Skip to Content

The NBA Disaster Draft: How Does It Work?

In 1960, the Minneapolis Lakers went missing when the plane transporting them home lost all electrical power. Upon this plane journey, were franchise players, such as Jerry West . However, luckily the two pilots on the plane were very capable and after hours of flying the plane landed in a corn field in Iowa. The NBA realised that if the events had turned out much worse, then the league realised that they had no procedure for helping a team which could of been struck by tragedy. Therefore they created the NBA disaster draft.

What is the NBA disaster draft? A team which had lost a large section of its team would be entitled to a disaster draft. This means a team impacted by a disaster, could select one player from each other NBA team . However, the NBA teams could exclude five players from the draft , these would be their star players. Therefore, the draft would be made up largely of sixth men.

When would a Disaster Draft happen?

A disaster draft would take place, if a NBA team lost (death or through amputation) five or more players. A realistic example of this would be if the team plane crashed and a number of a teams players were lost. Obviously, we are just discussing the hypothetical situation and hope that a disaster draft never has to take place.

The idea for a disaster draft happened following the Minneapolis Lakers (now known as the LA Lakers) plane went missing and the worst was assumed. There had not been radio contact for a number of hours as the battery on their airplane went dead and the plane was flying through a storm. Luckily, the skillful and brave pilots managed to land the plane in a cornfield in Iowa. Although there were no fatalities during this incident it became very obvious that there was no protocol in place if the worse was to happen. Hence why the disaster draft was created .

What are the rules of a disaster draft?

If for an example the worse case scenario has happened to an NBA franchise, than a disaster draft will take place to ensure that the franchise could continue. However, you may wonder what are the rules of the disaster draft? These are not defined on the NBA rules website however, we have supplied the rules through researching this topic.

Firstly, each NBA team would have to draw up a list of five players who they would list as untouchable for the draft. This would mean the prize assets of another franchise could not be taken. If the disaster draft were to happen today, one would assume that the Lakers would not want to part with LeBron or Anthony Davis.

This would essentially mean that an NBA team which has been impacted by the said disaster would have their choice of all sixthman players and bench players. A franchise impacted by a disaster could put together a very strong roster with sixthman and bench players.

Secondly, in the disaster draft although the disaster team would have pick of 15 players from 30 NBA teams, the disaster team would only be able to pick one player from a franchise to join their team. This is to ensure that another franchise is not deeply impacted by the draft. As there are now more teams in the NBA, compared to the 1960s, there is a one in two chance that a franchise would lose a player in a disaster draft.

Thirdly, an NBA franchise taking part in a disaster draft cannot exceed its salary cap. Therefore, if there were survivors of the disaster who were high salary earners then these amounts would still be counted as part of your salary cap.

Lastly, the franchise which is impacted by the disaster would be given the first pick in the next NBA draft and keep their existing draft picks. One would assume that the league would just bump every franchises draft pick position down by one in order to accommodate the disaster franchise teams first round pick. One would assume that if the disaster team already had the first pick they would then hold the first and second pick of the next draft.

Could a Disaster Impacted Franchise Win a Championship?

Although it is a hypothetical situation, there is a strong possibility that a disaster team could be able to win a championship with the players that they acquire through the disaster draft. Realistically, it would be the sixthman of the NBA who would have a shot at winning the NBA Championship.

Since its incarceration in the 1982 NBA season, the sixthman award highlighted the players who come off the bench and make a huge impact to the game. If we look through the sixthman winners, you can see the caliber of player which could be acquired.

The significant players that have won the sixthman since its inception in 1982 are Kevin McHale, Detlef Shcrempf, Dell Curry, Manu Ginobili, Jason Terry, James Harden and Lou Williams. This shows that there is significant talent in a sixthman position for an NBA Disaster Franchise to be able to continue.

If you were to take the shortlist for the 2019 Sixthman award you can see the quality that could be chosen in an NBA disaster draft. As you can see from the table below, the average points per game for the shortlisted sixthman players is 15.5 points per game. The shortlist also puts together 4.08 assists a game on average. Therefore, it is very credible that a team impacted by a disaster can put together a team which could make a run for the playoffs and if not win a NBA Championship ring.

NamePoints Per GameAssists Per Game
Lou Williams20.45.2
Dennis Schroder15.44.2
Derrick Rose184.3
Jaylen Brown132
Fred Van Vleet10.74.7
Total15.54.08