How Does the NBA Draft Work?

The system used by the NBA Commissioner enables the selection of the three lucky teams that will be able to choose in the first positions of the draft.
How Does the NBA Draft Work?

Last update: 24 March, 2019

The NBA draft is an American lottery system that consists of two rounds and takes place at the end of June each year. It was created in 1950 as a particular system for selecting players under 23 years of age. How is it done today? Up next, we’ll tell you more about it.

Since the 1984/1985 season, the NBA celebrates every year the lottery that will affect the future of the best basketball league in the world; whether for short, medium, or long term.

Despite the suspicions of fraud taking place in the first edition, this procedure is essential for the selection of new talents.

The NBA draft lottery

The lottery process of the NBA draft is based on a complex system of numerical combinations. It seeks to escape the accusations of scams that come about each season from several parties resuscitating the issue.

Before the draw, each of the franchises receives a series of random arrangements of four numbers, ranging from numbers 1 to 14; there can’t be any duplicates among them.


The NBA draft seeks to be transparent in its process.
Photo courtesy of Sportball.

According to their position and balance during the season, the teams receive more or fewer combinations. Consequently, the lowest ranking team receives 250 and the team with the best balance of those who didn’t classify for the playoffs receives only 5.

Out of the 1001 possible combinations, 1000 of them are distributed. In the event that the specific combination that nobody has appears in the raffle, the process starts over. Once explained, we can properly talk about what the NBA draft lottery is.

Operation of the draw

The lottery itself takes place in the presence of a representative of each of the franchises involved and a limited group of journalists authorized by the NBA.

The importance of the Top 3

By means of a timed complex system, the first four numbers are extracted. These numbers will determine the team that will have the privilege to select in the first position of the draft. This same operation is repeated to decide the second and third places.

It’s worth mentioning that if a combination of one of the teams that have already been graced appears, the raffle should be repeated.

If the same combination comes up twice, the raffle is repeated.
Image courtesy of El Mundo.

The rest of the teams

The teams that weren’t selected in the first three positions of the draft are then placed in the same order in which they finished the season.

That is to say: if the three winning teams of the lottery were the 1st, 2nd, and 4th teams with the most chances of winning the raffle, the fourth position will go to the team with the third worst balance; without any changes taking place onward from the fourth position.

It’s evident that the NBA uses this formula because they consider it ideal for dispelling any suspicion of fraud. Mainly because of the difficulty in manipulating the draw and guaranteeing the order in which the balls will come out.

To ensure greater transparency, the NBA publishes the video of the raffle on its website. Moreover, in keeping with that tradition of economic spectacle, it also broadcasts on television.

Television re-transmission

Around half an hour after the NBA draft lottery is completed, which was briefly explained, the results are made public. This signifies the position in which each team will select in the upcoming month of June.

To this end, each team summons a second franchise representative who holds an honorary position. The representative will appear on television under the direction of the NBA vice-commissioner. They will be in charge of directing the show.

None of the attendees of this ‘gala’ knows what the results are prior to the draw. To ensure that this is true, both team representatives are stripped from their mobile phones. This prevents any possible leaks among them.


Once the draft lottery draw is complete, each of the 30 teams that make up the NBA is aware of the position they’ll select for that edition. It’ll take place in the following month of June.

From that point on, they can start working on the strategy that best suits them in terms of their objectives – short, medium, or long term.

The planning involves many aspects. It ranges from programming workouts with players that’ll be, presumably, within their array of choice, to probing the market in order to assess the value that their choices could have in the face of a possible transfer.

Players can be trated as soon as the season ends.

Use of your rounds in the draft

Although it’s unusual for trades to occur prior to the night of the draft, franchises can make exchanges from the moment after their season ends; whether for being eliminated in the playoffs or for winning the championship.

Finally, this intricate process will end on the most anticipated day of the month of June: the night of the draft.

We hope that we were able to help you better understand how the draft of the best basketball league works. Even if its a quite complex, it doesn’t stop it from being interesting.

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