The upcoming 2020 NBA Draft, the 18th straight one ESPN has broadcast, will be the first done from the company’s Bristol, Conn. studios thanks to pandemic limitations.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will appear on-site to announce picks, while up to 60 draftees will appear virtually, ESPN announced.
The league is sending top prospects an “NBA Draft Gifting Locker” with all 30 NBA team hats, a personalized Spalding basketball, Beats headphones, earphones and a personal speaker, and an Oculus 2 headset.
ESPN reporter Malika Andrews, widely lauded for her work as a reporter inside the league’s restarted season bubble, will make her debut as the draft telecast reporter. Maria Taylor, who recently made her debut as an NFL sideline reporter, held the role in 2018 and 2019.
Along with Andrews, Rece Davis will return to host ESPN’s coverage alongside a panel of analysts including Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Mike Schmitz.
ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski will once again appear to provide news updates. Draft analyst Bobby Marks will also appear in studio, providing “front office insights and commentary.”
ESPN will be providing coverage of draft headquarters for up to eight teams, it said, while commentary and vignettes will focus on the “individual stories of top players.” In April, the network drew criticism for focusing on NFL prospects’ personal trauma when introducing them during the 2020 NFL Draft, but later said that showing those obstacles was part of telling the “human side” of their stories.
The WNBA found success as the first professional sports league to carry out a virtual, televised draft during the pandemic. On April 17, the league’s three-round, 36-pick event on ESPN went off largely without a hitch — and recorded its best ratings in 16 years. MLB and the NHL also held virtual drafts during the pandemic.