NBA Draft

There are two ways of making it to the NBA: the draft and free agency.

Plotting a Course in the Draft

All players who turn 22 years of age are automatically included in that year’s draft. Exceptionally talented players may elect to enter the draft at a younger age. They then have to apply for an early entry as an underclassman. Players may remove themselves from being considered in the draft by the same process.

The first round of the draft is usually dominated by underclassmen (players younger than 22). The reason is that players are drafted based on their future potential, not on their current skill level. As has often been the case, NBA prospects generate hype and are drafted early in the hopes that they will someday develop into an NBA star.

Conversely, players who are 22 years old are not expected to grow any bigger or stronger, nor are they expected to improve their skills very much. They are considered a “ready product.” These players are familiar to NBA teams, who have scouted them for several years.

Pre-Draft Camps

There are three major camps prior to the draft:

  • The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in early April for American college seniors
  • A camp held in Treviso, Italy at the beginning of June for non-American players
  • The Chicago Pre-Draft camp in May, which is open to everyone including veterans and free agents


There are two ways of making it to the NBA: the draft and free agency.

After the Draft Timeline

  • End of June: The NBA Draft is held

    Underclassmen who feel they might not get drafted (or drafted high enough) can withdraw from the draft and try next year.

    Players who are 22 years of age do not have this option.

  • Early July: NBA teams hold mini-camps and the Summer League begins

    Players who did not get drafted may try to get a spot in a mini-camp and/or secure a spot on a Summer League roster.

  • October: NBA holds its preseason training camps

    Players hope to get invited to a training camp.

The Realities of the Draft

Many players don’t realize how difficult and expensive it is to make the NBA as a non-drafted free agent. NBA scouts evaluate every draft-eligible player and there are no secrets. If a player doesn’t get drafted it is usually because he lacks the size, the strength, or the athleticism for the NBA. Scouts are paid a great deal of money to evaluate talent, and very rarely will they admit to letting an NBA talent slip through their fingers.

The truth is that the overwhelming majority of the players in the NBA were drafted, and most of them in the first round.