The two events that annually serve as the true beginning of draft season were scheduled to take place in Chicago this month, but in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has overtaken the nation, holding such events simply is not safe. Those events are not the only ones in danger, though. The NBA was already reportedly considering delaying the actual draft, and according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it is expected that it will be done eventually.
Functionally, it almost has to be given these delays. The NBA cannot hold a draft without establishing a draft order, and the lottery is their method of doing so. Theoretically, they could simply hold the lottery as late as draft day itself, but doing so would give teams almost no time to prepare or negotiate trades. As far as the combine goes, the amount of travel and physical contact necessary for it to be held as it normally would is simply not feasible given current social distancing guidelines.
With the season currently in a holding pattern since its mid-March suspension, the draft is likely in similar purgatory. Ideally, it would be held immediately after the end of an eventually-concluded season as it typically is, but until the NBA establishes a new timeline, such a prediction would be irresponsible. Assuming teams have no way of working out prospects in person, the league will have to establish a new infrastructure for prospect evaluation.
Theoretically, this is possible. The NFL recently held its draft as scheduled, and while it was fortunate enough to at least have part of its offseason to conduct typical workouts and a combine, plenty of the pre-draft period was handled remotely. The NBA is in a position in which it may have to do the same. There is no telling when this pandemic will end or even weaken, and that uncertainty is going to force the league into a number of uncomfortable positions. Altering schedules was an inevitability. The league simply made it official today.