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Winners and Losers from ESPN’s NBA Draft coverage

As with any draft, it’s custom to look at winners and losers.  What teams did great and chose wisely and what teams maybe reached or made picks that just caused fans to scratch their heads.  But, here at AA, our winners and losers are devoted to ESPN’s draft coverage.  What on-air personalities stood out as great value?  Which on-air personalities weren’t quite ready for their name to be called.  Check out our winners and losers and see if you agree.

Winners

Jay Bilas… and his drinking game
-Another year, another All-Star performance from Jay Bilas.  Between Bilas and Fran Fraschilla (more on him later), ESPN’s NBA Draft coverage has two terrific analysts to anchor their coverage.  Unsurprisingly, Bilas was the go-to guy after nearly every pick to provide his Kiperesque (that’s a word, look it up) scouting report.  Also, there was the typical wit from Bilas along the way as he acknowledged the drinking game his love for the word “wingspan” has spawned, both on the broadcast and on Twitter.  Once again, Jay Bilas and his SWAG was the star of the coverage.

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Rece Davis
-I’m not as bullish on Rece Davis as others.  The man is a pro, never one to wow, but solid in the fundamentals of doing his job as a studio host.  And in place of Stuart Scott’s stumbling, uneven performance last year, Davis was a breath of fresh air.  It makes you wonder how much better ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage would be with a simple swap of Chris Berman for Trey Wingo.  However, one feels that the lack of a true NBA studio host (see Patrick, Dan or Johnson, Ernie) could have provided some extra depth.  Still, Davis did as good a job as he could and showed more knowledge of the NBA than some of his analysts did about the college prospects.

 

Fran Fraschilla
-Over the years Fraschilla has stood out amongst the cavalcade of on-air personalities on ESPN’s draft coverage.  Usually, Fraschilla’s expertise has mainly been devoted to international prospects that the guys on the main stage have usually never heard of… or at the very least can’t pronounce their name properly.  Who else would be able to assuage Knicks fans over their pick of Kostas Papanikolaou?  But this year, Fraschilla’s role was expanded to pop-in with a detailed breakdown of prospects like Harrison Barnes and Perry Jones III.  With his international scouting and his knowledge of college prospects, Fraschilla deserves a promotion to the main stage next year in place of one of the NBA-focused analysts who provided little.

Adrian Wojnarowski
-He was ahead of ESPN all night.  The man literally was tipping almost every pick and trade on Twitter well before it happened on air, even deep into the second round.  While that might not be great for those who want to be surprised, it showed the power of Twitter as a breaking news tool.    There were times when Woj’s feed was literally a half-dozen picks ahead of ESPN’s broadcast.  Overall, he put ESPN’s trio of insiders (Broussard, Andy Katz, and Ric Bucher) to shame with his tour de force performance.  Your move next April, Adam Schefter.

Losers

Jeff Van Gundy and Chris Broussard
-With the draft you need one or two college analysts who can analyze the strengths and weaknesses of prospects and how their game translates into the next level.  You also need an NBA analyst who has enough knowledge of college prospects to understand how they fit into their new team.  However, neither Van Gundy or Broussard have that level of knowledge of the players being drafted.  When Jon Gruden works the NFL Draft, he’s put in the hours of preparation necessary to know what he’s talking about.  Neither JVG or Broussard appeared to have much to add, with Broussard going huge chunks of time without even saying anything!  And while JVG is one of the best game analysts in the league, the qualities that make him great in the booth don’t work as well in the fast-paced setting of the NBA Draft.  The two could have left the stage after Round 1 and the broadcast wouldn’t have missed them.

Heather Cox and Mark Jones
-Once again, the interviewing of Mark Jones and Heather Cox left much to be desired.  While it was great to see the emotion of players as they realized their dream, Mark Jones asked few good questions all evening, aside from maybe asking Bradley Beal if coming out after one year was a good decision.  Jones asked Michael Kidd-Gilchrist what it meant to be picked 2nd and play for Michael Jordan when a more appropriate question might have been geared towards playing for one of the worst teams in history.  Here was another typical exchange with Portland pick Damian Lillard:

Jones: “Damian you’re from Oakland, that city has a great history and lineage of guards: Gary Payton, Brian Shaw, Jason Kidd.  You told me you spoke with a couple of those guys, what did they tell you about being successful at the next level?”

Damian: “GP really never talked to me about being successful”

Ok, then.  Heather Cox wasn’t much better interviewing players’ families.  Her questioning of Thomas Robinson’s young sister was cringeworthy.  By the way, Sacramento is 7 hours away from Disneyland.

Bulging… uh oh
-There’s a proverb that all good things come in threes.  A few months ago we had both Al Trautwig and Jonathan Coachman substitute the phrase “bulging disc” with “bulging dick.”  When Andy Katz was discussing Jared Sullinger’s medical red flag, he had to be thinking: “don’t say bulging dicks, don’t say bulging dicks, don’t say…”

 

D’oh!

Insider overload
-The best part of ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage the last two years has been their downsizing.  By emphasizing quality over quantity, the NFL Draft has returned to an enjoyable experience on the WWL.  Unfortunately, ESPN’s NBA Draft coverage hasn’t quite gotten that message yet.  There were no less than three insiders reporting trades and picks (Andy Katz, Ric Bucher, and Chris Broussard) when only one would have been more than enough.  And as we already mentioned,  anyone plugged in to Twitter would have been miles behind ESPN’s coverage of breaking news.  Also, analyst Tom Penn didn’t really have enough time to explain front office thinking and advanced analytics.  I’m sorry, but there’s no way to explain how advanced analytics can be explained in a 45 second sound bite.  ESPN would be better served highlighting their true pros in Davis, Bilas, and Fraschilla, and one of their insiders moving forward.

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