With the NBA on extended hiatus as necessitated by the outbreak of the coronavirus, the basketball industry at large continues to operate without a defined off-season timetable, casting uncertainty on the timing of the 2020 draft and free agency. Concern over the calendar has created challenges for teams and for players hoping to enter the draft, and a situation that not only the league, but the entire industry has been forced to navigate without a strong sense of clarity.
As ESPN first reported Tuesday, the NBA has begun accepting applications to the Undergraduate Advisory Committee, which is annually tasked with giving feedback to college prospects before they can officially enter the draft. The deadline for players to apply is April 16. At that point, if things remain on schedule, teams will at the very least have a better sense of the draft-eligible player pool, which is obviously a crucial step forward in the pre-draft process. With college basketball season over, that gives prospects an entire month to make their initial decisions, with the draft currently set for June 20. But at the moment, that appears to be the extent of the developments in a crucial league cycle that appears in many ways to be irreparably fraught due to the circumstances.
As we reported Friday, the logistics for both teams and agents in scheduling players’ pre-draft travel for workouts, pro days and meetings are widely expected to be difficult given the overall health concerns surrounding travel and potential coronavirus transmission. There are clear challenges that will likely inhibit the NBA’s ability to hold a proper draft combine, which doubles as an annual spring summit for NBA front offices and gathers players, their families, and media members from across the globe. It feels concrete at this point that there will be fewer chances for teams to evaluate players in intimate settings moving forward, no matter when the draft eventually takes place. There’s some speculation surrounding the possibility of holding the draft toward the end of summer, creating a longer runway for a potential level of normalcy in the pre-draft process. Conversely, the draft could still take place as scheduled in June, irrespective of other changes to the schedule. But there’s little use projecting too far ahead when the entire league is essentially working to try and hit moving goalposts: preparing for a draft that could feasibly be delayed multiple months, and doing so with potentially incomplete access to information and limited opportunity to do the ideal level of in-person diligence.