How Many Players Enter The NBA Draft? (All You Need To Know)

Editorial credit: Algimantas Barzdzius /

The NBA has the least number of draft pick rounds, with only two compared to the NFL’s seven. With only 60 draft picks for the teams, only two rounds are needed to complete the draft process, and each team has one pick per round.

Sixty players enter the NBA draft in a regular year. No player is permitted to sign with the league until they have been eligible for at least one draft. In 2022, there were only 58 players in the draft due to the Bulls and Heat forfeiting their second-round picks.

With every annual draft, some players apply as early candidates for the current, and in 2022, 247 from various colleges and 36 international players applied. Let’s get on the court to understand how many players enter the NBA draft.

How Does The NBA Draft Pick System Work

The NBA draft pick operates under the 2017 collective bargaining agreement, and as such, only 60 players in a regular year can enter the NBA Draft.

Of the 30 teams in the NBA, the top 16 go to the playoffs, while the remaining 14 do not. When the draft comes around, these 14 teams go into the draft pick lottery, and this happens so that the lower-placed teams get a chance at the first four draft picks and also decide the balance of the draft pick order.

The lottery uses specific odds algorithms to position the team with the best record as having the lowest chance of landing the first overall pick.

Over the two rounds of picks, each team can pick one player, and of course, like the NFL, teams can trade picks through the draft process – but what are the eligibility requirements for the NBA draft?

What Players Are Eligible For The NBA Draft Pick

While there are early submissions for the NBA draft, there are strict rules regarding eligibility for players wanting to enter the draft and be considered for the forthcoming season.

There are two fundamental criteria for eligibility. The first is that the player must be 19 years old or older and the second is that they are at least a year beyond high school graduation; aside from these conditions, there are various types of eligibility.

What Is Automatic Eligibility For The NBA Draft

Where a player has met the minimum criteria above and, in addition to those, has either completed four years of college eligibility, has graduated from high school at least four years ago and without enrolling in a US University, or has a signed professional contract with a team outside the NBA.

If the latter applies, the player must be released from the contract to qualify for the NBA Draft.

What Does Early Entry Eligibility For The NBA Draft Mean

Early entry is where players do not qualify for automatic eligibility but meet the minimum criteria and wish to make themselves available for the draft.

They have to notify the NBA and declare their availability at least 60 days before the draft, and they can withdraw their declaration a minimum of 10 days before the draft. If a player signs an agent or declares for two drafts, they risk losing their college eligibility status.

What Draft Criteria Apply For International Players

While not unsimilar to the terms applying to local players, there are some small differences between the criteria for international players. However, they still need to meet the minimum standards of being 19 years old and at least one year removed from high school.

An international player is considered such when they have been a resident outside the USA for at least three years while playing professional basketball, have not enrolled in a US University, and have not completed high school in the USA.

Players must meet all three criteria for the ‘international player’ classification. They can be automatically eligible if they are at least 22 years old or older and have signed a professional contract with a team in the US but not in the NBA.

Why Did The 2022 Draft Only Have 58 Picks

This situation occurred as the NBA seized two draft picks, one from the Milwaukee Bucks and the other from the Chicago Bulls, for infringement of the free agency tampering rules.

Tampering is where one team attempts to persuade a player connected to another team to join them without knowing the team they are currently playing for. This negotiation is usually done through the player’s agent.

This action is not illegal, but it is generally frowned upon and forbidden in the collective bargaining agreement. If this comes to light as it did with the Bulls and the Bucks, the NBA can take punitive action against teams by removing players they have picked in the draft.

Can Teams Have More Than One Draft Pick

As with football, teams can have more than one draft pick, which can be facilitated through trades, or they can create deals with other teams around future draft picks.

When teams trade away star players, they can often do this where they receive multiple drafts picks from the current draft, or they can even receive draft picks from future drafts as part of the trade agreement.

When trading draft picks, some parameters are involved to ensure that poor management decisions don’t jeopardize teams. One of those rules is that teams can only trade future draft picks for up to 7 years ahead.

Also, the Stepien rule states that no team can trade their first-round draft picks for two consecutive drafts, plus teams can also protect their draft picks.

So, if a team trades their first-round pick to another team – but that pick is ‘top-10 protected’, then if that pick falls in the top 10 picks when the draft comes around, the trading team gets to keep the pick – if not then the pick is traded as per agreement.


Even though the 2022 draft only had 58 picks, the 2023 draft should be back at the usual 60 draft picks unless other teams have infringed and suffer sanctions from the NBA. But now that you know more about this process, you can keep a watch on touted players for the coming season!


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