With the sports world on hold and domestic travel discouraged due to coronavirus concerns, NBA executives “widely agree that the pre-draft process will be severely limited,” according to an ESPN report.
That means pro days, the NBA combine and any kind of events that would allow prospects to audition in front of NBA teams before the June 20 (as of now) draft appear “extremely unlikely,” the report says.
If true, this would affect NBA hopefuls like Arizona freshmen Nico Mannion, Josh Green and Zeke Nnaji, who have until April 26 to declare for the draft and June 15 to withdraw.
But in this day and age, with video and so much information available at the drop of a hat, how much would it matter if scouting showcases aren’t conducted? It depends who you are, according to superstar Kevin Durant, whose weight and strength were once questioned at the NBA combine.
“If you’re a top-10 pick, or a first-round pick or whatever, and you know you might be guaranteed, stay your ass home, work out and get better on your own time,” he told ESPN. ”It’s good for guys who are trying to fight their way into the first round, fight their way into the draft. ... But if you’re like a top pick and you know you’re going to be a top pick, just work out. ... Your whole body of work is more important than just going there for a couple of days.”
In SB Nation’s latest NBA mock draft, Green and Mannion are projected to be selected 13th and 15th, respectively—more or less where every outlet has them. Nnaji did not receive a first-round projection by SB Nation, but he is a first rounder in other mock drafts, like CBS which predicts he will be the 23rd overall pick.
By Durant’s logic, attending a pro day or combine wouldn’t be so appealing for Green and Mannion, who probably have enough tape to solidify their spots. (Remember, they have been on NBA teams’ radar well before they got to college.)
Nnaji, a less-heralded recruit, could be a different story. Such showcases could be his way to ossify himself as a first-rounder—or, conversely, make it clear that he is not yet at that level.
Another perk of attending the scouting combine and team workouts is the ability to get feedback from personnel who are actually involved in the draft process, allowing a fringe first-round prospect to make a more informed decision.
Returning to school poses its own set of risks as well. Next year’s draft class is expected to be better, so returning players would need to make substantial improvement to boost their stock. (Older prospects are typically evaluated on a harsher curve.)
The coronavirus concerns also presents a new set of question marks. Will the NBA Draft go on as scheduled? Will basketball be back by November? Will colleges be able to offer the same on-campus experience?
Prospects sure have a lot more to consider these days.