Jay Bilas is Ready For a NBA Draft Broadcast Experience Unlike Any Other

Jay Bilas
Jay Bilas | G Fiume/Getty Images

The 2020 NBA Draft is next week, but you'd be forgiven if you didn't realize. This whole year has been thrown out of whack for everyone on the planet, but the NBA Draft was one of the events most affected by the outbreak of the virus back in the spring. The NBA season was postponed until mid-July, and the draft usually takes place in late June. The draft obviously could not be held until the season was over. So, after much negotiation and a Los Angeles Lakers title, the main event for every draft-eligible NBA hopeful will be here on November 18.

In normal times, every prospect that the spotlight will shine upon next Wednesday would have already gone through Summer League and started to settle in with their new teams. But this year, those guys don't even know where they're going to live yet. When they do find out, there will be no bro hug with Adam Silver, no green room to celebrate in. It's an unusual draft for these soon-to-be professionals. The same goes for Jay Bilas.

The longtime ESPN college basketball guru, speaking to reporters on a conference call Wednesday afternoon, said he's already begun his preparations for draft night. The draft will be held in Bristol on the ESPN campus. Adam Silver and Mark Tatum will announce their selections from there. Bilas will be headed to Connecticut soon, and has gotten tested in preparation for his flight. While Bilas said that his actual draft prep hasn't changed all that much, the execution of draft night will obviously be different.

"In past years, when the draft was in Brooklyn or New York, whatever it is, you get there a couple days in advance. You have long meetings where everybody is in a room. We used to go over the whole draft pick by pick, including news elements and all these things. And we're not gonna be able to do that this year for obvious reasons," he said. "We'll have our whole crew there. Rece Davis hosting, Mike Schmitz, who's just a spectacularly good evaluator of talent, both international and U.S. Jay Williams and myself. So we'll be sitting there and and I don't know whether it will be at a desk or director's chairs or what. I'll find out when I get there. So it'll be a little bit different not having all the players and everything there."

ESPN plans to have up to 60 draftees appear virtually during the airing of the event, and will also broadcast into eight different NBA Draft war rooms for teams around the league. A few of the top selections will enjoy a featured virtual interview after they get picked. The NFL Draft, which occurred back in April, went off pretty much without a hitch, and ESPN has the benefit of hindsight that the NFL did not. Everyone is used to the virtual setup of things now.

But Bilas still feels for these players who will be unable to enjoy the process their predecessors did. He hopes that ESPN can help recreate that feeling in whatever way they can, even if nothing will ever truly replace the feeling of walking up onto that stage and putting on a hat.

"I can't imagine what it's like for a player," said Bilas. "You know, um, adjustment as a broadcaster we can make. That's not that difficult. But the adjustment for the players, both mentally and physically, is really, really incredible.

"I'm hopeful that we can make this as enjoyable for the players as we can because it's a big night for them. It's obviously a big night for the teams and the fans and all that, but it's especially big for the players. They're not getting the not getting to do the, you know, the bro hug with the commissioner and, you know, suits and all that stuff."

The 2020 NBA Draft will be broadcast on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, November 18.