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Can NBA players reject a draft pick?

NBA players do not have the ability to outright reject being drafted by a team. However, there are some limited ways a player can try to influence which team drafts them or avoid playing for a specific team.

Can players refuse to sign with the team that drafts them?

Yes, players can refuse to sign a contract with the team that drafts them. If a player gets drafted but does not sign with that team, they become an unsigned draft pick. Unsigned draft picks have a few options:

  • Sign with the team that drafted them the following year
  • Enter the draft again the following year
  • Try to play professionally overseas

There have been a few instances of players successfully avoiding playing for the team that drafted them by going overseas or re-entering the draft, but this is rare. Most players end up signing with the team that drafted them, even if it takes a year or two of negotiations.

Can a player request a team not to draft them?

Players cannot outright prevent a team from drafting them if that team holds a pick. However, leading up to the draft, a player can try to influence teams not to draft them by:

  • Refusing to share medical information or make private workouts available to certain teams
  • Stating publicly they do not want to play for a certain team or in a certain city
  • Hinting they will refuse to sign long-term if drafted by a certain team

This does not guarantee a team will pass on drafting the player, but it could influence their decision, especially in the first round when contracts are guaranteed. Teams want players who enthusiastically want to play for them.

Can a drafted player force a trade to a different team?

No, players do not have the power to force a trade. The team that drafts a player holds their exclusive NBA playing rights. Requesting a trade is the most a player can do – the team does not have to trade them. However, sometimes it is in the team’s interest to work out a trade rather than have an unhappy player refuse to sign a long-term contract.

Have any players successfully refused to play for a team that drafted them?

Here are a few examples of players who avoided signing with the team that drafted them:

  • JD Barnett – Drafted by Portland in 1987, never played an NBA game
  • Jon Koncak – Drafted 5th by Philadelphia in 1985, signed with Atlanta in 1989 after playing in Italy
  • Danny Ferry – Drafted 2nd by LA Clippers in 1989, played in Italy before signing with Cleveland in 1990
  • Steve Francis – Drafted 2nd by Vancouver in 1999, immediately traded to Houston
  • Kobe Bryant – Drafted 13th by Charlotte in 1996, traded to LA Lakers on draft night

As these examples show, outright refusing to play for the drafting team is rare, but holding out and requesting a trade is more common among top draft picks.

What happens if a player gets injured before signing a contract?

If a player sustains a serious injury after being drafted but before signing a contract, their options are:

  • Sign the contract they negotiated pre-injury
  • Attempt to renegotiate the contract terms
  • Refuse to sign and sit out a year to re-enter the draft

Teams still hold the drafted player’s exclusive NBA rights even if injured. But the player gains leverage to renegotiate if the injury is serious enough to substantially lower their value.

Can unsigned draft picks play in the NBA?

No, players who are drafted but remain unsigned cannot play in the NBA unless they sign a contract with the team that drafted them. They can play professionally overseas or in the NBA G League until they sign.

Once eligible for unrestricted free agency, they are free to sign with any NBA team. But the drafting team maintains exclusive NBA rights indefinitely as long as the player refuses to sign a contract.

Do players lose draft eligibility by going undrafted?

No, players who go undrafted maintain their eligibility and can enter the following year’s draft. As long as they meet the NBA draft eligibility rules, players can enter each year until they are drafted or become ineligible. Most players are draft eligible for up to 5-6 years after high school.

After going undrafted, players have a few options:

  • Sign with any NBA team as an undrafted free agent
  • Play in the NBA G League or overseas
  • Re-enter the draft the following year

Notable undrafted players include Ben Wallace, Brad Miller, Jeremy Lin, and Fred VanVleet.

What is the NBA draft combine?

The NBA draft combine is a multi-day showcase held every May before the draft where draft prospects participate in measurements, drills, scrimmages, and interviews. The main components include:

  • Anthropometric and athletic testing – Height, weight, wingspan, vertical leap, shuttle run, etc.
  • 5 on 5 scrimmages – Games between prospects overseen by NBA coaches and scouts
  • Shooting and strength drills – Spot shooting, dribbling, and strength and agility drills
  • Medical testing – Physicals and injury evaluation by NBA team doctors
  • Interviews – Teams interview prospects to evaluate intellect, personality, and fit

The combine gives teams an opportunity to evaluate prospects up close leading up to the draft. Performance and measurements at the combine can affect a player’s draft stock.

What are the requirements for declaring for the NBA draft?

The main NBA draft eligibility requirements are:

  • Player must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft
  • Player must be at least one year removed from high school graduation
  • All non-international players must declare their eligibility by 60 days prior to the draft

College underclassmen and international players under 22 meet the age and high school requirements. They must simply declare their eligibility by the NBA’s deadline to enter the draft.

What is the NBA draft lottery?

The NBA draft lottery is a weighted drawing that determines the order of selection for the teams that miss the NBA playoffs. The lottery order only applies to the first round picks, all non-playoff teams select in reverse order of record in the second round.

The lottery weights the odds so the teams with the worst regular season records have the best chance to draw a top 3 pick. This lottery system was designed to discourage teams from intentionally losing games to improve draft position.

NBA Draft Lottery Odds 2023

Team Record Lottery Odds
14-68 52.1%
15-67 52.1%
16-66 52.1%
17-65 37.2%
18-64 31.9%
19-63 26.3%
20-62 20.8%
21-61 15.7%
22-60 10.4%
23-59 6.0%
24-58 2.2%
25-57 0.7%
26-56 0.2%
27-55 0.1%
28-54 0.1%
29-53 <0.1%
30-52 <0.1%

The teams with the three worst records have a 52.1% chance of securing a top 3 pick. The remaining non-playoff teams have diminishing odds based on their record. The lottery sets the top 4 picks, the remainder of the non-playoff teams draft in reverse order of regular season record.

Who went #1 in the draft?

Here are the #1 overall picks in the NBA draft by year:

Year #1 Pick Team
2022 Paolo Banchero Orlando Magic
2021 Cade Cunningham Detroit Pistons
2020 Anthony Edwards Minnesota Timberwolves
2019 Zion Williamson New Orleans Pelicans
2018 Deandre Ayton Phoenix Suns
2017 Markelle Fultz Philadelphia 76ers
2016 Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers
2015 Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves
2014 Andrew Wiggins Cleveland Cavaliers
2013 Anthony Bennett Cleveland Cavaliers
2012 Anthony Davis New Orleans Hornets
2011 Kyrie Irving Cleveland Cavaliers
2010 John Wall Washington Wizards
2009 Blake Griffin LA Clippers
2008 Derrick Rose Chicago Bulls
2007 Greg Oden Portland Trail Blazers
2006 Andrea Bargnani Toronto Raptors
2005 Andrew Bogut Milwaukee Bucks

Some recent top picks include LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, and Zion Williamson.

What was the 1984 NBA draft class called?

The 1984 NBA draft class is considered one of the best draft classes ever. It included:

  • Michael Jordan – Pick #3
  • Hakeem Olajuwon – Pick #1
  • Charles Barkley – Pick #5
  • John Stockton – Pick #16

With four Hall of Famers including Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Charles Barkley, the 1984 draft class is often referred to as the “Legendary Draft” or “Draft of Dreams.” It is considered one of the most talented draft pools in NBA history.

When did the NBA draft start?

The first NBA draft was held in 1947, the year the NBA was founded. Some key details on the history of the NBA draft:

  • 1947 – First draft held with 11 total picks
  • 1949 – Draft expanded to 22 total picks
  • 1966 – Draft expanded to 10 rounds and 170 picks
  • 1985 – Draft shortened to 7 rounds
  • 1989 – Draft shortened to 3 rounds
  • 1998 – Draft shortened to 2 rounds

The NBA draft has been held every year since its inception in 1947, with the number of rounds and total draft picks changing over time. It has consisted of 2 rounds and 60 draft picks since 1998.

What is the draft wheel concept?

The draft wheel is a proposed concept to change the way draft order is determined in the NBA. Current teams are randomly slotted into a 30 team “draft wheel.” The wheel would cycle through a predetermined order over a 30 year period, setting each team’s draft position for the first round over that span.

The wheel would eliminate the draft lottery and determine draft position based on a set rotation. Proponents argue it could discourage tanking and make draft position more balanced over time. Critics say it takes away hope for struggling franchises to quickly rebuild through the draft.


In summary, NBA players do not have much power to reject their draft selection due to the draft rights system. Players can refuse to sign and re-enter the draft, play overseas, or try to force a trade, but have no leverage to outright prevent a team from drafting them. The NBA draft order is determined by a weighted lottery for non-playoff teams and then inverse order of record for playoff teams.

The draft provides the primary intake of new talent into the NBA. Teams hope to select a foundational player that can lead to contention. There have been legendary draft classes such as 1984 that brought multiple Hall of Famers into the league together. While no system is perfect, the current draft model aims to encourage competitiveness and parity across the NBA.