NBA Draft Explained

The NBA Draft occurs every June and allows the 30 NBA Teams to draft players who are eligible to join the league. There are a number of different rules and procedures surrounding the draft and a players eligibility to be drafted.

There are two rounds of the Draft, each consisting of 30 picks (60 overall). The order in which teams take these picks is decided through the draft lottery.

NBA Draft Lottery

The NBA Draft lottery is held during the second half of May and decides the order for that years draft. Only the 14 teams that did not make that seasons playoffs are in the lottery, the other 16 teams are put in order by who has the best record (e.g the team with the best record would receive 30th pick). Under the current draft lottery rules only the top 3 picks are decided by lottery. The lottery is weighted so that the team with the worst record has the best chance at the #1 pick.

To determine the winner 14 ping-pong balls are placed into in a standard lottery machine and four balls are drawn from the lot (the order of which is not important). There are 1001 combinations of numbers that can be drawn from the lottery machine, one of which is discarded (leaving 1000 combinations). The 1000 remaining combinations are then given to the 14 teams in the Lottery. The number of combinations assigned to a team is weighted to ensure that the team with the worst record is given the best chance at getting the #1 pick. The teams are placed in reverse order of record and weighted as so:

  1. 250 combinations, 25.0% chance of receiving the #1 pick
  2. 199 combinations, 19.9% chance
  3. 156 combinations, 15.6% chance
  4. 119 combinations, 11.9% chance
  5. 88 combinations, 8.8% chance
  6. 63 combinations, 6.3% chance
  7. 43 combinations, 4.3% chance
  8. 28 combinations, 2.8% chance
  9. 17 combinations, 1.7% chance
  10. 11 combinations, 1.1% chance
  11. 8 combinations, 0.8% chance
  12. 7 combinations, 0.7% chance
  13. 6 combinations, 0.6% chance
  14. 5 combinations, 0.5% chance

The process is conducted and the team which is assigned to the combination that comes up gets the #1 pick. This process is then repeated with the team thats combination is next getting the #2 pick, then again for the #3 pick. If a combination comes up that belongs to a team that has already been awarded a pick then the process is repeated until another team comes up.

Draft picks can be traded by teams, if this is the case then the pick will be weighted based on the team which originally had the pick, but the pick will belong to the other team. So if the New York Knicks had the worst record in the NBA but had traded their pick to the Golden State Warriors, the draft pick would be weighted in the lottery at 25% because of the Knicks record, but the pick would actually belong to the Warriors.

2012 #1 Pick Anthony Davis with then Commissioner David Stern
2012 #1 Pick Anthony Davis with then Commissioner David Stern

Draft Eligibility

The current Draft eligibility rules have been in place since the 2005 Collective-Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the main change that occurred because of this was the fact that players can no longer be draft straight out of high school, and must play at least one year at college level.

The rules on eligibility are simple: a player must be of 19 years old during the calender year of the Draft. Any player who is not an “International player” as defined by the CBA, must be at least one year removed from the graduation of his high school class. If players who fulfill all this will then be automatically eligible if they meet any of the following criteria:

  • They have completed four years of their college eligibility
  • If they graduated from high school in the U.S, but did not enrol at college/University, and four years have passed
  • They have signed a contract with a team outside of the NBA, anywhere in the world, and played under that contract.

Players who are over the age of 19 but do not fulfill these criteria but wish to be drafted must declare their eligibility no later than 60 days before the Draft. These players will then attend pre-NBA camps to receive feedback on their draft prospects. A player may withdraw from the draft at anytime before the final declaration date, which is ten days before the draft. A player who declares for the draft will lose his college eligibility (even if not drafted) if they sign with any agent and/or the player has declared then withdrawn from a previous draft.

Amir Johnson - The last player to be drafted straight from High School
Amir Johnson – The last player to be drafted straight from High School

The CBA defines “International players” for draft purposes as those who any of the following apply to:

  • Permanently reside outside of the U.S for more than three years before the draft whilst playing basketball outside of the U.S
  • Have never enrolled at a U.S college/university
  • Did not complete high school in the U.S

The Draft

The Draft is pretty simple after all of that confusion. The teams take turns in order (decided through the draft lottery as explained) to pick prospects that have declared for the draft. These players then become NBA Rookies if the team that drafted them decides to sign them. Players who did not get drafted become undrafted free-agents and can be signed by any team at any time during the season.

Next: NBA Free Agency Explained

If you have any further questions let me know in the comments below or email/tweet me from the links on the contact page.

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