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Monday, July 15, 2024

The NBA Draft’s New Two-Day Format May Have a Secret Weapon in Round 2

  • Barclays Center is hosting Round 1, before an ESPN studio takes over.
  • Bronny James may keep viewers interested until the second round.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday is NBA draft day, and the league is tipping off a new experiment to increase interest in and hype around its annual rookie selection event.

The two-round NBA draft is expanding to two days this year. The first round will take place Wednesday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with TV coverage on ABC and ESPN, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. The second round will move across town to ESPN’s Seaport district studio, and out of prime time, airing on ESPN at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday afternoon. Other logistical changes include the time between picks in the second round increasing from two to four minutes.

Last year, the one-night NBA draft averaged a record 3.74 million viewers. Like it will this year, ABC also carried the 2023 first round, which had an average audience of 4.93 million. Generational prospect Victor Wembanyama, then a teenager from France, was selected No. 1 by the Spurs, who saw an immediate impact on the bottom line, including a rush on ticket sales. 

This year’s draft class does not have a comparable consensus top pick—which is held by the Hawks—but does include a similar European connection. Many mock drafts have Frenchmen Alex Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher, both 19, going first and second, in varying orders. However, neither are predicted to have the same impact on their new franchises that Wembanyama has had on San Antonio, especially off the court.

The Bronny Factor

In a draft without a can’t-miss top pick, there is still one prospect creating more buzz than anyone else: Bronny James (above). The son of LeBron James decided to leave USC after one season and turn professional this summer, even though he isn’t guaranteed to be a first-round pick. 

After last month’s NBA draft combine, James moved up ESPN’s Top 100 rankings, from No. 98 to No. 54—just barely at the back end of the second round. There will be 58 picks in this draft due to two forfeited selections. Still, fans remain intrigued. BetMGM told The Athletic that 25.2% of its tickets for the No. 1 overall pick were for James.

The Lakers have selections Nos. 17 and 55. If Los Angeles is looking to pair the father-son duo together, ESPN execs may be hoping it waits until the second round to do so, in turn providing two days of intrigue for draft viewers.

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