This page is a mock draft built on a compilation of our writers’ rankings. As you’ll see, our writers have differing opinions on various prospects in this year’s class. Our writers expect the Minnesota Timberwolves to draft Anthony Edwards #1 overall – he sits atop everyone’s big board. LaMelo Ball isn’t far behind in our rankings, and he’ll likely be taken within the first three picks. This page can serve as a useful reference point for where we stand on various prospects, but make sure you check out our site’s prospect breakdowns before you make a final decision on any one guy.
History of the NBA Draft
The first professional basketball draft took place in 1947 when the National Basketball Association (NBA) was known as the Basketball Association of American (BAA). The BAA held a joint draft with the National Basketball League (NBL) - this was before the two leagues would later merge to form the NBA. In the 1947 draft, professional basketball was not remotely a glamorous profession - the first overall pick, Clifton McNeely, never appeared in a professional game as he opted for a high school coaching career instead. The draft has come a long way since then. In 1950, the first-ever official NBA draft, there were 121 total selections across 12 rounds. Drafts frequently went well over ten rounds, with there even being a 20-round draft in 1953. In 1989, the NBA officially moved to the current two-round format. In 2004, the 30th team was added to the NBA and became eligible for the draft - this was the Charlotte Bobcats, now the Charlotte Hornets. Historically, recent high school graduates were eligible to be drafted to the NBA, but as of 2006, the rules state that a player must be at least one year removed from their high school graduation and be at least 19 years old. Originally, the NBA draft did not contain any foreign-born players, but as time has gone on, the draft has increasingly globalized. The first foreign-born player was drafted in 1978, Mychal Thompson, who was born in the Bahamas and is the father of current Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson. The first overall pick in each of 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018 drafts was a foreign-born player. The NBA draft used to be a low-caliber event and not a huge investment for teams, but over time as scouts have become more prominent and analytics have made waves; the draft is a massive televised event every year.
Historically, the NBA draft order has been determined by inverse order of standings like most other professional sports leagues. In 1985, the NBA introduced a lottery draft process in which a lottery-style ping pong ball machine is used to determine the draft order. The team with the worst order would get the most ping pong balls in the machine, the team with the second-worst order would get the second-most ping pong balls, and so on. The lottery itself takes place in a highly protected room with select media members, NBA officials, team representatives, and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young before a nationally televised broadcast in which the results are announced. Typically a team that does not qualify for the NBA postseason is known as a "lottery team." The lottery process was originally utilized to determine the draft order for all 14 of those teams. Starting in 2019, however, the NBA switched to utilizing the lottery process for just the first four picks, with the remaining teams having their draft position determined by inverse order of standings from the prior season.
Along with players, NBA teams can trade future draft picks to each other. Due to the uncertain nature of draft positioning, most teams will opt to place protections on future picks that they are trading away. For example, heading into the 2020 draft, the Boston Celtics own the Memphis Grizzlies' first-round pick - except it has a protection for picks 1-6. This means that if the Grizzlies happened to end up with a pick in the first six selections, their draft pick would not convey to the Celtics. The pick is then unprotected for 2021. Draft protections are a form of insurance for the team trading their pick away as the original deal made may not be as valuable to the Grizzlies if they were to end up with a top-six pick in this year's draft. Recently, teams have also started using reverse protections, which provide security to the organization receiving the first-round pick. For example, the Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks' first-round pick in the 2020 draft. Still, since the Bucks are likely going to finish with the best record in the regular season, their pick will not convey until 2021 when it is likely to be in a more favorable range for the Suns. It's also important to note the presence of the Stepien Rule in the NBA, which is named after Ted Stepien, the former Cavaliers' owner who's team was labeled "the worst club and most poorly run franchise in professional basketball." The Stepien Rule is designed to protect NBA teams from themselves and prevents them from trading away consecutive first-round picks, aside from a few exceptions. You have to be a special kind of bad in running a professional team to have a rule named after you like that one.
NBA Mock Draft FAQs
How many rounds and selections are there in the NBA draft?
The NBA draft takes place across two rounds, and there are 30 NBA teams. Each team starts with one pick in the first and second rounds, meaning there are 60 selections in total. Trades can lead to a single squad drafting multiple times in the same round or not at all.
If a player doesn't get drafted, can they still have an NBA career?
The odds are stacked against an undrafted player carving out a successful career in the NBA. Yet, it has happened a handful of times, including with guys like Bruce Bowen, Ben Wallace, and Udonis Haslem, as well as Fred VanVleet and Alex Caruso more recently.
Which players are eligible for the NBA draft?
Any basketball players who are more than one year removed from their high school graduation and are 19+ years old are eligible for the draft. These rules are likely to change in 2022, with 18-year-olds being eligible to enter the draft. If a player is undrafted, they lose future eligibility.
How does the NBA draft lottery affect the draft order?
The NBA draft lottery determines the first four picks in the draft, and each team who misses the playoffs is eligible to win one of the first four picks. After those selections, the remaining draft order is determined by inverse order of standings from the prior season.
Will all NBA players who are drafted play for their team that season?
Most of the first-round picks in an NBA draft will end up with playing time for their professional team that season, barring injuries or suspensions. However, several second-round picks end up playing significant time in the G-League, the NBA's developmental league, to help prepare them to make a bigger impact.
When is the NBA draft?
The NBA draft typically takes place at the end of June, following the NBA Finals and before the start of NBA free agency. However, due to the midseason postponement of the NBA with the advent of COVID-19, the date of the draft will be pushed back to October 16th in 2020.