Without combines, interviews, or individual workouts, the 2020 NBA Draft is going to be as uninformed as we’ve seen in a long time.
With 30 professional basketball franchises on the brink of spending millions of dollars on teenagers, being able to see these potential franchise-changing hoopers is critical. Without it, everyone starts to play the guessing game. For a future lottery pick out of Kentucky such as Tyrese Maxey, this isn’t all that much of an issue compared to others. The majority of mock drafts have Maxey being selected within the top 14 picks.
But for the Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards types – players whose draft stock ranges anywhere from the late first round to going undrafted – one missed interview with a front office member could be the difference between being drafted and being passed up. Just ask Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, who recently said he wouldn’t have drafted former Kentucky guard Rajon Rondo had he not been able to “look him in the eyes.”
Here is exactly what Ainge had to say about eventually drafting Rondo, according to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports:
“Let’s use Rajon Rondo as an example,” Ainge said on the call about this year’s draft process. “Had I not been able to meet with him and look into his eyes, I don’t think I would have drafted him. At the same time, we drafted Avery Bradley without any draft workouts. You don’t always get guys in.”
Ainge on the draft process: "Let's use Rajon Rondo as an example. Had I not been able to meet with him and look into his eyes, I don't think I would have draft him. At the same time, we drafted Avery Bradley without any draft workouts. You don't always gets guys in."
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) April 22, 2020
Ainge eventually did draft Rondo after securing a draft-day trade with the Phoenix Suns, who had the 21st pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. It ended up working out for both Rondo and Ainge, as the Celtics won the 2008 NBA Title. Had Rondo been forced to go through a similar process that Quickley, Richards, Ashton Hagans, and EJ Montgomery are going through right now, it sounds like he doesn’t land with the Celtics and probably doesn’t win that ring.
What if Ainge ends up passing up on someone like Hagans because he doesn’t get to interview him?
NBA front offices don’t have many ways to access new information that might swing them in the direction of taking one player instead of another. Utilizing old game film is going to be more prevalent in the pre-draft process than it has been in some time, if not ever. For someone like Montgomery, who doesn’t have an impressive stockpile of old game film to work with, those extra one-on-one interviews and workouts with different franchises would have given him the chance to surprise those people. For Quickley, the SEC Player of the Year, his draft stock is only going to keep going up.
Now Ainge did go on to say that he also drafted players such as Avery Bradley and two-time MVP Steve Nash (back when Ainge worked with the Suns) without pre-draft interviews. So this could go both ways. But we know that one way or the other, somebody is going to be penalized solely because they never had the chance to showcase themselves in front of the coaches and scouts. Will it just so happen to be a former Wildcat?