The NBA season is winding down in Orlando, as the Los Angeles Lakers will face off against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Besides the Lakers and the Heat who will battle it out for league supremacy, preparations have already begun for the rest of the front offices in the hopes of building on this past season. For most franchises looking to build towards elite status, the fate of their future hinges on one special night – the 2020 NBA draft.
How does the NBA draft work? The NBA Draft is a series of events firstly there is the NBA Draft Lottery followed by the NBA draft combine. The NBA draft accumulates in draft night where the NBA teams choose their picks.
On a single draft night, the decisions made can change the course of an organization for years to come. With so much that can transpire and so much at stake, let’s have a look at how the entire process works.
Why is there an NBA Draft?
Before understanding the process, we must first understand why the NBA draft exists. In essence, the draft exists in the interest of competitive balance throughout the league. The NBA wants all 30 teams to have a roster that produces a product worth selling to its fans. The draft is the means in which all 30 franchises have the opportunity to bring in new players. The reason the parameters of the draft are in place is due to the bigger and smaller markets all sharing equal odds to acquire new talent, provided they are in the required position to do so. Individuals that enter the draft are players that did not play in the NBA in the previous season. This can be former professional players from other league around the world or former college players. With the exception of international players, to be eligible, players must be at least 19-years-old and be one year removed from the completion of high school. As such, all new players selected will be rookies in the association the following campaign. The draft is purposely scheduled before player free agency begins, allowing organisations to have exclusive rights to sign their selected player before teams largely alter their rosters. Of course, there are variables that go into determining the order of the draft, but we’ll get into that a little later.
Why does the NBA draft have a lottery?
Before draft night takes place, there is the all-important “NBA Draft Lottery”. The draft lottery determines the order in which lottery teams will make their selections. Lottery teams are the picks between 1 and 14, and these are the teams that missed the playoffs during the season. The draft lottery is exactly that – a lottery. Balls are placed in a machine and drawn out to determine which team will get the coveted number one overall pick. This method is done to ensure all franchises have a chance at the number one pick, whereas in previous seasons teams would lose on purpose as they were guaranteed to land the number one pick if they had the worst record in the league. The odds of the team winning the lottery is based on their record during the regular season. The franchise with the worst record has their name on the most balls in the machine, and are drawn out one by one in order to establish a selecting order. Winning the draft lottery means you hold the opportunity to make the first selection on draft night.
The 16 teams who made the playoffs make up the 15-30 selections. The further a team advances in the season, the lower the pick becomes (NBA champion picks 30th, runners up pick 29th, teams that exited the Conference Finals pick 28th and 27th etc). If two teams exit at the same time, the franchise with the better record gets the lower pick.
Why does the NBA draft have a combine?
The NBA draft combine is conducted at a designated time close to draft night. The combine is designed for a couple of main reasons; the first being prospects have their physical measurements taken in order to give accurate data to potential suitors. The second and most important reason is the draft combine is constructed so both players and potential employers can make their case. Players are put through every physical test imaginable both with and without the basketball in order to prove their worth. These include measuring height, weight, body fat percentage, wingspan, hand length, hand width and standing reach. Other tests involve bench press, vertical leap, standing vertical, three-quarter sprint, shuttle run and lane agility. Lastly, players will go through both on the move and on the spot before all out scrimmaging. A series of interviews are then conducted in order for the player to meet the franchise and vice versa.
It’s important to note during the combine a prospect’s draft stock can either rise or fall. Due to the event being an invite-only, the majority of lottery prospects choose not to attend, as they believe it can only be detrimental to where they lie on the draft board. In contrast, players that are anticipated to be selected in the later rounds or perhaps not even at all are eager to attend the combine. By doing so, they can showcase their full repertoire in the hopes of pushing themselves up the draft board or finding an NBA home.
The NBA draft combine can also be a platform for players to be invited for individual and team workouts, as organizations aim to gather as much information as possible in preparation for draft night.
What happens on NBA Draft Night?
On draft night, a total of 60 prospects will be selected to join an NBA franchise (30 in the first round, 30 in the second round). Although we have established the traditional draft order, that is often subject to drastic change as front offices work towards constructing their rosters. Various trades involve picks attached, meaning on draft night you could well be selecting in the lottery even though you were a playoff team the previous year. Anything is possible due to trades, salary cap, free agency and overall roster manoeuvring, which is why draft night is one of the most interesting events on the NBA calendar.
As for the proceedings, franchises are given five minutes on the clock to make their selections, or manufacture a deal with someone who wants it. History has shown us this is commonplace, as franchises chose to move up or down the draft depending on their situation and roster goals. The second rounds teams have two minutes on the clock to make their decisions, and the draft is completed as the last franchise makes the 60th pick to conclude the second round.
For most players, NBA draft night is a mixture of anticipation and hope. There are few very players every season that enter the draft already knowing they will find NBA homes, and those are usually the lottery picks. Besides the lottery picks, teams historically choose the best available talent left, or select players they believe can fill a hole in their roster.
For many, the future of their basketball careers on American soil lie in a front office’s roster objectives. As for the top prospects, they shake the commissioners hand, put on their new teams cap, and propel themselves into millionaire status in a matter of seconds.