The NBA has informed its teams that 205 players have filed to enter the 2020 NBA draft as early-entry candidates, according to ESPN. The group reportedly includes 163 college underclassmen and 42 international players.
The 205 players will be vying to be selected in a draft that has only 60 slots.
As big as that number might seem, it’s actually down from the past two years, with ESPN reporting that 233 players tested the draft waters in 2019 and 236 in 2018. The smaller group could be chalked up to uncertainty around the draft process due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Why 205 players entering the NBA draft is no big deal
It’s easy to chalk up such an overflow to dozens of delusional players thinking they’re NBA material, but that is rarely the case.
Many players are entering the draft to get feedback from NBA teams, then return to college knowing what to work on to improve their future draft stock. They could also want to communicate with teams about their current evaluations, and return to school if it wasn’t what they were hoping.
The 2019 draft saw 89 players pull out of draft consideration and return to college. Players lose nothing by doing this, and gain valuable information from NBA teams.
Other players could be perfectly fine with going undrafted and competing for a spot in the NBA through summer league and training camps, or land in foreign leagues if the NBA doesn’t work out. Just as long as they can start getting paid for their services. Why not check to see if any NBA teams are interested before signing elsewhere?
Entering the draft is an enormous, life-altering decision that almost always comes after lengthy discussions with coaches and family members. It’s not something that players do on a whim.
Players that have applied to enter the draft may withdraw and preserve their college eligibility, as long as they do it by June 3. The NCAA will reportedly be “flexible” with that date due to the chaos that the pandemic is likely to wreak on the pre-draft process.
When will the 2020 NBA draft be held?
While the NBA is still operating on its usual pre-draft schedule, that could soon have to change.
The coronavirus pandemic will likely prevent teams from being able to meet with and evaluate their desired prospects in person, and could lead to either a postponement or significant modification of the draft and related activities.
The NBA indicated such measures are still on the table in its memo to teams.
The memo to teams also said, "The league office continues to evaluate potential modifications to the pre-draft process, including the draft combine, as a result of the evolving COVID-19 situation. We will provide teams with updated information as it becomes available."
The NFL, facing similar conditions, opted to go ahead with its draft as scheduled last week. The virtual draft, with teams and players joining in remotely from their own homes, was widely seen as technological success. It was a success in the ratings department as well.
However, the NBA would face significantly more obstacles if it tried to follow the NFL’s example. The NFL was able to get an entire college football season of tape, hold its scouting combine as planned and had ample time for teams to meet and evaluate players in person. Meanwhile, the NBA would be working off an incomplete college basketball season and likely unable to hold its scouting combine, currently scheduled for May 21.
ESPN has reported that teams have encouraged NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s office to postpone the draft from June 25 to no sooner than Aug. 1. Even that August date would be extremely optimistic, as front offices would be loath to go through the draft process while the season is still up in the air or in progress.
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