This year has brought us a very different kind of March madness. It's brought us bubbles that won't fondly be remembered by children. It's brought us cardboard cutouts we can't put on our wall and baseball without peanuts and Cracker Jack. There's been NBA Finals in October and The Masters in November. Now we have an NBA Draft coming to a couch near you in the very same month.
Of course the last week of June has been set aside for more than forty years for the NBA Draft. Before that, there have been NBA Drafts set as early as March and April. The last time the Draft wasn't set in June was on May 29, 1975 when Hall of Famer David Thompson was drafted by the Denver Nuggets of the ABA. If the Nuggets being in a different basketball league doesn't put in perspective how long ago that was, Thompson is credited for bringing the dunk into the mainstream. Michael Jordan was one of many who he influenced.
Before this year, the latest a NBA draft went was July 1, 1947. Thing is, that year it wasn't even called the NBA draft. That's because the professional association was called the Basketball Association of America. It kept that name for three years until the league was changed to the National Basketball Association. The 2020 NBA Draft will be the first ever to be held in November.
The coronavirus arguably had the biggest impact on the NBA than any other sports league in the United States. That's even considering that baseball reduced it's season by almost two-thirds and hockey played in a similar bubble atmosphere. In the MLB, they largely got to play in their home stadiums and the NHL is projected to return on January 1, 2021. That is more than a full week than when the NBA will return on December 22, 2020. At 71 days, this would be the shortest offseason in the history of not only the NBA but also the NHL, NFL and MLB. The players in the NBA that may be most affected are those about to get selected in this draft.
Usually players before the June draft will get the benefit of playing a full season in college or in a league around the world and get experience playing in the NBA Summer League. Many draft stocks rise in the actual March Madness tournament. Maybe nobody has exemplified that better in recent memory than Ja Morant. Before the tournament in 2019, very few people outside of Murray State even knew who the point guard even was. His meteoric rise in the tournament helped him go number two overall to the Memphis Grizzlies just after Zion Williamson and he was named the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year.
Now there are no plans to host a "Summer League" and these players will theoretically jump straight to the big leagues just over a month after they get drafted. That would lead us to believe that many teams will elect to have their players sit and learn for the foreseeable future. Let's hope these players get as much time and development they'll need to adapt to the league. The grading curve should be adjusted accordingly on these picks years down the line noting that nothing about this draft or season were like any other.
Remembering all of that, here is a small preview of the top players, the order and how you can watch the 2020 NBA Draft. The draft will be held at ESPN studios in Bristol Connecticut. The format will be similar to the virtual draft the NFL held in April. Shortly thereafter free agent negotiations begin on Friday, Nov. 20.