NBA commissioner Adam Silver won’t be delivering any draft night daps on Wednesday. Still, the league and broadcast partner ESPN are hoping to provide as engaging an event as possible for the fans who won’t be attending and the draftees stuck at home.
Both sides were already developing plans for another draft night in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a rethinking. An empty arena as well as ESPN’s New York studios were considered as locations before the NBA settled on ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters, which provides space for social distancing and, obviously, camera-ready positions. Forty-five league employees will travel to Bristol Wednesday to put on the event from ESPN’s Studio E, which will be specially outfitted with a podium and digital boards.
“We want the presentation to be as dynamic and informative as a normal year,” said Michael Shiffman, ESPN vice president, production. In many ways, the NBA will be borrowing the NFL’s playbook, after Roger Goodell hosted his league’s draft in April as players and their families stole the show from living rooms across the country. But a few things will be different.
The NBA will be using supplementary video content behind Silver, similar to what it displayed in its Orlando bubble, and will bring in live video of drafted players so they can interact with the commissioner.
Fifty-eight prospects received kits for the occasion, including lighting gear and official hats for all 30 teams. Most will be shown via iPhone camera footage, while 19 satellite trucks will be dispatched to film top players, including international prospects currently in France, Greece, Israel and Spain. Much of the tech will be similar to the process used for the WNBA’s draft in April.
Even if they’re staying home, players have been encouraged to participate in the draft’s high fashion tradition, with a virtual draft class photo being put together as well. “The biggest piece was trying to recreate as best we could the draft experience for these players,” NBA associate VP for event management Carlton Myers said.
Over half the teams will also be represented Wednesday with cameras in their war rooms—whether the decision makers are gathering in-person or online. Meanwhile, Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Mike Schmitz will be breaking down the draft from another part of Studio E. Rising star reporter Malika Andrews will also play a big role, likely including an interview with Silver before the first pick is made.
So the pieces will all be there: Adam Silver at his podium, the players in their suits, Jay Bilas breaking down wingspans, and, yes, ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski reporting picks ahead of time on Twitter. It wouldn’t be NBA draft night any other way.