Decision to postpone NBA Draft Lottery, Combine could create ripple effects


NBA commissioner Adam Silver. (Gerry Broome/AP)

And just like that, in only 60 words, the picture of how the rest of the 2019-20 NBA season might play out is coming into clearer picture.

In a statement released by the NBA Friday following a board of governors meeting, the league announced it is postponing the original May 19 and May 21-24 dates of the NBA Draft Lottery and the NBA Draft Combine.

An announcement that’s sure to create ripples for how the NBA might look to tackle resuming this season and how it might operate next season.

The statement from the NBA reads as follows:

“The NBA today announced the postponement of NBA Draft Lottery 2020 and NBA Draft Combine 2020, both scheduled to take place later this month in Chicago.

“More information on each event will be shared at a later date as the NBA continues to closely monitor the coronavirus pandemic and consult with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials.”


What’s important to take note of in this statement is the information that isn’t present in it.

The dates of these two major events in the draft’s process haven’t been disclosed yet, but the June 25 date of the draft still appears to be untouched.

This is significant as it appears to provide a small window into the NBA’s thinking, where they still believe the draft can go ahead on June 25, but perhaps without as much pomp and circumstance around it as usual.

The NHL Draft could also still go ahead in June after all, and there are already examples from the NFL and an in-house league the NBA operates, the WNBA, of conducting drafts online, so a precedent is there and the draft could still go ahead as scheduled right now.

Going ahead with the draft doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue, and the league could easily hold the draft lottery virtually whenever it wanted to as well, but the question is the desire to actually do so.

Earlier this week, the NBA announced that team training facilities could re-open on May 8 in select states and cities with looser social-distancing mandates in effect. This gives hope that the league is actually looking to go ahead and to try to finish this season.

If this is the case, and the league is able to resume play in June or July, that would, by proxy, have to push back the date of the draft and, perhaps more importantly, the off-season.

NBA free agency has turned into one of the great sporting events on the calendar because of how much movement there is annually and how many big names are usually on the move.

It really doesn’t matter when the NBA’s off-season starts, just as long as transactions are able to fly like usual, and, in one way, the resumption of this season and the delay of the off-season into September might actually do the NBA more good in the long run, so that the league can align it with a schedule for 2020-21 that’s more advantageous.

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As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday, the NBA’s board of governors discussed delaying the start of next season to December as it would give more time for the league to wait for COVID-19 to possibly blow over and give a greater chance for fans to return to arenas in the months afterwards.

That seems like a sound strategy, and it may also come with the convenient side benefit of potentially not having to directly compete with the powerful NFL in the fall.

It’s no secret that the NFL dominates discussion and eyeballs in October and November when the NBA is starting up, but instead of trying to compete directly with the United States’ favourite league, it’s probably more prudent of the NBA to start in late December when the competition with the NFL is only limited to one month, really.

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Additionally, a move to start the season right at the end of the year would also mean the NBA’s exciting off-season would go head-to-head with the start of the NFL season, something that may bode well for the NBA as there’s likely to be more news and rumour-mongering keeping it in the news cycle more often than if games were just being played.

There’s a lot of benefits for the NBA to start next season in December and that could all be kicked off by delaying the date of this year’s NBA draft.

It isn’t set in stone yet, but the postponement of the lottery and the combine appear to be the first steps taken to create this new NBA reality.

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