2024 NBA Draft: With two-day format, NBA teams look to NFL for strategic insight

(Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports illustration)
(Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports illustration)

For at least one year, the NBA Draft will take place over two nights, beginning with the first round at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday from Barclays Center before the second round concludes Thursday with a broadcast from the ESPN studios at Manhattan’s Seaport.

This will be a trial run for a new agreement reached during the league’s latest collective bargaining with the players' union, and therefore the early returns on this new format will prove critical in shaping the future of the NBA Draft’s second round. Under this new structure, teams will have a whole night and deep into the next afternoon to negotiate trades and potential salary structures with player agents for draft prospects, while the second round will now also offer four minutes per pick instead of the usual two minutes.

For this change to occur in a draft that features much uncertainty about Wednesday’s first round, team executives are preparing for a significant amount of trade activity throughout the second round, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The NBA is anticipating inviting several prospects from their list of green-room invites to the second-round broadcast, sources said, should they go unselected in the first 30 picks. And there are players such as Houston point guard Jamal Shead and UCLA big man Adem Bona who hold clear first-round grades for certain teams, sources said, but could also be available in the 30s. “We’re trying to figure out who’s going to be there,” said one executive from a team picking among the top sections of the second round, “and it’s impossible.”

The introduction of an additional day has also prompted various NBA teams to confer with NFL personnel, league sources told Yahoo Sports, to glean any possible insight into how to handle an overnight and early-morning window between rounds. The NFL Draft takes place over three days now. “Is there any gamesmanship we’re not aware of?” one NBA official who spoke with an NFL team asked.

An NFC executive who spoke with three NBA teams tried to enlighten each.

“I’ll be honest,” the executive told Yahoo Sports. “I’ll be surprised if any team didn’t [consult the NFL].”

The Philadelphia 76ers are owned by a managing group spearheaded by Joshua Harris, who’s also led a recent acquisition of the Washington Commanders. All teams under the Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment umbrella regularly collaborate, and the Sixers and Commanders held a meeting about how to approach the second night of this year’s NBA Draft, according to one source with knowledge of those discussions. Philadelphia is slated to pick at No. 41 on Thursday night.

Multiple teams in the first five picks of the NBA’s second round also consulted with NFL personnel about how to best maximize those trade opportunities, sources said.

The NFC executive who advised three NFL teams spoke less to how teams should spend Thursday morning and more to how they shouldn’t.

The executive urged teams to weigh contingencies and establish their trade parameters days, weeks and sometimes even months before the draft. Sure, a more drawn-out draft allows more time to sort through possibilities and “more bandwidth to do s***.” But the best decisions will be level-headed and rooted in data assembled before draft emotions spike, the executive said. Know what a “winning” proposition would look like, they urged; know also when you’re willing to “lose” according to a model because your team is that eager to secure a prospect.

“Maybe your organization is just really high on that player [so] you're just like, ‘F*** it,’” the executive said. “But at least it’s been discussed before, and it's not a moment in the draft where people are just being like, ‘Oh s***, what the f*** just happened?’”

Some NFL executives polled by Yahoo Sports disagreed on how helpful their advice would be to the NBA.

NFL teams agree to swap picks or packages of picks far more often than they deal players during the draft. They crave first-round picks with a cost-controlled fifth year but can find immediate starters long after pick No. 100.

A pool of 259 NFL Draft picks last year dwarfed the 58 available to NBA teams this year.

Filtering any information through its proper lens is key.

“It is a completely different dynamic with the NBA,” an AFC general manager told Yahoo Sports, “given the small number of players and steep slope of talent degradation in their draft.”

A second NFC executive wondered whether the NBA’s second draft day will more closely resemble the NFL’s third and final day than its second, considering how much greater medical and personal information NFL teams are privy to with lighter agent influence than NBA player representatives, and the vastly different breadth of trade algorithms.

Is this comparison apples to oranges?

“I think it’s apples and cantaloupes,” the second NFC executive told Yahoo Sports. “It’s a whole different calculus, but it’s a fascinating question.”

Toronto acquired the No. 31 pick — the first of the second round — in its trade deadline deal that brought Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett in exchange for OG Anunoby. “The Raptors are sitting on gold,” one Eastern Conference staffer said.

Toronto could theoretically field trade inquiries for much longer than the four minutes the Raptors will have once the second round begins. Utah, currently holding the No. 32 pick, has been engaged in various trade scenarios to move up into the first round, according to sources. All of Milwaukee (No. 33), Portland (No. 34) and San Antonio (No. 35) are considered creative front offices that will be weighing deals with those picks, sources said. For those teams to stay, or any team looking to move in, there will be plenty of value to add second-round picks onto expensive rosters, with tax savings becoming more and more essential under this new CBA’s second apron and its rash of penalties.

“If you can get a player you like that might be able to help you on a team-favorable second-round contract, it’s pretty interesting,” one general manager told Yahoo Sports. “You can move up, you can move down.”

Price points for a pick in the top of this year’s second round could reach as high as four future second-round picks, multiple team executives told Yahoo Sports. There is precedent of Indiana, which holds the No. 36 pick in Thursday's second round, receiving three second-round picks from Miami in 2019, so the Heat could use the No. 32 pick to select KZ Okpala.

This year, agents are preparing to spend Wednesday night discussing with teams the potential guaranteed money their clients would be searching for, should teams ultimately select their client with a top pick in the second round. A player could also foreseeably get drafted at a certain slot in the second round if he agrees to sign a two-way contract in advance. The hours where Wednesday bleeds into Thursday morning may be rife with clandestine conversations that shape which players teams select before the second round even begins. How smoothly and effectively that process unfolds could be a key determining factor for team personnel on whether they would support the continued two-night format for the NBA Draft in the future.