Coverage of the NBA draft on ESPN is going to look quite different this year. The main network broadcast (Thursday, June 21, beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern) is carrying on from the changes made to this year’s combine coverage, with Adrian Wojnarowski, Mike Schmitz, Bobby Marks, and Maria Taylor joining the broadcast, alongside carryovers Rece Davis and Jay Bilas. Chauncey Billups will be there as well for what appears to be his first time on the main telecast; while he’s not listed in the group of commentators making their first appearance, he joined ESPN in 2014 and isn’t mentioned in their releases for the 2014, 2015, 2016 or 2017 draft. And there will also be a separate The Jump: NBA Draft Special on ESPN2, plus a Twitter broadcast and an ESPN Radio broadcast.
Here’s more on who’s involved with each.
The Jump: NBA Draft Special will document the NBA Draft on ESPN2 with a diverse array of voices, led by Rachel Nichols – host of ESPN’s daily NBA studio show, The Jump. Nichols will join a cast of ESPN NBA commentators, including Brian Windhorst, Amin Elhassan, Zach Lowe, Dave McMenamin, Tim Legler, Fran Fraschilla, Chris Haynes and more to react to the news and information coming out of the NBA Draft. ESPN2’s The Jump: NBA Draft Special will originate from ESPN’s South Street Seaport Studios in New York. Both the ESPN and the ESPN2 telecasts are available to stream via the ESPN App.
In another first, ESPN will carry a special show called On The Clock live on Twitter. David Jacoby, Ryen Russillo and Ryan Hollins will provide analysis and react to the first round NBA Draft selections. Fans can access the show here: live.twitter.com/espn.
The 2018 NBA Draft will also be available on ESPN Radio with audio from the broadcast available on the ESPN App. Marc Kestecher will describe the event with analysts P.J. Carlesimo, Bob Valvano and Kara Lawson, who is making her NBA Draft on ESPN Radio debut.
So, there are plenty of options out there, but what’s perhaps most notable are the changes to the main draft broadcast on ESPN. Last year, the main desk had Davis, Bilas, Jalen Rose and Michael Wilbon, and Rose and Wilbon are both out this year. The broadcast also featured reporter Jeff Goodman, Fran Fraschilla as an international analyst, and Tom Penn providing a GM’s perspective. Goodman is headed to Stadium, but Fraschilla and Penn are both still at ESPN (Penn also is the co-owner and president of MLS team LAFC), just not featured specifically on this main broadcast any more (Fraschilla will be on The Jump‘s ESPN2 special). Other people who were on last year’s coverage but aren’t featured any longer include roving interviewer/analyst Jay Williams, post-pick interviewer Allison Williams, and reporter for the ESPN radio broadcast Marc Stein (who’s now at the New York Times after being laid off by ESPN, effective following last year’s draft).
The pre-draft specials also are heavy on new faces. Two of those are taking place Monday night, with NBA Mock Draft Special presented by Kia airing on ESPN2 from 7 to 8 p.m. Eastern and featuring Taylor, Woj, Schmitz and Seth Greenberg “breaking down the most likely NBA Draft order.” That will be followed by NBA Draft: On The Clock (8-9 p.m. Eastern), which has no description provided beyond a “preview show,” but will see Cassidy Hubbarth hosting with Woj, Schmitz and Marks. And a draft-focused edition of Kobe Bryant’s ESPN+ show Detail is “expected to be available on ESPN+ in time for the NBA Draft.”
As with the combine changes, this illustrates a further shift in ESPN’s NBA coverage to more prominently feature ex-Vertical people like Wojnarowski, Schmitz and Marks, while retaining some past voices like Bilas. But the Jump special is interesting, as that will allow many of ESPN’s other NBA reporters and commentators to also take part in draft coverage. And it will provide a different option for viewers, and a distinctive one, focused on in-studio analysis instead of a broadcast from the draft site at Barclays Center.
With the two linear telecasts, the Twitter show, and the ESPN Radio show, there are all sorts of choices for those looking to follow ESPN’s draft coverage, and it sounds like the different broadcasts will be distinct enough that they’ll each have their own audiences; that’s worked out well for the network with things like the BCS/CFP Megacast, and they’ve tried it with some NBA games, so it makes sense to offer it here as well.
We’ll see how this plays out for ESPN, but it’s going to be quite a different approach to draft coverage from what we’ve seen in the past few years. But it’s worth remembering that ESPN’s draft coverage has regularly been evolving over the time they’ve televised this (this will be their 16th straight year), and has included everyone from Stephen A. Smith to Bill Simmons. This is another change for it, though, and we’ll see how it goes.