Adrian Wojnarowski Tells Us His Favorite Thing About Covering The NBA Draft


Last Thursday was a busy one for the entire NBA universe, and as such, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski had to kick things into hyperdrive. The 2019 NBA Draft was a hectic evening, one filled with teams making moves all over the place, players rising and falling out of the blue, and of course, the most hyped incoming player in some time, Zion Williamson, going to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Woj Bombs™ were fast and furious, and by the time the festivities came to an end, the veteran hoops reporter caused a minor wave in the Twitterverse. Not because of anything he reported, mind you, but because he let it slip that he was going to crack open a beer now that the night was over.

“I think I had a Heineken in some pub around the corner from our hotel with a bunch of the ESPN guys after that,” Wojnarowski told Dime, before stressing that the Worldwide Leader’s hectic morning show slate limited him to one.

After completing his various TV obligations, we caught up with Wojnarowski prior to his meet and greet at Tissot’s store in Midtown Manhattan to discuss the draft, how it sets up a potential landmark free agency period, and much more.

How was last night for you?

It was good. I thought there were gonna be a lot of trades because I think there was so much uncertainty with, you got the sense on teams draft boards that there were wild discrepancies between how people valued players. So typically to me when that happens you’re gonna get teams looking to move out, teams looking to move in and lots of trades in and out of the lottery and then the mid-to-late first round. I think there was a run on second round picks, too, last night. Those have more value than they’ve ever had. I think, too, we had teams like Atlanta, Boston of multiple picks, three picks each [in the second round].

You get a little more creative that way.

Yeah, so it was fun. It was fun, the trades early before the draft sort of set the tone. The Phoenix/Minnesota trade was before the draft. The Atlanta/New Orleans trade was before the draft, then obviously Phoenix/Indiana. So before we go on the clock there was a lot of action.

If you had to estimate how many texts, calls, DM’s you got from the time the draft started to when it ended, what number would you put on it?

That’s a good question. I’ve never gone back to count it. I don’t DM. There’s nobody I can communicate with that way, at least that I can think of. Text, calls, WhatsApp.

Your phone was charging a lot last night, we’ll put it that way.

Yeah, I had two going. But it was good, it was fun. There were a lot of storylines in that draft.

Was there news from last night that kind of came out of left field that caught you off guard? It happens and you go, “Oh wow, that one’s gonna shake things up a bit”?

What Phoenix is doing is interesting. I was really surprised that they had to attach the 32nd pick to trade T.J. Warren. When I was told the trade, I didn’t have my sheet in front of me, and finally I said, “Well, wait, they’re getting the 32nd pick … no, no, no, they’re sending the 32nd pick.” I’m like, “Oh, okay…” It seemed like that shouldn’t have been necessary. A lot of teams thought that shouldn’t have been necessary, that they could have unloaded … I mean Warren’s a productive player, it’s not an excessive contract. He’s been productive, he shoots the three well.

He’s gonna help Indiana right away.

They’re clearing space but then they took Aron Baynes in, and then taking Cam Johnson at 11. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong. I always [say], just because one team values a player over others doesn’t mean they’re wrong. You should draft by your own board and who you value. It feels like they could’ve moved, though, to go to 11, they could’ve gotten Cam Johnson further down. But I get it, that was the player they wanted. They took him there. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out for the Suns.

So what is your routine for the draft, and how does that change now that you’re spending so much time on television?

The time on television during the evening is not that challenging. Being on the set is harder to take a call or two … I’ll tell you, the rehearsals, having to do the rehearsals for some of the shows is a little more taxing time-wise. I kind of tend to feel this way, you put your work in on the draft or free agency the rest of the year. In those days you are scrambling to reach people, you are going to hear about things and a lot of your work is done before you get to that night. There’s always some luck involved, but generally, you have a pretty good sense of what’s in play and you may get a heads up that something’s about to happen.

It’s a benefit to be on TV because the people you cover, they’re watching, so, it’s not a negative. There are certainly more shows, but I don’t mind the 7 a.m, 8 a.m., early morning [shows]. You’re probably not on that phone at 6:30. You do the shows and the morning SportsCenters. It’s fine, I enjoy it all.

What’s your favorite thing about the draft?

It’s such a compressed window of action unlike any other time. Even free agency is still spread out over 72 hours, maybe 48 hours. That 2-3 hour window, right before the draft, into the draft, where the balance of power changes in the league and there’s lots of impactful deals, it’s happening fast. I like the action of it, the adrenaline rush of it, and it’s a good test. Personally, it tests you, it tests your capacity to do the job, it tests the strength of the work you put in to be prepared for it. It tests how well you’re doing the job.

How much coffee is consumed over the course of the draft?

I was hoarse those days so I was drinking hot tea with honey instead of coffee. I had a coffee or two but it was more the honey because I was losing my voice before the last couple days.
In your years of doing this is there one draft that sticks out as the craziest draft of them all?

They blur together. That was pretty good last time and I thought, what did we have, 13 trades?

It was something like that.

I thought the number of trades, and I think having New Orleans at the top and New Orleans controlling the draft was interesting. I think having A.D. as a walk up to the draft, the trade was only last Saturday. And the Lakers sort of being … whenever the Lakers are involved in the big story, it’s exponentially bigger, because there’s so much more interest in the Lakers than any other team we cover.

While they didn’t have a pick, they were trying to get into the second round. They were doing some things, and the free agency hovers over it. I think this one, too, because of the impact in free agency. This is going to be free agency unlike we’ve seen since probably 2010. I thought a lot of July was being set up last night, so this was as good, as impactful as any of them.

If I may ask, on that July question, how so in your estimation?

I think you saw Boston preparing themselves for the departure of two All-Stars, they’ve got $26 million in cap space now. They could go out, sign an impactful player. They could trade one into their space. They have some options. They have lots of picks they could still use in the trades. I thought that New Orleans has set themselves up … whatever they have, mid-20’s in cap space. They can go get a big player, they can get a couple players.

And then you saw some teams like Brooklyn get their pick off, save some money. Milwaukee sells their pick because they’ve got all these guys they’ve gotta pay. You know the Malcolm Brogdon offer sheet’s a pretty good mystery. Is that going to be so big that they say, “We can’t go that far”? He’s an important player for them. Where’s Al Horford going? And then, obviously, with KD and Kyrie, there’s a lot of mystery walking into free agency.

For you, outside of the Kevin Durants, the Kawhi Leonards, the Kyrie Irvings, what’s kind of the most interesting thing for this upcoming free agency period in your estimation?

Do teams over-spend on players? Teams who strike out on the big stars, do they then go dig themselves into a hole and give contracts out that they are going to regret. That happened, you think back to free agency when the Lakers, what year was it, [Timofey] Mozgov and Luol Deng. Tyler Johnson just picked up his option today for $19 million. Teams spent that summer, are they going to do it again? The space is there, will teams show restraint where they need to show restraint? That’s what I’ll be very curious about.

I don’t want to take a byline away from you but I do want to know, from conversations you had, stuff like that, how long do you think into the free agency period it will be before we start getting a sense on those big fishes?

I don’t know, some guys have decisions. LeBron had his mind made up the first day. It’s hard to know, because until you get up to the days before, somebody who thinks they are going to take four meetings may just say, “I’m not going to take them, I want to get this over with.” Somebody who wasn’t going to take meetings all of a sudden starts taking meetings. Typically, once one or two of the big guys decide it’s a domino, it’s a scramble.

Somebody has to set the market and everyone else follows.

Once a guy takes a spot and starts jumping in, that’s hard to say. I think like Durant, Kyrie and Kawhi will dictate. Now, if Kemba just goes back to Charlotte, he doesn’t need anybody else to do anything, you just go back. If he’s going to leave then he’s impacted by others, others are impacted by him.

To get back to the draft last night, what was your favorite moment?

The Bol Bol story became interesting. He’s unique, he’s tall, people know who his dad was. Here’s a guy who everybody was talking about as a top-five pick from preseason, all of a sudden, we’re into the 40’s and he’s not selected. I thought that was an interesting one.

I wanted to leave at the end of first round and then Bol just kept falling and then eventually he gets picked and the place just goes insane, that was really cool.

That was nice.

Who was the player last night whose sense of style you enjoyed the most?

Tyler Herro. I thought he was pretty unapologetic. It looked like he was taking some heat from some people and he was like, “Hey this is my look.” But, yeah, I thought Tyler Hero was funny. I did like Bol Bol, the spider web.