Every offseason, team executives assemble in Chicago for the NBA Combine for a chance to get an in-person look at the proverbial meat market of draft prospects.
This year, though, the combine — like pretty much everything else — is happening a little differently.
There is, of course, no mass gathering of players, scouts, coaches, general managers, et cetera in the name of social distancing. And so — like pretty much everything else — the combine is mostly taking place via video this time around.
The combine got officially started on Monday, with 85 “invited” players recording their responses to a standard set of 10 questions, with the videos subsequently being sent out to every team. It gets going a bit more in earnest on Thursday, however, when teams can begin conducting direct, 30-minute interviews (via video chat) with specific requested players.
Each team, like, say, the Utah Jazz, can interview a maximum of 20 players over the coming weeks through Oct. 16, though each player can be interviewed by no more than 13 teams.
Draft-eligible players in the combine invite pool — which this year includes Utah State sharpshooter Sam Merrill and BYU big man Yoeli Childs — apparently may largely be assigned to interview with teams considered to be within their draft range (so, probably teams slated to pick late in the second round for Merrill and Childs), although there may be extra consideration given to team requests this time around.
Of course, it was mentioned earlier that the combine this year is mostly taking place via video. There will be some limited in-person team-to-player contact, though not in the way you might expect.
Teams will be asked to play host to in-area draft prospects, allowing the players to drive the nearest NBA market facilities to take part in medical testing, measurement-taking, strength and agility tests, and shooting drills. The idea is to further limit travel while giving players the chance to participate in all the usual combine events (except for 5-on-5 games).
As per usual, players are encouraged to take part in everything, but may opt out of anything, as it’s all considered voluntary. Players are also now allowed to send medical information to teams directly, thus creating disincentive for other participation for some players.
The caveat to this part of the process is that the hosting teams are not allowed to observe any of the in-person activities. The idea is that everything will be recorded and uploaded to all 30 teams' databases, while the hosting teams are kept from gleaning any informational advantage through personal observation.
The other component to consider here is that the NBA is allowing players to self-produce workout film to distribute as they see fit. They can either live-stream or record said workouts, though there seems reason to do the former. Literally the only rules about the videos are that they must not include more than one player and one coach on the court at the same time, and the videos can be a maximum of 45 minutes.
This allows players — and their agents — to carefully curate what they want teams to see, to showcase specific skills in a familiar and comfortable environment, to eschew those things that a player may not do well. Furthermore, players are not obligated to send these videos to every team, so if an agent has a sense that certain teams may be a better fit for their players, those teams will be on the receiving end of those videos, while other teams will not.
Alternatively, players may use their time at team facilities to create a “Pro Day” video, as the NBA will have a product called “HomeCourt” available at those venues, an application described in an league release as “a mobile basketball training application that uses advanced machine learning and computer vision to provide analytics and record the shooting evaluation portion of NBA Combine 2020.”
In all, the combine process will extend into some undetermined date in early- to mid-November. The NBA Draft is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 18.