NBA Draft is the annual event in which the 30 NBA teams get a chance to pick any eligible players either from college, different American basketball leagues, or from international leagues.


The NBA draft is currently divided into two rounds, with thirty picks per round. The order of selections is based on several rules. The first fourteen picks of the draft belong to the teams that did not enter the playoffs in that year's season. These teams participate in a lottery to determine the order of the first three picks. Each team is assigned a number of chances based upon season standings to 'win' the lottery. After these three teams have been determined, the remaining picks are given out based on regular season record with the worst teams getting the highest remaining picks. This lottery assures each team can drop no more than 3 positions from its projected draft position. The lottery also prevents teams from throwing the season to ensure a top draft pick.

The next sixteen spots in the draft are reserved for the teams that made it into that season's playoffs. The order of these sixteen teams' selection is determined by their regular-season win-loss record, going from worst to best. Therefore, the team with the best record selects last. The team with the best record is not necessarily the champion; for example, in the 2004 NBA Draft, the last pick did not go to the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons, but rather to the Indiana Pacers (this is unlike the NFL Draft, in which the Super Bowl champion always draws the final selection of the first round).

The order of selections in the second round are also based upon season standings, with the worst team picking first and the best picking last. There is no lottery for the second round. Teams are allowed to trade future draft picks (first and second round) as they would current players.

League rules prohibit a team from trading away their own future first-round picks in consecutive years. This rule was created partially as a reaction to the practices of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the early 1980s. Ted Stepien, who owned the team from 1980 to 1983, made a series of trades for players of questionable value that cost the team several years of first-round picks. The trades nearly destroyed the franchise; the NBA pressured Stepien into selling out, and in order to get a solid local owner (Gordon Gund), the league had to sweeten the deal by giving the Cavaliers several future bonus draft picks.

Selection Process

All U.S. players are automatically eligible upon the end of their college eligibility. Through 2005, U.S. players were also allowed to declare eligibility for the draft at any time between high school graduation and the completion of college eligibility. International players could declare eligibility in the calendar year of their 18th birthday, or later.

Starting with the 2006 NBA Draft, the eligibility rules have changed:

  • All players, regardless of nationality, must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft.
  • A U.S. player must also be at least one year removed from the graduation of his high school class.
  • This age limit for draftees is part of the new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players union.

The NBA has established two draft declaration dates. All players who wish to be drafted, and are not automatically eligible, must declare their eligibility on or before the first declaration date. After this date, prospective draftees may attend NBA pre-draft camps and individual team workouts to show off their skills and obtain feedback regarding their draft positions. A player may withdraw his name from consideration from the draft at any time before the final declaration date, which is one week before the draft. A player who declares for the draft will lose his college eligibility, even if he is not drafted, if any of the following is true:

The player signs with an agent. The player has declared for and withdrawn from the draft in any previous year. When a player is selected in the first round of the draft, the team that selected him is required to sign him to at least a one-year contract. Players selected in the second round are "owned" by the team for three years, but the teams are not required to sign them.

Players chosen earlier in the draft are generally regarded as better prospects than those selected later, but there is always a level of uncertainty around the selections. Past drafts are filled with examples of late-pick superstars and early-pick busts. Perhaps the most famous example of a draft bust came in 1984, when the Portland Trail Blazers selected Sam Bowie with the second pick. Bowie went on to become a journeyman with an injury-riddled career, while the Chicago Bulls used the third pick to draft Michael Jordan, who is generally recognized as the greatest player of all time.

There have been 8 instances when a team has won back-to-back number 1 overall picks: Providence Steam Rollers (1948 and 1949), Baltimore Bullets (1953 and 1954), Rochester/Cincinnati Royals 2x (1956 and 1957, 1959 and 1960), New York Knicks (1963 and 1964), Houston Rockets (1983 and 1984), Orlando Magic (1992 and 1993), and the most recent time being the Cleveland Cavaliers (2013 and 2014). Teams that have never won a number 1 overall pick: Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, and Utah Jazz

First Overall Picks Since 1947

Note: All players are American nationals unless otherwise indicated.

Other Notes

  • From 1947-1949, the NBA did not exist yet, so drafts from those periods are called the "BAA Draft".
  • Olajuwon did not become a U.S. citizen until 1993.
  • Ewing was born in Jamaica, but became a naturalized U.S. citizen by the time he was drafted.
  • The NBA considers all players from outside the 50 United States and the District of Columbia to be "international," even if they come from political entities that share a common citizenship with the U.S., such as Duncan's original home of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Until 1965, teams could choose, in lieu of their first round pick, to designate a player who went to high school within fifty miles of their location. Wilt Chamberlain was the best-known "territorial pick".

External Links Draft Historian Matthew Maurer chronicles every pick ever made in the NBA Draft from 1950 - present day
JustBBall Draft Coverage's draft page, with selections organized by year and college.
Complete list of every NBA draft pick, from 1951 to present day
NBA Draft World
NBA Mock Draft Madness!
NBA Draft News @
NBA Mock Draft
NBA Draft from
RealGM NBA Draft Simulator
CenterCourt Hoops
Daily Basketball blog
NBA Mock Draft and Draft Analysis Reports about European Draft prospects
NBA Mock Drafts/Historical Draft Grades