Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
There's uncertainty surrounding every aspect of the NBA right now. The regular season, playoffs, draft and free agency are all in limbo amid the coronavirus crisis.
While the league sorts out the details of potential plans to salvage the 2019-20 season, players, teams, agents and potential draftees wait and hope for the best.
Below, veteran agent Todd Ramasar, the founder and CEO of Life Sports Media and Entertainment, talks to SNY about potential changes to the draft and free agency and some possible hurdles to get past before players can return to the court.
Currently, the NBA and NBPA have said that teams can't conduct in-person workouts prior to the draft and agencies also can't host team execs at group workouts. Teams also can't request video workouts of players. They're limited to two hours of interviews with each player per week and four hours total.
"Teams are going to have to rely on game footage from this past season more than they ever have," Ramasar said. "Physical interviews are not going to be happening. So different questions or cues that you would get in a live meeting, you're not going to get that this year. It's going to have to be over video conference. And that's going to be interesting in terms of feedback that teams get in those interviews.
"These young men, they don't know what they don't know. And in a lot of cases, they've never been through this process. Even as it relates to the energy, what environment are they going to be in on their side? Everyone's circumstances are different. Understandably so, they may be nervous initially. How is that going to be conveyed or received on the other end of that interview from a team as they're asking questions and, in some ways, judging those players based on the responses they're getting?"
Ramasar, who has been representing NBA players for nearly two decades, said in-person workouts and the NBA Draft Combine (which is likely to be canceled) won't catapult an undrafted free agent into the Lottery. But they are important pre-draft tools for teams.
"I've always felt that where a player ultimately gets drafted, at least 75 percent of it gets predetermined from the season that they've had," Ramasar said. "Team scouts have evaluated the player, watched the player throughout the course of the season. the teams have done their due diligence -- talking to the coaching staff, talking to high school or AAU coaches on that player. And once they get into the draft process -- depending on where they're projected -- that player will come into a workout or the team will see them at the combine and that's where a player can raise their draft stock -- or in some cases it falls.
"Or in other cases it's unknown because something in terms of a medical issue comes up in the combine. There are cases where there's an exceptional player with high character, but a health or medical condition comes up and they fall. Well, what happens now as it relates to medical evaluations? There's no combine as of now…. The workouts and the medicals at the combine play a very important role in the process for these teams who are about to invest millions of dollars into players -- especially with teams picking in the first round or the lottery."
Depending on how negotiations proceed between the union and the league, there could be a decrease in the salary cap in the summer of 2020 or 2021 due to a decrease in league revenue. The revenue decrease, presumably, would be from the China imbroglio earlier this season and missed games amid the coronavirus crisis. Teams are planning around the different scenarios, which have thrown everything in flux.
"This business, at least on our [agent] side and the team side, has a natural cycle. You know the fiscal year starts July 1. You're going to be in Summer League, seeing your draft picks. There's free agency. If you've hired a new coach or brought in a new front office executive, you're establishing culture. and then you go into next season… (generally) by the New Year, you know what type of team you have. That's all gone now," said Ramasar, who currently has 40 clients, including Toronto's Pascal Siakam and Washington's Thomas Bryant. "It's a new normal and it's going to work out. But I think there's going to be mistakes, no different than there were after the last lockout when the new media rights deal kicked in (in the summer of 2016) and you had an influx of cash.
"Teams had to meet 90 percent of the cap, and you saw a tremendous amount of spending on some players that, maybe in previous years or even now, don't warrant the contracts those players received. If teams could do it all over again, it wasn't that they spent the money -- they had to. It's just that they went into long term deals on those contracts. If they could do it all over again, I think they would go to one-or two-year deals, see where they're at and then adjust accordingly. (Now) you have to be thoughtful and you have to be tactical in your spending and your procedures in how you're going to (sign) these players, given the prospect of future financial difficulty, if there is any difficulty."
RETURNING TO THE COURT
The NBA and NBPA have proposed several different scenarios for resuming the season. One revolves around playing in one city -- likely Las Vegas -- to decrease travel and the risk that players test positive for coronavirus. One concern with resuming the season is player health and safety. The players will need time to train and prepare before stepping back on the court.
Just how long would they need to train before they can safely play in NBA games?
"I think it's going to be contingent on how long this hiatus is," Ramasar said. "Someone can say, 'Well, Todd, in a normal year they have a hiatus of three-to-five months in an offseason and then they come back (for training camp the next season) and they're fine.' No, it's different because players are still active, working out. They're doing their conditioning, they're lifting weights, they're playing pickup, they're in a flow. If this goes on until mid-May or the end of May, I think they need two to three weeks at a minimum (to prepare). You can't just throw them into the fire the first few days (of a training camp setting). Teams are going to have to rely on their training staffs, medical staffs, sports scientists, to really see where the players are at physically and mentally.
"Even if they're allowed to come back, what are the mental repercussions as it relates to this virus? (The repercussions of what) I can imagine will be strict procedures and protocols in place to make sure that no team personnel (players and team staff) test positive when they do come back. And then if there is a positive test, that potentially jeopardizes the remainder (continuation) of the season. This is not just an NBA-centric issue. The NFL should be asking the same questions, as well as any other league looking to start or resume their season in the near future."
HOW COULD THIS IMPACT COLLEGE PLAYERS WHO MAY ENTER THE DRAFT?
Several agents have expressed concern over the timing of the draft if the season is resumed. Those agents said recently that a draft held any later than the end of July would be difficult for NCAA programs and players as it would push the decision date for draft-eligible players close to the beginning of the fall semester.
"If you are a player, how do you test the waters? If you are an NCAA program that's trying to figure out during the late signing period (to sign high school recruits) whether you are losing one of your star players or not, how do you navigate that?" Ramasar said.
"I think about it daily as I advise families and talk to potential clients. It's going to be very difficult for players who are testing the waters and are on the fence about keeping their name in. The NCAA hasn't adjusted their dates yet and neither has the NBA. So we're in a holding pattern now until that gets worked out. For the NBA right now, their priority is figuring out if the season is going to resume and figuring out what logistics need to be in place if the season is resuming. The draft isn't the highest priority at the moment."