The 1976 NBA draft was the 30th annual draft of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The draft was held on June 8, 1976 before the 1976–77 season. In this draft, 18 NBA teams took turns selecting amateur U.S. college basketball players and other eligible players, including international players. The first two picks in the draft belonged to the teams that finished last in each conference, with the order determined by a coin flip. The Atlanta Hawks won the coin flip and were awarded the first overall pick, while the Chicago Bulls were awarded the second pick. The Hawks then traded the first pick to the Houston Rockets before the draft. The remaining first-round picks and the subsequent rounds were assigned to teams in reverse order of their win–loss record in the previous season. The New York Knicks forfeited their first-round draft pick due to their illegal signing of George McGinnis whose rights were held by the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers, the Golden State Warriors and the Buffalo Braves also forfeited their second, third and fourth-round pick respectively due to their participation in 1975 supplementary draftAmerican Basketball Association (ABA) players who had never been drafted in the NBA. A player who had finished his four-year college eligibility was eligible for selection. If a player left college early, he would not be eligible for selection until his college class graduated. Before the draft, 26 college underclassmen were declared eligible for selection under the "hardship" rule. 13 of them withdrew before the draft, leaving only 13 early entry candidates eligible for selection. These players had applied and gave evidence of financial hardship to the league, which granted them the right to start earning their living by starting their professional careers earlier. The draft consisted of 10 rounds comprising the selection of 173 players. On August 8, 1976 the league also hosted a Dispersal draft for ABA players from the Kentucky Colonels and Spirits of St. Louis, who were not included in the ABA–NBA merger.
d On July 30, 1975, the Washington Bullets acquired a first-round pick from the Buffalo Braves in exchange for Dick Gibbs. The Bullets used the pick to draft Mitch Kupchak.
e 12 On October 22, 1975, the Seattle SuperSonics acquired a second-round pick from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Jim Fox. Previously, the Bucks acquired two 1976 second-round picks on June 5, 1975 from the Atlanta Hawks as a compensation when the Hawks illegally signed Julius Erving. Previously the Hawks acquired Bob Kauffman, Dean Meminger, 1974 and 1975 first-round picks, 1975 and 1976 second-round picks, and a 1980 third-round pick on May 20, 1974 from the New Orleans Jazz in exchange for Pete Maravich. The Sonics used the pick to draft Bayard Forrest. The Bucks used the pick to draft Alex English.
g On November 3, 1975, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired John Roche and a second-round pick from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Pat Riley. Previously, the Suns acquired the pick on September 30, 1975 from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Earl Williams. The Lakers used the pick to draft Earl Tatum.
h On June 3, 1976, the New Orleans Jazz acquired a 1976 second-round pick from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for a 1977 second-round pick. Previously, the Blazers acquired the pick on June 9, 1975 from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Phil Lumpkin. Previously, the Suns acquired the pick and a 1977 third-round pick on November 27, 1974 from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Corky Calhoun. The Jazz used the pick to draft Jacky Dorsey.
i On October 8, 1973, the Atlanta Hawks acquired a 1976 second-round pick and a 1977 third-round pick from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Bob Christian. The Hawks used the pick to draft Bob Carrington.
j On February 1, 1976, the Phoenix Suns acquired Gar Heard and a second-round pick from the Buffalo Braves in exchange for John Shumate. The Suns used the pick to draft Al Fleming.
l On December 8, 1975, the Chicago Bulls acquired a 1977 second-round pick and a 1976 third-round pick from the Kansas City Kings in exchange for Matt Guokas. The Bulls used the pick to draft Lars Hansen.
On August 5, 1976, the NBA hosted a dispersal draft to select players from the Kentucky Colonels and Spirits of St. Louis, the American Basketball Association (ABA) franchises that were not included in the ABA–NBA merger. The eighteen NBA teams and the four ABA teams that joined the NBA, the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets and San Antonio Spurs, were allowed to participate in the draft. The teams selected in reverse order of their win–loss percentage in the previous NBA and ABA seasons. The team that made a selection must paid a certain price for the signing rights to the player, which are set by the league's committee. The money from the draft was used to help the four ABA teams that merged with the NBA to pay off some of their obligations to the two folded ABA franchises, the Colonels and the Spirits. The team that made a selection must assume the player's ABA contract. The player who are not selected would become a free agent.
Twenty players from the Colonels and the Spirits were available for the draft. Eleven were selected in the first round and the twelfth player was selected in the second round. Eight players were not selected and thus became a free agent. The Chicago Bulls used the first pick to select five-time ABA All-Star Artis Gilmore with a signing price of $1,100,000. The Portland Trail Blazers, who acquired the Atlanta Hawks' second pick, selected Maurice Lucas and Moses Malone with signing price of $300,000 and $350,000 respectively. Marvin Barnes, who was selected fourth by the Detroit Pistons was the second most expensive player in the draft with a signing price of $500,000. Several teams elected to pass their first-round picks and only the Kansas City Kings used the second-round pick. The draft continued until the third round, but no other players were selected.