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How Does the NBA Draft Work?

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) draft is one of the sport’s most important events. It determines the future of potential players as they look to get into the top league. For teams, their aim is to get the best young talent. The NBA draft is a simple process for those who understand it yet complicated for those who don’t. 

In this article, we’ll explain how the NBA draft works.

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Who Is Eligible to Enter the NBA Draft?

Which players get drafted in the NBA? Image Source: Instagram licensed under CC BY 2.0

Not everyone can participate in the NBA draft. For instance, Players who are active in the league don’t take part. The draft is meant to bring in a fresh set of players who aren’t in the league. These are the qualifications. 

  • All players must be at least 19 years old in the year they are drafted. 
  • If you are not classified as an international player, you must have a year between your graduation period and the time of the NBA draft. 

You can automatically qualify for NBA Draft if:

  • You have a contract with a non-NBA basketball team. However, at the time of the draft, you must be released by the team. 
  • You graduated from an American high school but didn’t join a college or university in the United States. 
  • You are done with four years of college.

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What’s the Format of the NBA Draft?

 The NBA draft consists of two rounds. 60 players are drafted and each round allows for 30 selections. Each team can only pick one player per round. Their performance for the previous season determines this. That said, a team can get more than one pick if they choose to trade a player. 

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The NBA Draft Lottery

The 14 NBA teams that failed to make it to the playoffs are eligible for the draft lottery. This system was introduced in 1985 and has gone through changes over time to ensure that teams wouldn’t deliberately perform poorly to get the first pick.

The lottery determines the order of the first 14 picks. Every team gets a four-digit number which will determine the type of pick it gets. Consequently, 14 balls are put in the lottery machine and mixed for 20 seconds for the first time. 

A ball is removed, the process repeats for the second time for 10 seconds, and another ball is removed. The same will happen for the third and fourth balls.

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After that, the results will be matched to the team that has it and they’ll get the first pick. This will happen to the second, third and fourth picks. The lottery machine can draw up to 1001 combinations.

What happens to the remaining 10 teams? Well, they still receive favourable picks. The best of the rest, depending on their performance in the regular season. The team with the poorest record gets the fifth pick and the best record gets the 14th pick.

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Trading of NBA Draft Picks

NBA teams have the leeway to trade or sell their draft picks with other teams. This explains why some teams will have numerous picks than allocated. Teams that want immediate success are willing to get an experienced player and give away their pick, whereas those looking for future success will likely retain their picks. 

Trading happens under strict rules. 

  • Teams can trade picks in advance, no more than 7 years, as soon as they get their draft selection or during the assigned window.
  • Teams can’t trade their first-round pick for two consecutive seasons.
  • Teams that fail to go to the NBA playoff can begin trading after the regular season ends. Those in the playoff can join when they are eliminated. Trading also happens during the regular season.  

That’s everything you need to know about the NBA draft. If you were initially confused, we hope this guide has been useful. 

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Agnes Amondi
Agnes Amondi
Agnes Amondi is a sports enthusiast who enjoys sharing sports knowledge. Over the years, she has also written on different niches, and she now brings that experience at Spotcovery. She writes sports content and also, Arts & Culture, Recipe, Beauty and more.


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