NBA Draft 2020: Why agents could have more leverage than usual, and the silver lining for scouts at home


As the NBA explores every possible option to salvage the rest of its season, the date of the NBA Draft fits right into this new world of uncertainty. Will it be in June as usual? On Monday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that teams are united in encouraging the league office to postpone the draft until August 1st

Unlike the remainder the season, we do know the draft will take place at some point, and when it does, one league scout warns the stay-at-home coronavirus circumstances could make for a higher percentage of “mistake” picks when we look back at this draft a few years down the road. 

“There’s just no way we can get the same amount of information on kids as we normally would,” the Eastern Conference draft scout told CBS Sports. “So right there you know there are going to be less informed decisions being made. If there was ever a draft where players and agents have the power and the leverage, it’s this one.”

On Monday, the NBA sent a memo to teams saying in-person interviews and workouts with draft-eligible players are prohibited until further notice, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and virtual interviews are limited to four hours with any single prospect. This is where the agents come into play. 

Agents attempting to manipulate the draft, steering their prospects toward some teams and away from others, isn’t anything new. What is new is that in the past, if an agent, say, denied a certain team access to his client by cutting off interviews and withholding medical information, there were other ways for scouts and teams to get the information they need. Those avenues may still exist, but there are a lot more roadblocks in place. 

“When the NBA shut down, we were right in the heart of our travel,” the same scout said. “Normally, I would never be home during this time of year. We’d be at conference tournaments, the NCAA Tournament, high school events, Portsmouth [Invitational] would be coming up, the combine, we’d be taking campus visits, talking to coaches, teammates, managers, so that even if an agent did deny us access, we would still have a good feel for a kid. 

“Now we’re still making calls,” the agent continued. “There are still ways to try to get as much information as you can. But when you’re out in the field, those meetings are kind of set up for you, because you don’t know all these people that have been around a kid his whole life. When you take a campus visit, the coach is usually facilitating everything, taking you to everyone you need to talk with. Without that introduction and taking care of multiple interviews in one place, it gets a lot more difficult. 

“And all that background is important, so that now when you do sit down with the kid you aren’t flying blind. You have a good foundation of information. You hear something once, maybe that’s one thing. You hear it two or three times, and then the kid gives you a bad feeling in the room, a different picture comes together. You can talk to these kids on video chat, Zoom or FaceTime or whatever, but you can only get so much of a feel for someone that way. 

“And again, that’s if you even get the meeting in the first place. If you don’t have a great relationship with an agent, and they don’t give you access to the kid, some of these other pipelines for getting information have been kind of cut off, or at least they’re a lot more difficult to access. That’s what I’m most worried about right now.”

A Western Conference exec who spoke with CBS Sports doubled down on the importance of relationships in this scouting climate. “I’ve spent my whole career building relationships, and now’s the time when you really have to lean on that,” the exec said. 

A prospect’s medical information is obviously critical. And again, that can be, and is often, withheld by agents. 

“That’s why not having the combine is a big deal, too,” a scout said to CBS Sports. “The past couple years, some of the top prospects didn’t participate in Chicago, but oftentimes a kid will still be in town and go through the interview process even if he’s not working out. With the combine, the league is getting all the medicals on all these prospects gathering in one place. Now that’s out, and so now we’re having to try to track down information one kid at a time. The agents will be able to pick and choose who gets what information.”

The one upside to this stay-at-home situation is it is giving scouts more time to actually study the film. 

“I’m studying these players full time right now,” the scout said. “I make a few calls, talk to a few people, but mostly my days are on the computer watching Synergy, just breaking down as much film as possible. With all this time, I can watch every 3-pointer a guy takes, every pick-and-roll he runs, every defensive possession. There’s no excuse now to miss any kind of detail as far as what a kid has on film.”

Also, that film isn’t getting any late editions to influence your opinion.

“It’s going to hurt some kids, where they’re not going to get that opportunity to have a few hot weeks in their conference tournament or the NCAA [Tournament] and really raise their profile,” the scout said. “But for what we do, that kind of clarifies things. How many times have you seen a guy who maybe you have ranked as a late first [rounder] or a second-rounder, and then he gets hot for a few games and suddenly all the work you’ve done on him for months comes into question. That might make for as many draft mistakes as anything, just getting caught up in the moment. I don’t know, I think sometimes you can have a little too much information. With this situation we’re in now, what he have [on film] is what we have. It’s not going to change.”





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