ESPN continues to invest in what may be the network's new favorite duo. Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons have been together for several Grantland podcasts and were the centerpiece for the website's forward thinking NCAA Tournament second screen coverage. They were added to NBA Countdown this year as well. Now, we'll see Simmons & Rose on Bristol's NBA Draft coverage Thursday night. The pair replaces Jeff Van Gundy and Chris Broussard on the main set along with host Rece Davis and Jay "Wingspan" Bilas.
As the NBA Playoffs rolled along, Rose and Simmons carried ESPN's NBA studio show. The two have an identifiable chemistry and even though NBA Countdown has its issues without a host, it was clear who was driving the bus and guiding the most interesting conversation. Additionally, with Rose covering the college game as well as the pros, he should be an upgrade over Jeff Van Gundy, whose knowledge was admittedly lacking in some areas last year. Simmons will also be an upgrade over Chris Broussard, who was hilariously silent for long stretches during last year's draft.
Miami Heat forward Shane Battier is also welcomed to ESPN's NBA Draft coverage to handle interviews with the players after they're selected. This is an experimental move by ESPN, but one I think could work out quite nicely. Post-selection interviews are always so boring that having a current player in there adds a new dimension. Plus, Battier is smart, funny, and well spoken and has as bright of a future in TV as any current athlete should he choose to head that direction.
One worrying sign is ESPN's release making no mention of college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla on the network's draft coverage. Over the last couple years, Fraschilla has been consistently one of the best part's of draft night with his expertise on international players often saving the day. When we get into the latter portions of Round 2 and the Spurs draft a Latvian big man who's played 11 minutes a game in the Euro League, that kind of knowledge and insight is invaluable.
After shuffling its lineup the past few years, it looks like ESPN has a well balanced, insightful, entertaining group put together for this year's draft. With the draft class rather uninspiring for 2013, the TV guys will have an extra challenge this year to keep interest high throughout the night.