Last year, ESPN’s NBA Draft coverage was less than stellar. One of the central reasons why was the struggling Stuart Scott as host of the draft, who botched several basic facts throughout the evening. Scott’s performance was so mistake-filled, you could have plopped Chris Berman in the anchor chair for the NBA Draft and have it not miss a beat.
This week, ESPN announced their plans for Thursday’s draft, and although they didn’t explicitly state it, there is a major change – Rece Davis has replaced Stuart Scott as host. Davis has evolved into one of ESPN’s best hosts over the last several years with a focus on college sports. He’s the clear #2 host in college football (which means he has to work with Lou Holtz and Mark May) and is the #1 host in college basketball as the anchor for College Gameday. Purely on Davis’ resume and abilities, it seems like a deft move by ESPN, although Davis doesn’t have much experience with the NBA. The rest of the main set will be Jay Bilas and Jeff Van Gundy returning and Chris Broussard replacing Jon Barry. Ric Bucher and Andy Katz will serve as reporters and Fran Fraschilla is back with his expertise on international picks. Last year, Bilas and Fraschilla were the bright spots while Van Gundy and Barry were light on insights into the wide majority of draft picks.
The major switch to Davis shows one of the problems with the approach ESPN has taken with the NBA. They have no recognizable studio anchor since their NBA studio purposely abandoned that concept. If the NBA Draft were still with Turner, you could easily have Ernie Johnson or Matt Winer fill the slot capably. But, ESPN has nowhere else to go except to Rece Davis and hope this mixture of college guys and pro guys somehow works out. Last year, it clearly didn’t. The addition of Rece Davis is progress. It makes you wonder why we can’t see the same progress for ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if the end result and on-set chemistry is better than last year’s NBA Draft coverage… which would have blown up any high school laboratory across the country.