Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard on the Challenges of the Virtual NBA Draft Process

Virtual draft process 'unique' but Wizards comfortable, GM says originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The 2020 NBA Draft will prove to be unlike anything that's preceded it. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2019-20 season was suspended in March, resumed in July and came to a conclusion in October. With everything pushed back, including the 2020-21 season's start date, the draft will be held roughly five months after it was originally supposed to. 

Teams also have less access to players, are permitted fewer personal workouts than normal and have had a bevy of time to watch each player's film while constructing their draft boards.

Nevertheless, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard likes where his team is at in his second year at the controls. With the ninth and 37th picks, he has a chance to give his roster a big boost for next season. 

"I think we’re very comfortable," Sheppard told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "We have a great [scouting] group, we've got a lot of veterans with unique skillsets. All of our scouts have done tremendous jobs."

Since most of these prospects haven't played in real games since March, teams have been watching the same film over and over again. While that can lead to a better perspective on guys, there's still a risk of over-exposure and nitpicking. 

"I worry about over-scrutinizing since we've had such a long time since March," Sheppard said. "I'm always somebody that loves to give kids chances, and you don't want to beat them up too much because they're 19 years old. So you watch a lot of film, you start to pick apart stuff opposed to focus on what he really does well."

Not only are there new scouting challenges this year, but front offices trying to best leverage their situations into drafting the player they want haven't had the benefit of information. Teams are only allowed 10 workouts, which for some teams are the tools they use to make their final decisions. 

If you can figure out which teams a player has worked out for, you can start to figure out who'll be available at your pick or the team you'll have to trade up in front of to get your guy. This year, as Sheppard says, it's been harder to get that information on a player. 

"It's so hard to track people right now if they’re doing workouts because we're really limited," he said. "Teams only have 10 opportunities to watch players work out and sit with them and interview."

In the end though, Sheppard acknowledged that while it's a unique situation that presents its challenges to teams, the players are the ones who won't be able to replicate the same opportunities previous draft classes have had. 

"It's so unique to us, but it's very unique to [the players] too," Sheppard said. "You only go through the draft process once. For them, think of all the things they're missing out on. Not getting a chance to get in front of decision-makers, they're being judged on stuff they did nine months ago, a lot of stuff for them to digest."

The 2020 NBA Draft is scheduled to begin next Thursday, then is quickly followed by NBA free agency two days later. It'll be a wild offseason, but fortunately, teams have had plenty of time to prepare. 

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