If you didn’t understand before, now you do: NBA drafts explained

How the process of picking players in the draft evens out the playing fields in the NBA

'Now no team can have more than a 14 per cent chance at the No. 1 pick,' Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur said on the process of NBA drafts. (Photo courtesy Josh Kim/TMU Athletics) 

With the 2023 NBA draft approaching, it is important to understand how the draft works, what the draft lottery is and why it is significant, and what the next step is for the players who are not drafted.

The NBA draft is an annual event where teams select players to join them in their following season, based on the team’s performance from the previous season: the worse a team performs, the better odds they have in the draft pick to select higher ranked draft players and improve their team.

The draft lottery is an event created for the NBA teams that did not make the playoffs in the previous season, which determines what order these teams will get to choose their draft pick for the following season and gives them a chance to pick before the teams who did make the playoffs. This process involves ping pong balls that are put into a lottery machine and picked at random, which is why it is called the draft lottery.

How do the NBA drafts work? 

There are two rounds of 30 in the NBA draft. By the end of it, all of the teams collectively pick a total of 60 players who are drafted for the next season. 

Leading up to the draft

Callum Baker, an athlete and guard leading the University of Toronto men’s basketball team in points, said that a combination of the top basketball players from college, the NBA G League, which is the National Basketball Association’s minor league, and overseas in Europe, enter their names and go through a draft combine. 

The NBA draft combine takes place prior to the official draft and is a training camp for potential prospects to be analyzed and ranked. 

From this, a mock draft is created, which ranks the players and allows team scouts to reach out to their potential drafts. Baker said it also helps players and teams to, “figure out where they are going to be drafted one through 60.” 

How does the NBA decide who gets first picks? 

Bruce Arthur, Toronto Star columnist, said in a Twitter direct message, “The NBA draft works by flattening out the possibilities of who picks where.”

At the end of a regular NBA season, there are 14 teams that do not make playoffs. These 14 teams are put into a draft lottery during the first round of picks in the draft. 

First round of draft picks

To make things fair, the draft lottery, which was created in 1985 by the NBA Board of Governors, decides the order of picks from first pick to 14th pick. This gives the bottom 14 teams greater odds at picks, so that they have the opportunity to choose better players and improve their teams overall. 

During the event, 14 ping pong balls numbered one through 14 are placed into a lottery machine and mixed. Prior to the event, each team is awarded a certain number of combinations, depending on how well they did in the last season; the worse a team did, the more combinations they receive to increase their odds.

The drawing process pulls four balls out one-by-one to create a four-number combination. The team that was given that combination prior to the lottery receives the No. 1 pick. This process carries on until the fourth pick.

From that point on, the order of picks and a team’s odds are determined by their win-loss records.

The 15th to 30th picks in the first round are decided by the reverse order of how the remaining teams finished in the previous standings. 

Second round of draft picks

Through the 31st to the 60th pick, there is no lottery. The order of these picks are decided by the order of the teams’ win-loss records from the previous season. 

In simpler terms, the team that finished first has the smallest odds and the last pick, while the team that finished last has better odds, and the first pick.

Why is the lottery significant?

Arthur described the draft lottery as a “weighted lottery which gave non-playoff teams a higher chance at the top picks, but short of certainty.” 

In 2017, the NBA Board of Governors declared that during the 2019 season onward, the lottery system ensures that the three bottom teams from the previous season would share the same odds (14 per cent) of receiving the No. 1 draft pick, and the odds for the remaining teams gradually decreases.

Before the lottery, draft picks were given strictly by how teams recorded, which led teams to lose on purpose in order to secure top draft picks in the following season.

Tim Micallef, host of Tim and Friends on Sportsnet, said in an Instagram direct message that in prior years, “generational talent in an upcoming draft could cause a race to the bottom, but by weighting the odds in a lottery, teams are not guaranteed the first overall pick by simply finishing with the most losses.”

What happens to players who are not drafted? 
If a player goes into the draft and unfortunately they don’t hear their name being called, they have the opportunity to try and get into the G League, which is the developmental league for the NBA,” Baker said.

Baker also explained that a recent rule allows for players to maintain their college eligibility if they are not picked for the NBA or G League. Other options include playing overseas in Europe. 

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Posted: Feb 22 2023 4:04 pm
Filed under: Basketball College Sports