As the NBA deals with the financial repercussions of COVID-19, teams may look to cut costs on draft night.
"I suspect first-round picks will be for sale in this draft," a team executive told ESPN's Brian Windhorst. "We haven't really seen that in a decade."
A first-round pick hasn't been sold since 2013, when the Denver Nuggets gave the rights to Rudy Gobert to the Utah Jazz. Teams are limited in the amount of cash they can trade each season, and they have increasingly hoarded draft picks because players are on cost-controlled contracts for their first four seasons.
With the COVID-19 pandemic wiping away fan attendance at nearly 20 regular-season games and the entire postseason, teams stand to lose a significant chunk of expected revenue from the 2019-20 season. While every team could be sold by its ownership for significant profit, owners who are less cash-solvent have become worried about how to mitigate their losses.
"I don't know what will happen, but I may lose $50 million next season," one owner told ESPN. "If that happens, I have three options: I could borrow the money, I could sell part of the team or I could do a cash call and me and my partners would have to write checks."
Few are going to feel bad for a group of billionaires who are taking a temporary financial hit on an appreciating asset. However, the NBA and all professional sports leagues are going to have to deal with the realities of the financial hit caused by the pandemic.
For nearly a decade, the potential reward of hitting on a late first-round draft pick far outweighed the few million bucks an owner could pocket from selling the selection. However, some cash-poor owners could now feel the extra cash will mitigate losses elsewhere.