ESPN has announced that they will be airing eight hours of coverage of the NBA Draft Combine on ESPN2 over the next two days, split into two four-hour blocks, each from 3-7 eastern. All eight hours can also be streamed through WatchESPN. This is a change from last season, as ESPN aired ten hours of the combine, though these were mainly in the morning and six of those were on ESPNU. Coverage will be hosted by Mark Jones, with plenty of the Mothership’s NBA Draft experts joining him, including P.J. Carlesimo, Fran Fraschilla, Miles Simon, Andy Katz, and Brooke Weisbrod. There will be two 5-on-5 scrimmages each day alongside the typical combine drills. This includes the basketball equivalent of the 40-yard dash, the court sprint.
It is fascinating that ESPN has decided to air fewer hours of the combine but to air them all on a larger network, especially when these hours take the place of popular ESPN2 shows such as SportsNation and Olbermann. The hope is that the return of 5-on-5 scrimmages after a multi-year absence will draw in more viewers than in years past. The Mothership also hopes to capitalize on the combine in a similar manner to how the NFL Network has grown its draft combine into a ratings juggernaut. NFL Network’s coverage of the 2015 scouting combine set plenty of records even though everyone continues to complain about the value of a 40-yard dash to a football player. Video coverage of the 2015 NFL combine nearly doubled from 2014 and ESPN hopes to see similar growth with the NBA over the next two days.
That said, the NBA combine is not filled with the same level of talent as its NFL contemporary. Notable names fans won’t see in Chicago include top prospects Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, and Emmanuel Mudiay. However, plenty of potential lottery picks, including six Kentucky players, will be participating in the event. However, even if a player is going to Chicago, that does not mean he is participating in every part of the combine. This is especially prevalent with the scrimmages, as the Detroit Free Press has reported that more than half of participants (mainly projected first-rounders) will be abstaining from the event. Obviously, much of the luster around player measurements and performances is lost with many of the NBA Draft’s top prospects either not showing up or not fully participating. It should be interesting if potential second-round picks scrimmaging, sprinting, and lifting weights will be a ratings draw. Coverage of the NBA Draft Combine airs today and tomorrow from 3-7 PM eastern on ESPN2.
Alex Kaufman is a Spanish and communication double major at Denison University. He loves to consume and cover sports and sports media, hosts a sports talk show on 91.1 WDUB, and can be found at his own website, neuroticsportsfan.com.