NBA Draft 2020: New workout rules crush sleeper potential for unheralded prospects

UCLA junior Chris Smith on Tuesday announced he would enter the 2020 NBA Draft.

Smith, a former three-star prospect, is currently projected to be a second-round pick at best. Under normal circumstances, though, he would be able to use the next few months as a way to boost his draft stock and demonstrate that his 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game from the wing in his last year with the Bruins were backed by underlying physical traits previously overlooked by NBA scouts.

Like other relatively unheralded prospects in the same boat, he won’t get that chance.

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NBA teams have been told they cannot hold in-person workouts with prospects or request workout videos shot outside of a team environment after March 11, according to ESPN, meaning players such as Smith have little means of impressing the organizations that want to check in on them. The new rules are the result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The developments will presumably hurt rebuilding franchises, too, preventing them from maximizing high draft picks with all of the information they typically have available.

Each season, pre-draft workouts propel at least a couple of players up draft boards into spots they were never projected to reach. Sometimes these are true diamonds in the rough — think Paul George or Devin Booker. Sometimes they are role players who get a nice boost into the back of the lottery — think Cameron Johnson’s recent No. 11 overall selection by the Suns, which led Coby White to offer his famous “Wow, bro” news conference reaction. Occasionally they are busts — think Darko Milicic, whose draft prep once convinced the Pistons to pass on Carmelo Anthony.

Regardless, it’s a particular shame for players on the bubble of the first round or at risk of not being drafted at all. These prospects must now hold out hope that their college game tapes speak to teams in ways they haven’t in the past.

The 2020 NBA Draft is still more than two months away, currently scheduled for June 25.

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