How Does the NBA Draft Work?

The NBA Draft will be held on June 26th, 2014 in Brooklyn, New York. This year’s draft is one of the strongest draft classes that we have seen in a while with a number of players competing to be the overall #1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. For many of the players, being selected in the NBA Draft represents a major milestone both in their sports career but also for their families financially with the large sums of money that come with being drafted in the first round. A common question that basketball fans ask; however, is how exactly does the NBA Draft work?

When Did the NBA Create the NBA Draft Lottery?

The history of the NBA Draft Lottery dates to the early to mid 1980s. In June of 1984, the NBA Board of Governors met in Salt Lake City, Utah. The agreed to adopt a lottery system for the teams who failed to make the NBA Playoffs in order to determine the order of selection in the NBA Draft’s first round starting the next year. For the 18 years prior to the vote, the picks were solely based on the worst records in each conference using a coin flip.

How Does the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery Work?

In the current NBA Draft Lottery scheme, the team with the worst record from the just concluded regular season gets the most chances at possibly earning the overall number one pick in the NBA Draft. The best non-playoff team has the smallest number of chances or worst odds at being picked. The lottery system only determines the

Logo for the 2010 NBA Draft

Logo for the 2010 NBA Draft (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

first three picks in the draft. The remaining 11 picks are then set by order of worst record from the previous regular season.
In order to pick the first three teams, there are fourteen ping-poll bolls numbered one through 14 placed in a drum. With there being 1,000 possible combinations of four balls being drawn from the drum, the various combinations of draws are assigned to the lottery teams based on the order of finish. Once the balls are drawn, the team assigned the respective combination receives the pick. Once the first pick is selected, that team is not eligible again and the process is repeated with the balls replaced in the drum. In the event there is an unassigned combination drawn, the process is repeated until the first three NBA Lottery Teams are selected.

What Happens Before the NBA Draft?

Before the NBA Draft occurs, the NBA Pre-Draft Camp is held in Orland to give picks the opportunity to play against upper-tier talent prior to the draft. Consisting of both games and drills, all NBA General Mangers, scouts, and coaches closely monitor the proceedings to see if they can find hidden talent that did not perform as well in college or overseas. For many players, this provides them an opportunity to improve their draft stock.
Additionally, a number of NBA Teams will work out players at their facilities prior to the NBA Draft occurring. The players are brought in normally in pairs based on position and put through a variety of athletic tests, basketball drills, and personality tests after confirming their height and weight. The individual workouts help teams further evaluate potential NBA talent and find weaknesses that might not be obvious from the play prior to the draft.

How Do NBA Teams Pick Players?

NBA teams select players for a variety of reasons. One of the primary reasons is to choose a player based on team need or to help fill a void in capability on the existing roster. Other times, teams will simply pick the best player they assess as being available on the “Board.” A good example of this is when the Boston Celtics chose Paul Pierce in the lottery in 1998 despite the fact they had a star at the time in the same position in Antoine Walker. Other times, NBA teams will choose a player because another team desires their services in order to work the selection to the team’s favor.

What is the Difference in Choosing College and International Players in the Draft?

NBA teams take a variety of approaches to assessing player potential in the NBA. In many cases, a player that is assessed as having a significant upside in the future will be selected over a player who has performed for four years in college. This aspect of selecting young players in the NBA draft has become more prevalent in the “One and Done” era. The NCAA and NBA do allow young players to declare themselves eligible for the NBA Draft to see where they might be projected to be picked. If the player does not sign with an agent, they are eligible to return to their college team if they withdraw from the draft in time. Additionally, the NBA has a number of stars who have either played overseas or for a smaller college during their post-High School career. As a result, many fans will see players who are not as well known drafted in the second and sometimes first round of the NBA draft.

The draft board and stage pre draft.

The draft board and stage pre draft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NBA Draft Vocabulary

For those who are new to following the NBA Draft, there are a number of terms that fans may not know.

NBA Body
This term is used to describe a prospect who is considered physical enough to play in the NBA and withstand the rigour of playing the full NBA season.
Can’t Miss Prospect
This is used to describe a player who is assessed as already having the skills required to immediately have star impact for the team he is drafted for.
Can’t Teach Size
This is used to describe a big man who is drafted while still developing their basketball skills due to their size.
Nose for the Ball
This term is used to describe a player who is an outstanding rebounder.
Project Player
NBA teams commonly pick players with a significant amount of raw potential but do not have the skillsets to immediately contribute to a NBA team. A project player is typically picked by a team who already has a strong team core and can afford to take the time to let a player develop.
This term is used to refer to a player who is significantly underrated in the draft.
Many times a player will be referred to as a “tweener” due to having height that falls in between the classic heights of different positions (such as point guard and small forward).
When pundits say a draft prospect has significant upside, they mean that the player has a good deal of long term potential due to athleticism and/or size. They will normally need to gain some experience in the D-League to develop into an effective NBA player.

Leave a Reply