Why Detroit Pistons could get NBA draft advice from an NFL team, virtually speaking

Detroit Free Press

In a week, and after an unexpectedly long hiatus, the Detroit Pistons will find out where they’ll pick in the 2020 NBA draft. 

The draft lottery will take place on Aug. 20, and it’ll be virtual. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported earlier this week that all 14 team representatives will appear on a virtual display, bucking tradition. Instead of sitting on a stage with deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, the team reps will presumably participate from the comfort of their living rooms or home offices. 

The NBA, along with the rest of the sports world, are adapting to a world changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pistons may not be going into the virtual process blind, however.

They could receive some advice from an NFL team.

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Senior advisor Ed Stefanski and his son, Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin, joined ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast, “The Woj Pod,” in May to discuss their relationship and respective careers. 

On the topic of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kevin praised the NFL for how it handled the 2020 NFL draft, hosted via video messaging within the homes of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, along with players, executive and media members involved in the show. 

[ Who should the Pistons take in the NBA draft? ]

It was then noted that Ed, and the Pistons, may have to experience a similar draft setup. The 2020 NBA draft was in indefinite suspension at the time, but it appeared likely that the league would follow the NFL’s example. While details on the NBA draft, scheduled for October, have yet to be announced, the virtual lottery sets a precedent for how the league could decide to handle it.  

Kevin revealed that he put his father in touch with the Browns for advice on how they handled their virtual draft.

“Against my better judgement, I did give my dad Andrew Berry’s, our general manager, cell phone,” Kevin said. “I shouldn’t have done that, but I did, because now Andrew’s going to give a lot of free advice. I know they’re going to reach out and kinda see some of the technological things that we put in place. It’s very doable, let me put it that way, and I think communication becomes even more efficient, a lot of times, when you’re on these calls. There’s not a lot of time to deviate or get off of whatever you’re discussing at that moment. So we really went off without a hitch. So we’re definitely going to get the Pistons and Browns talking.”

The NFL used Microsoft Teams to facilitate every televised aspect of the draft, right down to Goodell giving each new draftee a virtual hug. It could provide a blueprint for the NBA, which will dip its toes into the virtual waters next week and could follow suit once again in October.

Regardless of what the NBA decides to do this fall, it sounds as though Ed Stefanski could have a leg up, thanks to the Browns. 

The Pistons have the fifth-best lottery odds, their highest since 1994, and a 10.5% chance at the No. 1 pick. General manager Troy Weaver recently acknowledged that the draft will be a challenge for the entire league, as the NBA has mandated that all interviews between teams and prospects take place via video conference, and no in-person workouts are allowed. 

“Hopefully we’ll continue to get more information from the league on different opportunities that might come along to help us prepare for the draft,” Weaver said. “We’ll continue to do interviews, continue to do our film study, continue to do our analytic research and compile all those elements so we can stay on top of it and we’ll be ready to make an informed decision when the draft comes.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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