SALT LAKE CITY — In an unprecedented time, NBA executives are hard at work preparing for a draft with an unknown date.
Draft preparation is an ongoing and year-round effort in the NBA and it hasn’t stopped just because the NBA season has been suspended.
Under the guidance of Utah Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin, the Jazz brass is attempting to look at this hiatus from the season as an opportunity rather than a hinderance.
“The health performance group provides physical assessments and our scouting consultants, led by Walt Perrin, have been doing a bunch of very interesting projects,” Dennis Lindsey, Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations, said Tuesday. “Now that we have a little bit more time it’s been neat to participate in a few of those Zoom calls and read their notes.”
During the league-wide shutdown, the NBA has restricted team access to draft prospects. On April 6, the league notified teams they are prohibited from conducting in-person workouts or interviews with prospects, and are not allowed to request video workouts of players until further notice.
NBA teams are allowed to conduct virtual interviews with prospects for up to four hours per player and can study film from college games and practices that occurred before the NBA suspended its season on March 11.
Additionally, the draft lottery and combine, both originally scheduled to be held in Chicago in May, have been postponed and there’s no word yet on what will happen with the NBA’s annual summer league, usually held in mid-July.
Without any knowledge of whether there will be a conclusion to the 2019-20 season, there’s no way of knowing when the 2020 NBA draft will take place. Add that to the list of unknowns currently circulating through NBA front offices these days.
“Will we miss some of the volume that we have brought within our building whether it be Jazz minicamp, of course our summer league training camp, the summer league itself, all the draft workouts,” Lindsey said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to mitigate that, whether it be eventually having prospects in our building, but a little bit of that is unknown. What we’ve been doing is what we always do. I’ve been spending a lot of time in video and statistical work.”
“We’ve had an opportunity to shift those percentages and using technology to a greater degree versus the in-person scouting and hopefully we can tip a few of the odds in our favor relative to the draft and free agency moving forward.” — Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey
Since the Jazz are not in the throes of the NBA playoffs and the team isn’t scouting at the combine or elsewhere, the Jazz health performance team, the analytics team, and the front office all have time on their hands to dig a little deeper with statistical analysis than they would normally have been able to at this point in the season.
There’s no question that the restrictions and the suspension of the NBA season, along with the cancellation of the NCAA tournament, have changed the way that the Jazz are working to prepare for the draft. Instead of looking at the changes as shackles that are holding the team back, Lindsey is looking at ways the Jazz can take advantage of the situation.
Part of that effort has fallen heavily on the Jazz analytics team, led by coordinator of analytics Cory Jez, whose group of consultants are working on draft modeling informed by statistical work and analysis.
“By definition, if you’re in management or you’re in scouting, a good percentage of your job is remote work, is video work, it’s database work, whether it be the scouting database or the statistical database,” Lindsey said. “We’ve had an opportunity to shift those percentages and using technology to a greater degree versus the in-person scouting and hopefully we can tip a few of the odds in our favor relative to the draft and free agency moving forward.”
As far as what the NBA draft might look like when a date is finally set, NBA commissioner Adam Silver is surely taking note of the success of both the WNBA and NFL which held virtual drafts with huge success.
Like the Jazz are using this extra time to use technology and analysis to their advantage, there’s no doubt that the NBA will do so as well when it comes time to hold the 2020 draft.
“The draft deliberations are always dynamic, they’re always different,” Lindsey said. “This, it’s safe to say, has been much different, but we’re very confident in our work and our staff. We look forward to executing whenever the draft does happen.”