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The NBA draft is an annual event in which the thirty teams from the National Basketball Association (NBA) can draft players who are eligible and wish to join the league. These players are usually amateur U.S. college basketball players, but international players are also eligible to be drafted. College players who have finished their four-year college eligibility are automatically eligible for selection, while the underclassmen have to declare their eligibility and give up their remaining college eligibility. International players who are at least 22 years old are automatically eligible for selection, while the players younger than 22 have to declare their eligibility. Players who are not automatically eligible but have declared their eligibility are often called "early-entrants" or "early-entry candidates". The draft usually takes place at the end of June, during the NBA off-season. The draft consists of two rounds with a total of sixty players to be selected. No player may sign with the NBA until he has been eligible for at least one draft.
In the past, high school players were also eligible to be selected. However, starting in the 2006 draft, high school players were not eligible to enter the draft directly after graduating from high school. The rules now state that high school players will gain eligibility for draft selection one year after their high school graduation and they must also be at least 19 years old as of the end of the calendar year of the draft. Contrary to popular belief, they do not necessarily have to have at least one year of college basketball (as some players have chosen to use that year to play professionally in Europe for example, such as Brandon Jennings).
NBA draft lottery
The NBA draft lottery is an annual event held by the NBA to determine the draft order. The teams who missed the playoffs in the previous season participate in a lottery process to determine the draft order. The lottery winner would get the first selection in the draft. In the current rules, 14 non-playoff teams participate in the draft lottery. The lottery is weighted so that the team with the worst record has the best chance of obtaining higher draft picks. The lottery process determines the first three picks of the draft. The rest of the first-round order of picks is in reverse order of the teams' win-loss record. The lottery does not determine the draft order in the second round of the draft. The term "lottery pick" denotes a draft pick whose position is determined through the lottery, while the non-playoff teams involved in the process are often called "lottery teams". The draft lottery system was first used in the 1985 draft.
Draft selection process
All players must be at least 19 years of age during the calendar year of the draft, and a player who completed basketball eligibility at an American high school must also be at least one year removed from the graduation of his high school class. Restrictions exist on players signing with sports agents and on declaring for, then withdrawing, from drafts—although most of them are enforced by the NCAA rather than the NBA.
In the early years of the draft, teams would select players until they ran out of prospects. The 1960 and 1968 drafts went 21 rounds. By 1974, it had stabilized to 10 rounds, which held up until 1985, when the draft was shortened to seven rounds. By agreement with the National Basketball Players Association, the drafts from 1989 onward have been limited to two rounds, which gives undrafted players the chance to try out for any team.
Globalization of the draft
The NBA draft has been dominated by collegiate players since the draft was put in place in 1950. In more recent years high school seniors have also had a large impact on the draft. These include players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, and Amar'e Stoudemire. However, because of the new age requirement put in place in 2005, high school seniors are no longer eligible for the draft. During the same stretch that high school players were making a large impact on the draft, another group of players started to make their presence felt in the draft.
Selecting foreign players
Foreign players have made a large impact on how teams are now drafting. When the draft began, foreign players were not selected. As the years progressed, things began to change and a few international players were selected. The first foreign player, in the sense of being a national of a country other than the U.S., to be chosen first overall in the draft was Bahamian Mychal Thompson in 1978. However, Thompson's selection was not a true harbinger of the game's globalization, as he had spent much of his childhood in Florida, and had played college basketball at Minnesota. One of the first foreign players selected in the draft to play in the NBA was Manute Bol out of the Sudan in 1983 in the 5th round by the San Diego Clippers. Bol's selection was later deemed ineligible by the NBA. Two years later Bol was drafted again by the NBA this time out of Division II University of Bridgeport in 1985 as the 31st pick overall in the second round. Although Bol did not have a stellar career, he is known for being one of the tallest players ever to play the game at 7 feet and 7 inches. He holds the record for being the tallest player ever to hit a 3 point field goal. The following two years saw two players born outside the U.S. selected first overall—Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984 and Jamaica-born American Patrick Ewing in 1985. However, like Thompson before them, both had played U.S. college basketball—Olajuwon at Houston and Ewing at Georgetown—and Ewing had also played high school basketball in the U.S.
By the 1999 draft, the number of foreign players being drafted dramatically increased. The top pick in the 1997 NBA draft, Tim Duncan, became the third international player picked number 1 overall—although his designation as "international" is a matter of semantics, as he is a native of the United States Virgin Islands and, like all USVI natives, is a U.S. citizen by birth. He also had played U.S. college basketball at Wake Forest. Including Duncan, 12 international players were selected in the two rounds of the draft—although half of them, including Duncan and the next two such players picked, had played college basketball. The 1998 draft saw another foreign player picked first overall, Nigerian Michael Olowokandi, but like Duncan he had played college basketball, in his case at Pacific. In 2001 the highest drafted foreign player, Pau Gasol, was selected 3rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks. That would all change the following season when Yao Ming became the first foreign player without U.S. college experience to be selected number 1 overall. Not only was the first overall pick an international player, but five more picks in the first round alone were also from overseas. In total, the 2002 draft produced 17 international players, with only three of them (all second-round picks) having U.S. college experience.
International players selected number 1 overall
As noted earlier, four international players had gone first overall before 2002, although all had played college basketball in the U.S., and one of them was in fact a U.S. citizen by birth. It was not until 2002 that an international player without college experience went first overall—Yao Ming. His selection was not only a watershed moment for the NBA, it also had a large impact in Yao's homeland of China. Hannah Beech (2003) writes "Yao has single-handedly transformed his countrymen from nameless, faceless millions into mighty men who can jam with the very best."  Yao has helped the NBA grow into a worldwide product. Beech (2003) goes on to write "Ratings for NBA games broadcast on Chinese TV have never been higher than this year as the nation keeps track of its new favorite team, Yao's Houston Rockets."  For his career Yao averaged a solid 19.0 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game, 1.89 blocks per game, and shot 82.6 percent from the free throw line.
From the 2001 draft to the 2006 draft there were a total of 6 foreign players selected. This trend shows how NBA teams are expanding the way they are selecting players in the draft. Players like Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Tony Parker, and Nenê are changing the landscape of the NBA to include a wide array of players from all over the globe.
2002, 2005-2006, and 2013 drafts
The 2002, 2005, 2006, and 2013 drafts saw international players picked first overall. In 2002, the Houston Rockets selected Yao Ming from China first in the draft. In 2005, the Milwaukee Bucks picked Andrew Bogut, from Australia by way of the University of Utah, #1. The next year, the Toronto Raptors drafted Andrea Bargnani from Italy, making him the second foreign player without U.S. college experience and the first European to be selected number 1 overall. In 2013, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett, who played at UNLV, first overall and making Bennett the first Canadian to be drafted at #1.
Other notable past NBA drafts
Some of the most noted NBA draft years are 1984, 1996 and 2003. Each of those is often referred to as one of, if not the, best NBA draft ever. The 2003 NBA draft is now considered the best draft in the last 15 years, with superstars such as Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony headlined. The 2000 NBA draft has been regarded as the worst in history, with Sports Illustrated calling its first round "a horrible group of players." The 1986 Draft was notable for the number of solid and even outstanding players selected in later rounds, partly because of drug problems that claimed the life of second overall pick Len Bias and affected the careers of several other first-round picks.
- Draft bust
- Expansion draft
- Haywood v. National Basketball Association
- Mock draft
- NBA draft lottery
- NBA first overall draft pick
- NBA territorial pick
- WNBA draft
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- The unknown future of one-and-done – Myron Medcalf, ESPN, June 27, 2012
- Some college better than none: 'One-and-done' here to stay – Mike DeCourcy, December 9, 2011
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- "The Top 50 NBA Draft Lottery Busts of All-Time". Ryan Feldman, TheHoopsReport.com. June 15, 2008. Retrieved June 16, 2008.
- NBA.com: NBA Draft History
- Basketball-Reference.com: NBA Draft Index.
- TheDraftReview.com: NBA Draft Index