Sports drafts and how they work

I’m listening to Colin Cowherd this morning and he brought up how a prospective high pick in this year’s NBA draft, Jabari Parker, should try to force his way out of the currently worst team in the league (and therefore the one with the highest chance of getting the #1 draft pick) Milwaukee Bucks if they make it known that they’ll take him. He said there are some maneuvers Parker can do, if it looks like the Bucks will take him, to go back to college and try for a better team next year

My question is regarding non-draft players. Some players go play in Europe outside the NBA for a year to up their draft position and potentially get more money. But let’s say a player does leave the draft. He’s not in college, he’s in Europe or China or some other league the NBA can’t touch. Or he’s a guy off the street that happens to be a basketball phenom that was undiscovered. In order to get on the team, does he have to enter the draft? What rights do the other 29 teams have to sign a guy who’s not part of the draft if he wants to go to a specific team?

An example would be if I suddenly developed basketball talent and wanted to go to the Lakers. Can they just sign me off the street do I have to give the other teams some fair chance to sign me? What’s to stop a guy like Parker from saying he doesn’t want to be in the draft, he’ll just sign as a free agent in August or September with a team that he wants?

And how does this work with the NFL and NHL? What are their rules regarding non-draft players, people have never been in the draft, that want to play for one team only?

The Wiki page on NBA draft eligibility spells out the criteria pretty well.

But that doesn’t spell out how a player could be drafted and refuse to sign, and somehow retain eligibility. Even if that’s not quite what Cowherd was saying, the NBA Lottery is on May 20, and early eligible players need to withdraw from the draft some time in April, per NCAA regulations (the NBA requires them to withdraw by May 8, still before the Lottery results are known).

Not knowing any other details (and not being all that knowledgeable about the NBA), I think the proper conclusion here is that Colin Cowherd is an idiot.

What does it mean to be eligible for the draft? As far as my casual sports fan knowledge goes, everyone in the NCAA program can simply declare themselves available after a year. What about a guy off the street who never went to college? How is his eligibility done?

And lets say he’s eligible but refused to sign with a team. What are the reprocussions? Apparently one can be signed and go play in Europe for a while like Ricky Rubio did with no penalties, he keeps his draft position and the team keeps his draft rights. It seemed like a power play for the team to give up his draft rights, which the Timberwolves didn’t do.

Example: What if I declare myself eligible for the draft (somehow) but refuse to sign with the Bucks? Then can I simply go to the Lakers and say “sign me”?

There was a bit more than that. So NCAA players are “unpaid amateurs”. Cowherd said that Parker should wait until mid June before he gets an agent, who would then pay him and make him ineligible for college again and if the Bucks pick him, simply go back to college after mid-June and he gets a do-over

Isn’t it always?

An NBA draft pick has almost zero leverage. Even if Parker refuses to sign with the Bucks and goes to play overseas, the Bucks would still control his draft rights and meanwhile he’d be costing himself money, both because he would make a lower salary in Europe or China and because he’d be delaying the big paydays that would come three or four years after his rookie contract. He absolutely cannot go back to the NCAA after being drafted. I think his only option would be staying out of professional basketball for a year. Somehow that’s supposed to be worse than making a few million dollars playing for a lousy team, but as a non-NBA player, I don’t see the logic. And anyway Parker would be stupid to go public with this: as the worst team the Bucks will have a 25% chance at the number one pick, and Parker may not be that pick.

As an side, the rules for the NBA draft are not the same as the NFL draft and the MLB draft. Baseball players go back to college all the time.

I think that’s why he’s not going public and Cowherd merely suggested that he keeps all his cards close to him.

The logic Cowherd used was that a crappy team like that Bucks would squander someone like Parker and through that, devalue his brand to the point where one extra year in college would be a net benefit. Rookie contracts are 4 years with a 5th year as option by the player, I think, so if Parker goes to the Bucks and gets wasted on the bench, he’d have to do so for 4 years before he could cash in on a big payday. Comparing that to a going straight to a team like the Lakers makes it more attractive for him to go back to college.

The way he’d be going back to college would be that he would not get an agent right now preserving his college status, wait until the draft order is decided, and if the Bucks are higher than say, the Lakers, go back to college. Nothing prevents him from doing that until he gets an agent and starts receiving money, he’s technically still a college amateur at this point. The only thing I don’t know is when the draft order is decided and when the last day he can go back to college is. I assume Cowherd did his homework and the dates are far enough apart for someone like Parker to change his mind about the draft once he knows the draft order

The Bucks are run by idiots and they may indeed squander whoever they draft, but I disagree about his “brand” because all he would do it cost himself one year out of his earning potential. And I don’t think you understand how the draft works: NCAA players who have not graduated college have to declare for the draft by a certain date in the spring. Now, after they declare, they have a few weeks to get the lay of the land. If they don’t sign with an agent, they can withdraw from the draft and go back to college if they want to. (They can only do this one time.) But that period is weeks before the draft order is decided. The actual draft order is decided by lottery and that won’t happen until May. The worst team (Milwaukee) will only have a 25% chance at getting the number one pick. Parker may not be number one, but I guess you could apply this to Andrew Wiggins or several other guys. But they can’t wait around until the draft order is determined. By then, you’re either in the draft or not.

They are three-year contracts with a team option for the fourth year.

Why would he be on the Bucks’ bench for four years, and how is he supposed to get a big contract if he’s spent four years on the bench?

He cannot do this.

An unwise assumption.

Four years, with the third and fourth years as team options. That’s only for first-round picks, though.

Right you are. That’s actually discussed in a separate entry on the page I linked to.

The NBA deadline to declare for the draft is April 27, the draft lottery is May 20. If Parker wants to be eligible to be drafted by anyone, he has to declare before he knows the draft order. The NBA isn’t run by fools, they know players would try to do what Cowherd proposes if they let them. And as has been noted, the worst team only gets a 25% chance at the #1 pick…which isn’t likely to be Parker anyway.

Isn’t there some unwritten rule that the Lakers will get the #1 pick in the next draft, no matter what?

I’ll never understand people who say the NBA is rigged and then watch anyway.

Marley, not a Cowherd fan I see? :wink:

Not so much. But in my defense, you can see he has no idea what he’s talking about here.

I see we didn’t discuss this in as much depth. Telemark’s answer is on point: if you’re eligible for the draft and you do not get drafted, you’re a free agent and you can sign with any team that wants you. For example if Parker declares and nobody picks him, he can go to any team. But he’ll have a low salary and little or no guaranteed money. It happens every year with players who came out of college or overseas leagues or players who are coming out of retirement and other things. The draft is for players who previously were not eligible for the NBA - mostly because they were too young. I guess you could use a draft pick on 29-year-old YogSosoth, but it would be a wasted draft pick.

I don’t know as much about the NFL draft, but I think it works the same way: if you are eligible for one draft and don’t get picked, you can sign with anybody. In fact you might be better off as an undrafted free agent instead of a fifth- or sixth-round pick because you can go to a team that has an opening for you or where you know the coaching staff likes you or something like that.

And to expand on this: you become eligible by either declaring your eligibility by April 27, or you become automatically eligible by (for American players) being four years removed from your high school class’s graduation, or (for international players) turning 22 during the calendar year of the draft.

So, the undiscovered phenom or China-league pro turned eligible when he was 22 or so, and if he wasn’t noticed and drafted then, he’s free to sign with any team.