NBA Draft Rules

NBA, NBPA Reach Agreement in Principle on New Collective Bargaining Agreement


June 21, 2005


SAN ANTONIO -- The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced today that they have reached an agreement in principle on the key items of a new 6-year collective bargaining agreement.

NBA Commissioner David Stern, Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter and President Michael Curry announced the agreement prior to Game 6 of The Finals in San Antonio.

“This new agreement creates a strong partnership with our players, which is critical to our prospects for continued growth on a global basis,” said Stern. “Once the deal is finalized, the NBA and its players will be able to focus on the enormous opportunities we have together.”

“Although a definitive written agreement must still be completed,” Hunter added, “we believe we have reached the framework for a deal that preserves and enhances gains that the players have made under the expiring agreement. The new CBA deals fairly with the issues that are important to the league, and gives our sport the continuity that will be so important to its growth and to its fans.”

The agreement includes an increase in the salary cap, a lessening of the impact of the luxury tax, a decrease in the escrow withholding over the term of the deal (to 8 percent), and a guarantee by the league that the players will receive no less than 57 percent of basketball related income (a percentage that will increase as revenue increases). The maximum length of player contracts will be reduced to 6 years, from their current 7, and maximum annual increases in salaries will be reduced from 12½ to 10½ percent for teams resigning their own players and from 10 percent to 8 percent for teams signing free agents.

On non-economic matters, the minimum entry age will be increased from 18 to 19 years and teams will have the ability to assign players with less than 2 years’ experience to the NBA Development League. The number of random drug tests as well as the penalties for violations will be increased. The league will guarantee that, on average, all teams will have 14-player rosters, and players suspended for more than 12 games for on-court misconduct will be able to challenge the suspension before a neutral arbitrator.

While the agreement is being reduced to a definitive writing, the moratorium on free agent signings presently scheduled to expire on July 14 will be extended to July 22. During this period, summer leagues may be conducted, rookies may be signed, and free agents will be permitted to negotiate, but may not sign, new contracts.

The agreement is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors and the membership of the Players Association.


The following are the key points agreed to by the NBA and the Players Association in their new 6-year collective bargaining agreement:

  • Players will be guaranteed to receive 57 percent of league revenues (BRI), the same percentage paid to players the last two seasons. (This is the first time the league has ever agreed to guarantee the players an agreed-upon percentage of revenues.)
  • The Salary Cap will increase from 48 percent of BRI to 51 percent of BRI. All Cap exceptions will remain unchanged, including the Mid-Level Exception ($4.9 million per team this past season).
  • The amount of money that can be withheld from player salaries under the “escrow” system will be reduced from 10 percent of salaries in year 1 of the new deal to 9 percent in years 2 through 5 and 8 percent in year 6. The 57 percent escrow level will increase with revenue growth.
  • The effect of the existing luxury tax on teams will be reduced and there will be no additional taxes. The tax level will be set at 61percent of league revenues (the same level as in the 2001-02 – 2003-04 seasons). Tax treatment for injured players and minimum salary players will be liberalized.
  • The maximum length of a player contract will be reduced by 1 year, from 7 years for a team’s own players and 6 years for other players to 6 years and 5 years.
  • The league will guarantee that, on average, all teams will have 14-player rosters.
  • The maximum annual increases in multi-year player contracts will be reduced from 12.5 percent for a team’s own players and 10 percent for other players to 10.5 percent and 8 percent.
  • Players will be subject to 4 random drug tests per season and penalties for use of performance-enhancing drugs will be increased.
  • The age limit for entering the draft will increase from 18 to 19 (plus one year removed from high school).
  • Players will have the right to an arbitrator’s review of Commissioner suspensions for on-court misconduct of more than 12 games (currently, no arbitrator review is permitted regardless of the length of the suspension).
  • Players in their first two seasons in the league may be placed on teams in the NBA Development League for skills development.
  • There will be an increase in the minimum salary and benefits. Pension benefits will be increased subject to IRS approval.

Source: Associated Press,

Lottery changed in weaker teams’ favor


November 11, 1993

NEW YORK -- The NBA Board of Governors changed the rules of the league’s draft lottery Thursday, increasing the chances of the teams with the worst records to get one of the top three picks and reducing the chances of the teams with the best records from getting one of them.

The action came after Orlando, which missed the playoffs on the final weekend of last season, came away with the No. 1 lottery pick for the second consecutive year. Dallas, saddled with the worst record in the league, earned the No. 4 pick in the lottery.

“It was the consensus of the teams that the NBA draft lottery serves an important purpose and should be maintained,” deputy commissioner Russ Granik said.

lottery odds

Under the new system, the team with the worst record will have a 25 percent change at the No. 1 pick, up from the previous 16.7 chance. At the same time, the team with the best record among lottery teams will have a 0.5 chance at the first pick, down from 1.5 percent.

The new arrangement will use 14 pin pong balls numbered 1-14 in a drum with four drawn to the top, creating 1,001 combinations.

Each of the 11 non-playoff teams in the lottery will have numerical combinations assigned to it in declining order. The team with the worst record gets 250 combinations, or a 25 percent chance at the winning combination. The team with the next worst record gets 203 combinations, a 20.30 percent at the No. 1 choice. The number of combinations continues to decline down to five for the team with the best record for an 0.50 percent chance at the top pick.

The drawing will be repeated for the second and third picks. The remaining selections, 4-11, then will be assigned based on inverse order of regular-season records.

The previous lottery system gave the team with the worst record 11 chances out of 66 to draw the first pick. The team with the second worst record had 10 chances on down to one chance out of 66 for the team with the best record.

Source: Associated Press,

NBA brass tinker with ’87 lottery


April 18, 1986

NEW YORK -- The NBA’s draft lottery in which the top seven teams draw for the first draft pick, will be modified starting next year so that the team with the league’s worst record gets no worse than the fourth choice in the draft.

The NBA’s board of governors approved Wednesday a new system under which the lottery would apply only to the first three choices although all seven non-playoff teams would be involved. Once the first three are picked the other four teams then will be awarded picks in inverse order of their won-lost records.

This year’s lottery, to be held May 11, will involve seven teams.

Last season, the first in which the lottery was used, the New York Knicks got the first choice with the league’s third worst record and took center Patrick Ewing. The Golden State Warriors, who had the worst record, got the seventh choice the last in the lottery. They selected guard Chris Mullin.

Under the old system, the worst team in the East and the worst team in the West flipped for the first pick. The tow previous seasons, Houston won the flip each time, taking 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson and 7-footer Akeem Olajuwon.

Source: Associated Press,

Coin Toss Timeline

NBA Draft Rules Are Now Modified


May 27, 1964

NEW YORK -- TThe National Basketball Association, in an effort to bolster its weakest teams, Tuesday announced that the last place teams in both divisions henceforth would receive two first-round picks in the annual collegiate player draft instead of one.

The rule change, which was proposed by the St. Louis owner Ben Kerner, states that the cellar teams in the Eastern and Western Division will flip a coin to see who gets the first choice. It the tinner of the toss has a better won-lost percentage than the other, it will get choices No.1 and 4. If the team with the poorer record guesses right, it will receive choices No. 1 and 3.

Knicks Must Decide: Bradley Later, or ...

May 6, 1965

NEW YORK -- The toss of a coin starts today’s annual collegiate draft by National Basketball Association teams, and while the coin is in the air the New York Knicks may still be wondering what to do about Princeton’s Bill Bradley

The rule change, which was proposed by the St. Louis owner Ben Kerner, states that the cellar teams in the Eastern and Western Division will flip a coin to see who gets the first choice. It the tinner of the toss has a better won-lost percentage than the other, it will get choices No.1 and 4. If the team with the poorer record guesses right, it will receive choices No. 1 and 3.

The 6-5 Tiger hotshot is heading for Oxford on a two-year Rhodes scholarship but there’s always a chance he’ll decide to take a whack at basketball later on.

The Knicks, with a territorial claim on the two-time Princeton all-America, must decide whether to grab another player for immediate help or gamble on Bradley for the future.

However, under the new rules, the last place teams in each division will get two pick each in the regular draft before any other club can draw. That’s where the coin toss comes in.

The toss will decide which last place team San Francisco or New York gets the first choice.

Among the possible territorial selections, in addition to Bradley, are Michigan’s Bill Buntin (by Detroit), UCLA’s Gail Goodrich (Los Angeles), Villanova’s Jim Washington (Philadelphia), San Francisco’s Ollie Johnson (San Francisco).

NBA Draft Wednesday

May 10, 1966

NEW YORK-- The National Basketball Association will hold its annual college player draft Wednesday in New Yok.

The New York Knickerbockers of the Eastern Division will have first pick and are expected to choose Michigan All-America Cazzie Russell. The Knicks Earned the right to pick first when they won a coin toss from the West’s Detroit Pistons. New York and Detroit finished last in their divisions.

Chicago’s new NBA entry, which will wage its first campaign this year, gets the final draft choice of the first round, but gets to choose third and fourth in the second round.

Source: United Press International

Collegians now may apply for eligibility in NBA Draft


June 24, 1971

BOSTON -- A sports war between the National Basketball Association and the NCAA appeared imminent today with the NBA’s relaxing of a so-called “four-year rule” to permit hardship case collegians to join the pro ranks.

“It looks as if the NBA is declaring all-out war against colleges,” said University of Massachusetts coach Jack Leaman who recently lost junior Julius Erving to the American Basketball Association.

“The colleges have a free minor league system for pro basketball, but maybe now things will change,” Leaman said.

The NBA long has held it would not sign a player until after his class has graduated. However, in the face of a recent court ruling and actions by the rival ABA, the board of governors revised the league rule Thursday at the windup of annual league meetings.

Under the rule change, a college player who has not completed his education may request permission for NBA draft eligibility. The player must prove he is a hardship case based on what NBA president J. Walter Kennedy called “financial condition, his family, his academic record or lack of it, and his ability to obtain employment in another field.

Source: Associated Press,

Out with the coin flip, in with the lottery for NBA draft descisions


June 28, 1984

SALT LAKE CITY -- The National Basketball Association is retiring the 100-year-old silver dollar it has using to determine which team gets the No.1 pick in its college player draft.

The coin flip is being replaced by a seven-team lottery.

The Switch, approved by the league Tuesday, is aimed at creating more interest and avoiding potential embarrassment.

Commissioner David Stern made the announcement at the conclusion of summer meeting by the Board of Governors, at which the league’s only legislative body also adopted several rule changes and endorsed with the NBA’s position in its dispute with the San Diego Los Angeles Clippers.

The alteration of the draft structure came as a surprise because the NBA’s Competition and Rules Committee, composed of coaches and general managers, had not made a firm recommendation.

Under the new system, the seven clubs that do not make the 16-team playoffs will have their names drawn in a lottery to decide their position for the June draft. The playoff clubs will continue to draft in inverse order of their records, with the team with the worst mark picking eighth.

Stern and other league officials feel the new rule will prevent the possibility of a non-playoff team deliberately losing games to improve its drafting position.

Since 1966, the two clubs in the eastern and western conferences with the worst records participated in a coin toss to determine which would receive the top pick. Before then, the team with the poorest record automatically got the first choice.

Source: Associated Press,

NBA Eliminates Draft Trade Rule


April 30, 1963

NEW YORK -- The National Basketball Association voted out the territorial draft of college players at the first session of its annual meeting Monday.

The move will take effect with the 1966 draft.

NBA sources said the decision to eliminate a team's right to claim players at colleges within a 50-mile radius was clearly aimed at the five-time champion Boston Celtics, and their great star Bob Cousy.

Cousy retired after the Celts took their fifth straight NBA title this year and will coach Boston College next season. There were fears in the league that Cousy might be able to recruit and develop talent at BC that would go the already powerful Celtics in the territorial draft.

"We just followed the law of survival." one source said. Another added, "If they hadn't abolished the territorial draft the colleges in our area would have started to get some pretty good talent. We would have had to see to that."

Commissioner Maurice Podoloff, who is reported to be retiring, said the vote on territorial draft was 6-3. Boston, New York and Cincinnati favored keeping the plan.

Podoloff said the draft vote was the only major measure considered by officials of the nine-team league in the first session.

Source: Associated Press,

NBA Eliminates Draft Trade Rule


June 5, 1968

SAN DIEGO -- The National Basketball Association owners are eliminating a constitutional bylaw which prohibits teams from trading their first draft choices. The rules goes out June 4, 1970.

The bylaw was established in the early 1950s when some of the less successful teams were selling their first draft choices as a means of solving financial problems.

But with the improved economic situation of the league, the owners decided that the conditions which prompted the establishment of the rule are no long present. The vote to rescind the rule came Tuesday in the annual meeting which ends today.

Source: Associated Press,

Salaries of Pro Cage Stars May Be Slashed


May 16, 1947

Buffalo, NY -- The National Basketball League and the Basketball Association of America, the nation's largest professional circuits, today prepared to agree upon a standard wage scale which would limit "exorbitant" player salaries.

Committees from the two leagues agreed yesterday that bidding battles for the services of intercollegiate stars last season had proved financially disastrous to 90 percent of their teams. After a daylong meeting, officials of both loops said possibility of a working agreement on salaries and territorial rights appeared "good".

Source: United Press International,

New pact for players


April 26, 1988

NEW YORK -- The NBA and its players' union, who have been without a contract all season, have agreed on a new six-year contract, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced today.

The agreement sharply reduces the number of player available for the draft and significantly modifies the right of first refusal for teams seeking to keep player who have played out their option. The salary cap will continue to be computed as it has been. The union had filed an antitrust suit seeking the abolition of those practices.

Stern said agreement was reached in a seven-hour bargaining session yesterday and approved by the NBA Board of Governors today. He said that it also had been approved by the executive board of the NBA Players Association.

"As you would expect," Stern said in a statement, "both sides made compromises from their original positions in order to reach agreement."

Under the new contract, the NBA Draft will be reduced from seven rounds to three for this season and two in ensuing years. That would have the effect of making all but the top 50 or so players coming out of college free agents.

It also stipulates that the right of first refusal applies only to the end of a player's contract or at the end of a specifically negotiated extension, not to exceed eight years. Beyond that, it will not apply beyond the first contract to players who as of this season have put in six NBA seasons.

The time period is reduced to four years beginning in 1988-89 and three years starting in the 1993-94, the final years of the agreement.

That means that players who have been in the league seven years after this season or five after next season are not subject to right of first refusal.

In return, the players agreed to drop their lawsuit.

Source: Associated Press,

Pacer Sale Ok'd; Await Realignment


May 8, 1979

Chicago -- National Basketball big shots met for almost eight hours yesterday and accomplished almost nothing.

They did, however, approve the sale of the Indiana Pacers to Beverly Hills businessman Sam Nassi. Nassi purchased the club last week for an estimated $8 million. The approval by the Board of Governors allows the Pacers to initiate steps toward acquiring needed personnel without regards to funds.

Also approved was Harry S. Mangurian's purchase of co-owner John Y. Brown's stock in the Boston Celtics.

The Board of Governors deferred action on the proposed New Orleans Jazz move to Salt Lake City - which meant they had to defer action on NBA realignment. The Jazz will move to the Western Conference only if and when they move to Utah.

About all the NBA honchos did in their windy session in Chicago was eliminate a "junior eligibility" clause that permitted players (such as Larry Bird) to be picked in the NBA draft without immediately turning professional.

From now on, NBA general counsel David Stern explained, there will be two ways a player can be drafted: "One is to complete all his collegiate eligibility. The other is to renounce any college eligibility he has left up to 45 days before the draft."

Bird, the Indiana State star, was eligible to be drafted a year ago because his original graduating class was in its senior year. (Bird originally had attended Indiana University before dropping out.) The Boston Celtics claimed him in the 1978 draft and have exclusive right to him up until 24 hours before this year's June 25 draft.

"This way," said Jonathan Kovler, who represented the Chicago Bulls, "there will be no pressure on a kid from a pro team while he's still playing college ball. There's an NCAA rule against a kid having an agent while he still eligibility, so a guy like Bird had to deal with things completely on his own." The rule goes into effect next season.

Source: Chicago Sun Times-Mike Downey,

NBA Eases Hardship Rules


May 4, 1976

New York -- The National Basketball Association has relaxed its hardship rules for college and high school player who wish to be draft by the NBA, it was announced Monday by league commissioner Larry O'Brien.

Under the ruling, which is part of the recent Oscar Robertson and collective bargaining settlements, any player whose high school class has graduated, may make himself eligible for the draft by renouncing his collegiate basketball eligibility.

The ruling is effective immediately.

Beginning with the 1977 draft, any player who wishes to become eligible for the NBA draft will have to give the league written notice renouncing his collegiate eligibility at least 45 days before the scheduled date of the draft.

For this year's draft, scheduled for June 8, an exception is being made to permit players to give written notice until May 10.

All players who previously have made hardship applications to the NBA for this year's draft and have not withdrawn them 24 hours prior to the draft will be deemed eligible and will not have to give further notice.

Previously, such players had to fill out hardship forms, and the NBA would carefully scrutinize their financial needs before declaring them eligible-or ineligible-for drafting.

Last year, for the first time in its history, high school players were pick in the draft-Darryl Dawkins from Maynard Evans High in Orlando by the Philadelphia 76ers, and Bill Willoughby from Dwight Morrow High in Englewood, N.J. by the Atlanta Hawks.

Source: Associated Press,

High School Cage Draft Killed by NBA


April 23, 1958

Detroit -- The Board of Governors of the National Basketball Association yesterday eliminated the controversial high school draft.

Meeting just before the NBA player draft got under way the board decided that after the current draft no team will be able to draft any high school basketball player.

Several years ago, the Philadelphia Warriors were awarded territorial rights to Wilt (The Stilt) Chamberlain, before the sensational scorer entered college. Under regulations adopted today, the Warriors retain territorial rights to Chamberlain but must exercise those rights in the first round of next year's draft. Chamberlain now a star at Kansas, will graduate next year.

In the case of Jerry Lucas, a high school sensation from Middletown, Ohio, the Cincinnati Royals applied earlier this year for territorial rights to Lucas. The NBA decided today that those rights will be granted unless Lucas attends college in another team's territory. Lucas reportedly is headed for the University of Cincinnati.

Source: Associated Press,