There will be a new way for NBA fans to watch Thursday’s draft this year, with Yahoo announcing Monday that The Vertical will stream its first-ever live NBA draft show. Chris Mannix will host the live show from Yahoo’s New York studios, with Indiana coach Tom Crean as a guest analyst and further analysis from former front office executive Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz of Draft Express, while Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania and Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony will provide reporting on picks and trades from the draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. There will also be features on NBA fashion from Brian Scalabrine and picks’ shoe deals from Nick DePaula. Wojnarowski spoke to Awful Announcing about this new show Monday, and said it’s an idea that’s been in the works since January’s launch of The Vertical, one that follows their other strides into video, and one that will make The Vertical a full-fledged NBA draft destination.
“It’s an idea that came with the launch of the site that if there’s a way to take the information that we have, the news-gathering, the expertise that we have with DraftExpress, with Shams, our reporting, our ability to report accurately and quickly on trades and deals and draft picks, and put it in a real orderly, appealing sort of show…” Wojnarowski said. “We have the studios in New York, we’ve done a little bit of a run-up. We did the trade deadline show, which we did after the deadline but it was a live show. I remember that day we had [Houston Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey on live, we had Channing Frye, who was the biggest player traded that day. We did it that day, which was not as ambitious as doing this, and it went well, and we did a draft lottery show after the lottery. So we’ve done some things out of the studio. This is the one that we’ve been gearing for, and it gives us the ability to transcend beyond making an impact on Twitter, to really go to a place where we can build, over the long term, an audience and sponsorships to do this, as we show people we can do it well.”
One major way The Vertical aims to do that well is by competing in breaking news. ESPN is the official TV rightsholder for the draft, but they’ve often been reluctant to announce trades or picks on-air during drafts before the official announcements thanks to viewers’ complaints about “spoilers,” and even when they’ve allowed their (off-set only) reporters to tweet news as it happens, Wojnarowski has blown those reporters away when it comes to scoops. He told GQ last year that his job is to break news as it happens rather than choreograph things for TV, and from what he told AA, it sounds like The Vertical’s show will really differentiate itself from ESPN’s broadcast with its approach to quickly relaying news once it’s been confirmed as accurate. That could help it grab viewers who are looking to find out what’s happening as quickly as possible rather than waiting for the official announcements. Wojnarowski said there will be lots of analysis and focus on why certain trades or certain picks happened too, though.
“We’re competitive, so we want to have information first, but it’s certainly more important to have it accurate,” Wojnarowski said. “If you’re watching our show, you’re going to be ahead. Our goal is to be breaking trades first and deals, and giving people a sense of what players are going to be picked where and why. There’s always a lot of maneuvering on draft night in terms of certain players trying to stay away from certain teams, get to certain teams, and then the deals that are being made. We have a reporting group that I think is peerless in terms of getting you the latest, getting it accurate and getting it first.”
Wojnarowski said reporting information as it happens rather than waiting for television is key to The Vertical’s overall ethos.
“When we have information on a team’s decision, whether it’s a trade or whether it’s draft night, when we have information and it’s confirmed, we’re going to report the information,” he said. “This will be no different. We’re going to report information once it’s verified and accurate. We’re going to be reporting it once teams are making decisions on whatever it is, whether it’s trades, moving up or down, trading veteran players for picks, or whether it’s teams making decisions on who they want to draft. To me, that’s what I think people come to know with us and expect, and that’s what we’re going to do for the show. This is just another platform to reach people with that information almost instantaneously.”
He said those scoops will be a big part of what makes them stand out.
“That’s what will separate us,” Wojnarowski said. “When you give people information that they can’t get elsewhere, when you give it to them first, that has value, and I think we’ve always shown that.”
Beyond that, Wojnarowski said to expect a high-caliber, high production values broadcast that can go up against their televised competitor, and one that will also feature interviews with players and executives live from the event, detailed video breakdowns, and a focus on why teams make certain calls.
“It’s going to be a very well-produced show, it’s going to move fast, and certainly there will be a very competitive environment,” he said. “We’re also going to have hopefully players who are drafted, GMs calling into the show to talk about the decisions they’ve made, great video breakdowns of players people may not be familiar with, whether it’s European players, overseas players who may go in the draft. Players people may not have a lot of information on, our group will be very well-versed in that. And I think people want to not just know it first, but to know why, why are teams making decisions? I think the why is very important, not just the what. And that will be a big part of what we’re conveying to the audience too.”
Wojnarowski said this is possible because of the talented team The Vertical has in place. He said Mannix will make a great host given his combination of print (with SI), television (with NBCSN) and online (with The Vertical) experience and his connections, while Charania brings reporting prowess, the DraftExpress guys offer a combination of reporting and prospect knowledge, and Marks and Crean will provide their own substantial insight.
“Chris Mannix is a unique host for us, because he’s a superb traffic cop on set who has done this at a high-level on TV—and a plugged-in reporter who knows the league and its people inside and out,” Wojnarowski said. “Getting Tom Crean on the set’s going to be tremendous. He’s really a student of the NBA game and really studies players in college basketball. He loves breaking down video and I know he’s been enjoying the prep for the show. And then you have Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz, who are the foremost authorities…I don’t want to say just internationally, but internationally, they’re without peer. Jonathan’s over there seeing these guys, scouting these guys for years. They do a tremendous amount of video breakdowns for us, and obviously they’re well-versed with the NCAA guys too. The draft itself is only a small part of it, the trades and the deals set up free agency, and having Bobby Marks on the set to talk about the deals and what teams are setting themselves up for; I think there will be a lot of draft-night deals, teams moving in and out of the first round, in and out of the lottery, trying to get some trades in place, maybe trying to get out ahead of free agency. And I’ll be on the draft too, jumping in there from the draft, we’ll have players going on, I’ll be reporting news, and as Shams and Givony are reporting news, they’re going to be breaking it on the show and analyzing the impact of it. I’ll put our group up against anybody’s. It’s a really tremendous group of insiders, and people who know this inside and out.”
Disclosure: Andrew also writes for Yahoo Canada Sports.