Explaining How the NBA Draft Works and Draft Order Is Determined

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 12, 2017

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, center, poses for photos with prospective NBA draft picks Buddy Hield, left, Kris Dunn, right, Ben Simmons, third from left, and Brandon Ingram, second from right, before the start of the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 23, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

The 2017 NBA draft is slated for June 22 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, making now as good a time as any to get up to speed on the entire process.

Which players are eligible for selection? How is the draft order determined? How will this life-changing night unfold?

All those questions and more will be answered in this handy draft guide.



James Crisp/Associated Press

The high school pipeline to the NBA closed with the implementation of the 2005 collective bargaining agreement. That's when the league established a minimum early-entry age of 19, along with the requirement that American players be one year removed from high school.

The rule hasn't made anyone happy since, save perhaps for Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who has embraced "one-and-done" college talents like no other and landed three of the last seven No. 1 picks (Karl-Anthony Towns, 2015; Anthony Davis, 2012; John Wall, 2010).

Both sides of the NBA aisle have campaigned for change. Commissioner Adam Silver has made clear the league's desire to push the minimum age to 20. The National Basketball Players Association, meanwhile, has tried to remove this restriction and re-open a preps-to-pros avenue.

But with both parties having signed a new collective bargaining agreement in January, this system will stay in place for the foreseeable future.

It is evolving in other areas, though.

Starting in 2016, the window widened for players to test the draft waters. Unlike before, they could now attend the combine and work out for teams before deciding whether to stay in the draft. That presumably helped paint a much clearer picture of if and when they might be drafted. As long as they didn't hire an agent, they maintained their college basketball eligibility through a certain withdrawal date.

This year, players had to declare for the draft by April 23. The NBA received 182 such declarations from early-entry candidates—137 collegiate players and 45 international prospects.

Those players now have until 5 p.m. ET on Monday, June 12, to withdraw from consideration, although the NCAA requires them to do so by May 24 in order to retain college basketball eligibility.



Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Think of the combine as the ultimate basketball job fair. Prospective NBA players pack into a gymnasium—Chicago's Quest Center—in hopes of wowing potential employers through interviews, physical tests and good, old-fashioned basketball.

This year's combine runs from May 9 through May 14 and has 67 hoops hopefuls in attendance:

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN

NBA will have 67 players at next week's draft combine in Chicago. Thursday and Friday -- 2-6 PM CT on ESPN2. Here's the list: https://t.co/UXqh3JbSL6

The basic objective of getting to the league is the same for all, but since some are already closer to that dream than others, their combine itineraries can vary.

Markelle Fultz, a hyper-charged point guard out of Washington, tops the draft board of nearly every mock drafter. He's in the Windy City to shake hands, chat with executives and dazzle with his impressive measurements. At this point, court work of any kind—be it drills or full five-on-five runs—becomes an unnecessary risk, at least in the eyes of his agent.

That's why many of the presumed early picks simply stay away. Potential top-five selections Lonzo Ball (UCLA), Josh Jackson (Kansas) and Jayson Tatum (Duke) saw more harm than good in being poked and prodded, so they all declined their invitations.

The league runs those in attendance through virtually every test imaginable.

Players are measured for height, weight, body fat percentage, wingspan, hand length, hand width and standing reach. They are tested on the bench press, vertical leap, standing vertical, three-quarter sprint, shuttle run and lane agility. They go through game actions like shooting on the move, spot-up sniping and even full-on scrimmaging.

It isn't the last chance for these players to improve their draft positioning. Individual and team workouts lead up to the big night as clubs seek to gain as much information as possible in this process.

But the amount of prospects and NBA personnel in attendance at the combine make it one of the more important dates on the roundball calendar.



For all the talk on tanking surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers NBA of late, it takes more than a bad record to land the top pick.

Luck plays a part as well—by way of 14 pingpong balls and four-digit combinations. It's a rather monotonous process, so we'll stick to the abridged version.

As NBA.com explains, 14 pingpong balls are put in the lottery machine, mixed for 20 seconds and one is removed. The process repeats three more times, only the mixing period decreases to 10 seconds.

The four balls are placed in order, revealing the winning combination—there are 1,001 possible combos—and rewarding the corresponding team with the selection. The second and third picks are awarded the same way.

This is where tanking comes in. The amount of combinations owned by each of the 14 lottery teams corresponds to their reverse order in the standings. The worse one fares in season, the better their odds become on draft night. This season's odds are shown below.

Once the top three selections are dispersed, the remaining 11 follow the reverse order. Since clubs can and do have identical records sometimes, any necessary tiebreakers are determined beforehand.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks both finished this season 31-51 overall, necessitating an April pingpong ball draw for the tiebreaker. Minnesota won, meaning if neither club jumps into the top three, the Wolves will make their pick before the Knicks.

The 2017 draft lottery will be held Tuesday, May 16, at 8 p.m. ET, and it will be televised on ESPN.



There's one more step to setting the draft order—paying off the debts of previous trades.

That's why the Boston Celtics have both the Eastern Conference's best record and the NBA's best lottery odds. Back in 2013, the Shamrocks had the foresight to fleece the Brooklyn Nets by shipping out fast-fading stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry for a smorgasbord of draft assets.

This choice is one of those assets. It's actually a swap, as Brooklyn will pick up the Nos. 27 and 57 picks from Boston in the process, but the Celtics remain massive winners in this exchange.

The Los Angeles Lakers will watch the lottery more closely than anyone. They have two first-round picks at stake, due to previous deals for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. L.A. keeps its first-rounder only if it falls within the top three. Otherwise, this pick goes to the Philadelphia 76ers (via the Phoenix Suns)—and 2019's first-rounder will belong to the Orlando Magic. (If the Lakers keep their selection, they'll instead send 2017 and 2018 second-rounders to the Magic and their 2018 unprotected first-rounder to Philly.)

The New Orleans Pelicans owe the Sacramento Kings a first-round pick from February's DeMarcus Cousins deal. But the selection has top-three protection on it this year, so there's a chance it won't move. If it doesn't, the protection becomes top-one from 2018 to 2020 and then unprotected in 2021.

The Kings, meanwhile, must stay inside the top 10 to avoid giving their first-rounder to the Chicago Bulls. If Sacramento manages that, it would then give up its second-rounder to Chicago. The Kings also gave the Sixers the option to swap picks should Sacramento's own first-round selection fall ahead of Philly's.

Only three teams choosing between picks No. 20 and 30 still own their original selections—the Oklahoma City Thunder (21), Utah Jazz (24) and San Antonio Spurs (29). The majority of second-round picks have already exchanged hands in different deals.             



An impromptu fashion show typically precedes the annual talent grab, as hoops stars of tomorrow become present-day millionaires and start dressing the part. It's a light, fun way to celebrate the players and ease some of the tension created by the fact NBA franchises could strengthen or spoil their stocks with a single selection.

This will be the fifth consecutive year the festivities will be held at the Barclays Center and the fourth for Silver as commissioner. That means he's on the mic to announce all 30 first-round selections, while deputy commissioner Mark Tatum takes over for the second round.

Teams have five minutes on the clock (two for the second) to either make their selection or broker a deal with someone who wants it. Trades are commonplace, as 11 were made before, during or immediately after last year's draft alone.

It's tough to tell how that number will change this time around. The 2017 class is said to feature more star power and depth, which should increase interest in both buying and keeping picks.

"The June draft...should be one of the deepest and most versatile in years," NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote. "If ever a talent-deprived team needed to have a pick, or picks, this is the year. There has rarely been a year with as many point guards available...or so many different kinds of scoring wings."

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has five point guards in the top 10 on his big board, including Fultz at No. 1 and Ball two spots back. Jackson (second), Tatum (fourth) and Jonathan Isaac (fifth, Florida State) round out his top five.


Draft pick information obtained via RealGM.

Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.