Admit it, until you saw this headline, you’d kind of forgotten the NBA Draft was even a thing.
Ok, maybe you hadn’t literally forgotten it existed. But in the midst of a sports overload the likes of which we’ve never seen – NBA Finals, Stanley Cup, World Series, college football and NFL all in the same month? yes please – you hadn’t taken the time to consider that the draft itself was actually right around the corner. You just knew it got cancelled in the spring, pushed back to the fall, and knew at some point between now and Christmas you’d turn on your TV and say “Oh, I remember that guy from Kansas” as a player whose name you can’t quite put your finger on is shaking hands with Adam Silver.
Admit it, that is basically how you saw the 2020 NBA Draft going down, didn’t you?
Which is fine, we’re all busy. But with the draft now less than a month away (for real this time!) now feels like a good time to just kind of get you caught up on what’s going on with the draft itself, as well as what the buzz is with the former Kentucky Wildcats who could hear their names called.
Here’s where we stand, as we inch towards the finish line (finally) with the NBA Draft.
When is the draft?
The first and most obvious question is an easy one: The NBA Draft, which was originally scheduled for late June, then pushed back to mid-October finally has a set date. It will take place on Wednesday, November 18th. That date is fitting, as it is one full week before the actual college basketball season begins on November 25th.
The reason the date was pushed back was two-fold. The first time it was pushed back was obvious – America was still slowly pulling itself out a pandemic. At that point, the NBA wanted to turn its full attention to getting actual NBA games back on the court, and figured they could worry about the draft later.
Then, once the season re-started, the NBA decided to again push back the draft until after the season ended. The reason being, teams wanted to make sure – with the final few games of the season and playoffs altered because of coronavirus – that the salary cap for coming years wouldn’t be impacted. If it was, that would of course impact whether or not that team wanted to keep its picks, or could even afford to.
With that now settled, we finally have our date of November 18th… for real this time (I think?).
What have players been up to since the college season ended?
Unfortunately, not much more than you and your family have been up to. Dating back to the early days of the pandemic, when gyms were closed, and pretty much no one left their houses, players had to keep themselves in shape in the most rudimentary of ways. Many – who were of course used to working out with elite strength and conditioning coaches in work class facilities – were relegated to running around the block and doing push ups and sit ups. Again, no different than what you or I would do.
Thankfully, things have largely loosened up since then. Players are getting more consistent gym time, and many have relocated to the typical hot pre-draft NBA workout spots – mainly Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami.
In terms of their communication with teams, it’s largely been much the same. Early on in the process, it was very much a race for teams to use their free time productively (just like we all were) and spent most of March and April gathering intel, making background calls and lining up Zoom interviews with prospects. Once we got to June and early July and everyone realized that the draft was no where near close to happening, that largely subsided as well however.
Which brings up to these last few weeks, where things are finally starting to pick up, including…
Was there a combine?
To answer your question, yes, there was a combine, which took place in late September and early October. And to answer your next question, no it was not the typical NBA Draft combine we’re used to.
Instead, like everything these days, it was virtual, and here are some of the details.
First off, to minimize travel for everyone, players were asked to travel to the NBA training facility closest to their home. So for example, rather than Immanuel Quickley flying all over the country to work out for a bunch of different teams, he reported to the facility closed to his Baltimore home. In his case, that was likely with the Washington Wizards. If for some reason that couldn’t be worked out, he would go to the next closest facility, which would be the Philadelphia 76ers.
Once there, players received a medical evaluation from that team’s doctor, which was then distributed to any NBA team that was interested. Then the player was allowed to do an on court workout, that was also put on video and distributed to all 30 teams. Prior to showing up at the facility, players were also allowed to do timed Zoom interviews with teams, which were intended to mimic the experience of being at the Combine (where often, they would meet with one team after another, back-to-back-to-back).
It certainly isn’t “normal” but just like the rest of us, NBA players are all dealing with a “new norm.”
Now that the combine is over, are players allowed to work out in person for teams?
With the “combine” wrapping up last week, players are now free to have individual workouts for teams.
Much like the rest of this stuff, it’s all a little confusing (even after I talked to multiple NBA people before writing this article, I’m still a little confused) but let me try and explain.
For starters, again, the players are still expected to report to the facility closest to their home, and in this case, other teams are allowed to fly in. So whereas, Immanuel Quickley worked out alone at the Washington Wizards facility during the “combine” portion of the draft process, now other teams are allowed to fly to Washington to see him.
From there, my understanding is that – in theory – players are allowed to host as many workouts as they want, based on the number of NBA teams interested, but most agents are trying to limit their players to just a handful of workouts. Essentially, if a team wants to see a player, they have to be in one particular spot, on one particular day. As many teams as interested are allowed to show up.
Where it gets complicated though, is that teams are only allowed to evaluate five players in person, and no more than twice each.
So for example, while Anthony Edwards might be seen by some as the top pick in the draft, all 30 teams won’t show up to see him. Most won’t be in position to draft him (think the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors etc.) and don’t want to waste one of their few visits on a player that they have no chance of actually selecting. Not to mention there are other reasons not to visit a prospect – maybe you did all your research and don’t need to see him. Or maybe you like him, but don’t want other teams to know it.
And also, again, teams are allowed to see players no more than twice in person. During a normal NBA Draft process, a team might bring a player in three, four or five times, if they really like him. In this case, it’s a maximum of two.
Got all that?
If you don’t, it’s OK.
As a buddy of mine who works in the NBA texted me, “Trust me, it’s a little confusing to us too.”
So as we get to the final stages of the NBA Draft process, what is the latest on the Kentucky guys?
At this point, it really is hard to gauge what is accurate NBA Draft information and what isn’t. NBA teams have evaluated and over-evaluated these guys, to the point that many teams are doing their best to not talk themselves out of certain prospects because of all the time that has passed since the season with no new information coming out.
Therefore, it’s hard to gauge what’s real information out there, and which teams are just trying to throw others off each other’s scent, but here is the latest we’ve got.
Once the season ended Maxey returned to his home-base of Dallas, but after signing with the infamous Rich Paul (LeBron’s agent) and Klutch sports, Maxey has relocated out to Los Angeles to work out with other Klutch players. That includes NBA All-Star Ben Simmons, the Pelicans’ Lonzo Ball and former Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland, who now plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
From the looks of things, Maxey is having a good time – and putting in work in the weight room.
Since the day he arrived on campus, Maxey was deemed as the best long-term NBA prospect on the 2019-2020 roster, and over a year later it appears to be the same. He is projected to go No. 16 to Portland in ESPN’s most recent mock draft, and No. 20 to the Miami Heat according to the Athletic.
Considering Pat Riley’s affinity for Kentucky guys, the latter seems to be a very obvious landing spot.
Following the season, Quickley returned to Baltimore and has largely remained there, working out daily.
According to Adam Zagoria, Quickley has met with the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder twice, and I’ve also personally heard that there is heavy interest from both the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, who will be drafting at the end of the first round.
As for the mocks, the Athletic has Quickley a little further down, falling to No. 38 to the Knicks. ESPN has him at No. 52 to the Sacramento Kings.
Also for those who missed it, Quickley is chronicling his entire NBA Draft journey via YouTube.
While Quickley ended up as SEC Player of the Year, there was a moment in time where it felt like “Junior Nick Richards” could actually take home the award. Richards finished his final season in Lexington averaging just under 15 points and eight rebounds per game, while earning All-SEC first team honors.
Since leaving UK, it feels as though Richards has had the quietest summer of any of the former Wildcats, with few updates (if any) since he left campus.
As best we can tell, he is still in New York, where he even made time to eat lunch with former teammate EJ Montgomery recently.
Richards is projected as a second rounder by both the Athletic and ESPN, going No. 53 to the Oklahoma City Thunder and No. 57 to the Los Angeles Clippers respectively in their latest mock drafts.
Finally, there is Ashton Hagans, who too, has been relatively quiet. It appears as though he spent the early part of his quarantine in his home state of Georgia, before locating to Las Vegas to get in some extra pre-draft work.
Hagans is projected to go No. 54 to the Indiana Pacers according to ESPN.
He was not in the Athletic’s most recent mock draft, nor was former Wildcat big man EJ Montgomery.
And again, for those who’ve forgotten: We will find out where all these Wildcats end up following the NBA Draft, which will take place on November 18th.