There is no Zion Williamson, let alone a Deandre Ayton, or even a Markelle Fultz (sorry for bringing him up guys). Some people will say James Wiseman is the best talent, but without much confidence, as he has only played three college games.
The good news for Sixers fans is that there will be a lot of talent that does go under the radar and will fall to later picks due to the current global situation. It’s very safe to say that there will be many steals in this draft just due to the lack of knowledge teams have been able to gather.
One thing the Sixers’ front office has done well lately has been hitting on late-first-round picks. Matisse Thybulle, Landry Shamet, and even Furkan Korkmaz follow a good trend of solid NBA players found in the late first round for Philadelphia.
The 2020 NBA Draft has the makings to be a complete crap shoot. Fortunately, the Sixers will be armed with their — not-so-fake — fake first round OKC pick, which is currently slated at number 21/22 (depending on a coin flip). Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the team did its homework ahead of time.