It’s NBA Draft Week! You know what that means. Or maybe you don’t.
This means that the fate of several dozen candidates for the NBA draft is about to change. Dreams are to be realized. Busting and stealing will be scattered throughout the draft. Jobs will be fixed in the front offices of the NBA. Other jobs will also hang in the balance after Thursday evening, and we may not know it yet. The draft is one of the most important days on the NBA calendar because it opens up to all kinds of coverage, trade changes, and anticipation of the next wave of NBA players and potential stars.
You can ask yourself a lot of questions about what a draft is, how you can use it, and what consequences it can have. Well we’re here at Athletic anticipated these same questions are here to help you be as prepared as possible for the chaos of Thursday night. Let’s dive into some of these potential questions and shower you with answers and information.
When is the draft and how can I view it?
Thursday, June 23 Starts at 20:00 ET / 17:00 PT. You can determine the time in your local time zone between these two US time zones (sorry, Hawaii and Alaska). The draft will air in its entirety on ESPN. Check your local listings.
Now that I know what the NBA draft is?
Interest Ask! The NBA Draft is essentially how every year an influx of new young talent enters this beloved league. This is an annual event where 60 picks are made over two rounds (only 58 this year due to rigging penalties against Miami and Milwaukee). Each team is given multiple picks in each draft: one in the first round and one in the second round. Those picks can then be moved around in exchanges over the years, resulting in teams that have more or fewer picks than intended, or none at all.
So any player can be drafted anywhere? Does this include current players?
You can not choose any player. Players under the age of 22 who have not completed their four-year college membership must apply for the draft. If you are the earliest drafted person in the NBA, you must have one year before you graduate from high school. Players can come from different walks of life. While waiting for the opportunity to declare themselves in the draft, prospects might play overseas, in the G-League, or even just hang out and drive taxis like Dave Cowens did during the 1970s off-season.
International players are also eligible for the NBA draft. If they are 22 or older and have not yet applied for the draft, they are automatically placed in the pool of potential candidates. Otherwise, they must declare themselves before reaching the age of 22.
Current players are unavailable. It’s not some fantasy draft you do in a league of friends or a video game. Once a player has gone through the draft process (regardless of whether they were selected) and signed into the NBA, they can no longer enter the draft. Sorry to ruin any hope your team could grab Steph Curry or LeBron James right now.
Wait, students can’t be drafted?
Not anymore! They used to be. Up until the 2006 draft, you could drop out of high school, drop out of college or the international game, and enter the draft, all while getting a cool prom-to-pro idiom attached to your bio. The NBA banned it. Why? The billionaire owners and front office executives who work for them couldn’t resist investing large sums and tens of millions of dollars in teenage kids just out of algebra classes. Of course, there have been many success stories. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tracey McGrady, LeBron James and Dwight Howard can attest to this among many others.
However, not everyone who graduated from high school turned out to be as good as these guys. Some of them were even busts in the NBA world. So the NBA’s decision was to make them wait…one more year…because we all know it’s much easier to trust a 19 year old with millions of dollars and responsibilities in a multi-billion dollar industry than it is to trust an 18 year old. -years of age.
Can players opt out of drafting certain teams?
They definitely can! This is rare, and often the bluff gets called. Ricky Rubio didn’t want to move to the Minnesota Timberwolves back in 2009 and even spent two more years overseas before joining the Wolves. Players can be chosen by the franchise and categorically refuse to show up. If they continue to play this chicken game, they will essentially have to play overseas if they want to play professional basketball. They can’t just sign with another team.
The two most notorious incidents occurred in 1989 and 1999. In 1989, Danny Ferry was selected second overall by the LA Clippers. He declined to play for that franchise. Instead, he called them a bluff that they didn’t sell him to another team. Ferry signed a contract to play professionally in Italy for the 1989-90 season. He was eventually traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and began his NBA career in 1990.
In 1999, Steve Francis was selected second overall by the then Vancouver Grizzlies. Francis was visibly and audibly unhappy at the prospect of going to Canada to play NBA basketball. Everything was cited as a reason not to play there for Francis. Taxes. Distance from his home in Maryland. God’s will. Eventually, he was traded to the Houston Rockets and became an All-Star.
These moments are quite rare.
Are NBA Draft Contracts Guaranteed?
Some of them! If you are selected in the first round of the NBA Draft and signed to a rookie contract, the first two years of your career are guaranteed. Even if you stink or get hurt and never play, you get that money. The next two years are team options, meaning they decide if they want to give you a flat rate based on rookie deals for each first-round pick. The higher you are called, the higher your salary. Second round deals are more complex and not as guaranteed unless you have an astute agent to fight for your future financial returns.
Which team has the most picks in the draft?
The San Antonio Spurs have four picks (Nos. 9, 20, 25, and 38). Three of them in the first round, one in the second.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have four picks (Nos. 19, 40, 48, and 50), with three of them in the second round, and their only first-round pick.
The Houston Rockets (#3, 17, and 26) and the Spurs have the most first-round picks with three each.
Do any of the teams have a zero pick?
The Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz currently have no first or second round picks. They could have obtained them through trades or purchases on draft night.
Who is expected to be the top pick in the draft?
Most likely, it will be either strong forward Jabari Smith Jr. from Auburn, or promising big player Chet Holmgren from Gonzaga. Those are two agreed options right now for being No. 1. There is a possibility that up-and-coming power forward Paolo Bankero from Duke could be a surprise pick.
They are good? Will they be the next LeBron James or Steph Curry?
They must be very good! Smith is a very athletic, fast big man who can really throw the ball from deep. Holmgren is a super skinny 7ft player with defensive skills, blocking ability and a good jumper. Bunchero is a strong hitter who needs a little work on his shot, but he can bully his way in many advantageous situations.
They are unlikely to be as good as historical league-changing players like LeBron or Steph.
What’s the weirdest thing in draft history?
Two things I remember most were the territorial draft picks and how future Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier found out he had been drafted to the ABA before playing in the NBA.
Territorial elections took place in the draft from its inception in 1949 until the draft system was overhauled in 1966. Until 1966, the NBA was desperate to create domestic markets. Thus, the best college players received the right of the first refusal of the NBA franchise in their hometown. A team may forfeit their first round pick and choose a potential player within a 50 mile radius of their home arena. You didn’t really have a choice, so anyone who has tried to explore the world outside their hometown hasn’t necessarily done so as a professional basketball player.
An example of this is that Wilt Chamberlain moved to his hometown of the Philadelphia Warriors when he joined the league in 1959. Hall of Famer Guy Rogers had also been drafted by the Warriors the previous year in 1958. Chamberlain attended college in Kansas but grew up in Philadelphia and went to high school there. So the Warriors argued that they should be allowed to take him. Tommy Heinsohn spent his Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics because he attended Holy Cross University. Oscar Robertson left the University of Cincinnati to play for the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings).
As far as Walt Frazier’s story goes, he was the fifth overall pick in the 1967 NBA draft. He was also drafted to the ABA by the Denver Larks, who changed their name to the Denver Rockets and later became the Denver Nuggets franchise we know today. Frazier found out about his choice for The Larks on the front page of his high school newspaper at Southern Illinois University. This is very similar to the story of Al Attles, who found out he had been drafted into the Warriors franchise because a friend of his heard it on the radio.
Where can I find a real-time preview of how events are unfolding?
I’m so glad you asked this question! We will have a fantastic live blog with all types of analysis and tidbits during the days leading up to the draft and during the draft itself on Athletic (the site you’re reading this on). And you will be able to watch the live show on the internet through Athletic NBA Show Podcast on Twitter. I’ll be co-hosting with Mo Dahil, Jay King and a host of fun, knowledgeable guests.
(Photo: Brad Penner/USA Today)