With practice facilities closed throughout the NBA, preparation for the 2020 NBA Draft looks much different than what teams are accustomed to.
Per the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, one office in the Boston Celtics’ Auerbach Center has remained open, belonging to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
There, Ainge has been getting ready for a draft that was initially scheduled for June 25. Now, that’s all up in the air, as the coronavirus complicates yet another aspect of the league.
Despite all the challenges the scouting staff is facing, the Celtics feel good about where they stand.
“If we had to draft this week, we’d have a good sense of all the guys,” assistant general manager Mike Zarren told the Globe. “But the more time you can spend studying, the more you learn.
“Draft prep 30 years ago would have been exceedingly difficult in these circumstances. But right now, it’s not that hard. We can still watch every possession that a guy played with two clicks of a mouse from anywhere we are.”
March Madness would still be taking place this week had the NCAA not canceled the tournament, so the Celtics staff has time on their side to go down rabbit holes of prospect mixtapes.
“I’m spending more time watching film than ever before,” director of scouting Dave Lewin said. “During the course of the season, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. The games are coming fast and furious and you’re never going to be able to watch all of them. So there’s a significant reservoir of games that I hadn’t watched yet.”
Austin Ainge, son of Danny and Boston’s director of player personnel, is even finding himself studying film he typically wouldn’t touch.
“You dive deeper and deeper into more obscure film, because there’s no new film coming in,” Austin Ainge said. “I found myself watching some high school clips of kids on YouTube that I normally wouldn’t really focus on.”
Still, that doesn’t replace getting to watch these prospects live.
“I’ve got a long to-do list that probably isn’t as interesting or as fun as traveling around to the McDonald’s All-American Game or the Nike Hoop Summit or the draft combine,” Lewin said. “Or not as fun as getting these guys in our gym and conducting workouts. All that stuff I really enjoy, but it may be every bit as valuable just to really focus in on the film and the calls. It’s back to basics.”
There’s not quite yet an answer for the biggest challenge teams are facing in the process, which is the medical evaluations of players, as clubs usually send their own doctors to the NBA Combine in May. Ideally, the Celtics would also get to meet their picks in person to gauge their size and athleticism, but can get by with virtual, sit-down interviews.
“I’d say the hardest thing is that this is our favorite time of the year,” Austin Ainge said. “We push through to get to the NCAA Tournament and NBA playoffs, and then draft workouts are a lot of fun for us, where we can see these kids and talk with them and get to know them. These few months are usually our most fun as a scouting staff.”
This year, Boston has its own first-round selections, in addition to receiving the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick (top-7 protected) and the Memphis Grizzlies first-round pick (top-6 protected).