The NBA board of governors will make key decisions in the coming month as they navigate the pandemic. Among them will be when to begin free agency and to hold the draft.
Several league sources said the 2020 draft is expected to be pushed back from June 25 to September. However, one high-ranking league source, said it will be impossible to conduct the draft in September. The official noted that, if all goes well, the league will still be playing late into September.
Two of the sources also said the board of governors would also discuss whether the upcoming free-agency period should be moved ahead of the draft. Free agency for the 2020-21 season will be moved from the scheduled start of 6 p.m. June 30.
The free agency decision and draft announcement may not be made in the near future. The board of governors was scheduled to hold a meeting Friday. This summer’s expected resumption of the season will be a hot topic. Free agency will not be on the agenda. Nor has there been any conversations, at this point, about moving free agency ahead of the draft.
The NBA shut down the season March 11. The league is in discussions with the Walt Disney Co, about resuming play in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando as a single site to host games without fans.
Deciding on a format and a schedule is more of an economic priority over the draft and free agency. The league must consider keeping some of the small-market teams happy with completing their 70-game threshold to get regional television money. The NBA would also lose around $900 million in television money if the playoffs are canceled.
That’s why resuming the season is the top priority for billionaire owners, who are losing millions in the shutdown. The decisions and/or announcements on free agency and the draft will come after the end-date for the NBA Finals is determined. The draft will be five to seven days after the Finals, a source said.
There have been some thought about experimenting with having free agency before the draft this offseason. The National Basketball Players Association would have to agree to such a move, according to a source.
The debate over when to have free agency is nothing new.
Some teams want to keep the draft before free agency because it’s part of the routine. The season plays out, teams have the draft, and hit free agency. Other teams believe it makes more sense, in terms of team building, to have free agency before the draft. It would help avoid unnecessary duplication.
That would have made things easier for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the summer of 2014.
The Cavs drafted small forward Andrew Wiggins first overall on June 26, 2014. Sixteen days later, LeBron James, arguably the league’s greatest small forward, signed a free-agent deal to return to Cleveland. As a result, the Cavs had no need for Wiggins. So they packaged him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love in a three-team trade that included the 76ers.
One source wouldn’t be surprised if the change is made.
All this comes after the NBA announced May 1 the postponement of the NBA draft lottery and combine, scheduled this month in Chicago. The lottery was set for May 19, while the combine was scheduled for May 21-24.
Then, on May 13, the NCAA pushed back the deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA draft and retain their college eligibility. The new deadline, which was originally June 3, will be determined once the NBA has a timeline for the predraft process in light of the pandemic.