When ESPN broadcasts the 2020 NBA Draft from its campus in Bristol, Connecticut on Wednesday night, it may seem smaller than the usual lavish event that plays out live in front of an arena full of thousands of raucous fans. But in truth, this year’s Draft will be bigger than ever.
Rather than just the dozen or so prospects typically invited into the green room at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the Draft is normally held, the NBA organized live video feeds of 58 of the top prospects, including 19 that will be shot live via satellite trucks. Four of those trucks will be in foreign countries, as the league worked with overseas partners in Greece, Spain, France, and Israel to make sure top international prospects get their moment of triumph broadcast as well. Crews at the NBA headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey, and Bristol will beam in video footage of players and their families while they get the news that their hoop dreams have come true.
“A lot of these guys were robbed of that opportunity when the Tournament was canceled, so getting their names out there and introducing fans to a new crop of future stars, that’s what I’m excited about,” Carlton Myers, NBA associate vice president of event management, told Dime.
All 58 players were sent media kits designed as big cabinets featuring everything from a personalized Spalding basketball, to streaming technology, to a copy of a draft hat from all 30 teams. It’s part of how the league is attempting to replicate the Barclays Center experience, but it’s also a matter of practicality.
Learning from the WNBA Draft that his staff pulled off back in April, Myers knew he’d have to send out TVU kits to all the prospects, meaning they also received an iPhone, Beats headphones, an LED ring light, and a Microsoft Surface tablet in order to get a good feed for their reaction shot and the interview they will do after they are selected with ESPN’s Malika Andrews.
“We made a point to make sure that we could get as many players on-air as possible,” Myers explains. “We focused a lot on making sure we could get a live reaction of the players as soon as their announcement is made. That’s kind of the biggest moment of the Draft for a lot of people, and it’s really a great thing to see for the viewer.”
Back in Bristol, Adam Silver and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum will be in a big ESPN studio, with a similar backdrop to what would normally be onstage at the Barclays Center and feature the “money shot” footage when players are selected. Andrews will be in a separate studio doing interviews, while the usual panel of Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams, and Mike Schmitz will lead coverage for ESPN. Studio commentary will come via NBA insiders Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks.
If any trades come up, the league will roll with the punches, even if communication is a bit slower virtually than in-person. Something like the Houston and Portland deal from Monday night that put the No. 16 pick in the Rockets’ hands might be handled as if it were a Rockets pick, whereas Draft night deals will not change the logistics of interviews and photos until they are finalized.
“We have a whole team of people on our side who are in constant communication with each one of these 58 draftees throughout the night,” Myers says. “So if anything like that were to come up, we would try to be ahead of it to make sure there aren’t those awkward moments, but sometimes the timing is what it is and you kind of just roll with the punches.”
Afterward, the league will recreate the annual first round photo of all the prospects with Silver by asking prospects to shoot photos of themselves posing in a specific manner and patching them all together into a portrait that will be shown on the Draft broadcast and sent to rookies’ families.
In its own way, the 2020 NBA Draft may be even more memorable than past Drafts. Certainly, the league has learned lessons about how to involve more prospects that they can transfer to future Drafts. While there might be some technological hiccups or peculiarities unique to this year, NBA fans can rest assured Wednesday night will be just as fun as ever.