Every year, the NBA holds the spectacle of the draft, with each team looking to add to their roster’s foundation. There is a chance for a select group of players to have their names called by Commissioner Adam Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark A. Tatum. What isn’t talked about enough is how difficult it is to earn that prestigious honor of being drafted.
The NBA draft process
Since 1947, the NBA has continued to hold annual draft to add to their talent pool.
The number of teams in the league has progressively grown over the years to 30 teams. The draft has become an opportunity for each franchise to add more youth to their respective rosters.
It presents the chance for any given team to potentially find their next franchise cornerstone or the missing piece to push them into further success. However, each year there are limited slots for incoming players to have their draft dreams realized that have slimmer odds than you’d imagine.
Slim odds to be drafted into the NBA
Although the league’s size has grown over the years to 29 teams across the United States and one in Canada, the number of players remains low.
There are approximately 450 possible regular-season roster spots, with each team holding the ability to have 15 players. The number has risen slightly over the last couple of years with the addition of the two-way contract. Each team can have up to two players under that deal in each season that pushes the possible total to 510 slots.
All that raises the odds slightly, but it remains extremely difficult for potential prospects to snag one of 60 draft spots. According to an NCAA study from earlier this year, it found that 1.2% of players eligible earned that honor.
The research found that 4,181 of the 18,816 players from the 2018-19 season were eligible for the 2019 NBA draft. 52 of the 60 slots went to NCAA players, with seven international talents and one prep school player taking the other remaining spots.
The odds are already extremely thin, which grow smaller due to the possibility of international players grabbing more slots. The trend has only grown further in that direction with the continued rise in the talent pool outside the United States.
Other paths to the NBA still remain
A select few players get their NBA draft day dreams fulfilled, but other pathways to the league remain.
Many receive the opportunity to play in the summer league teams to showcase their talent to the team they are playing for and other organizations. It’s a chance to secure not only a training camp invite, but also a two-way contract or get signed to a G-League team.
The route to the NBA may be more difficult, but it keeps the opportunity of reaching the league within reach. Over the years, many NBA players failed to earn a draft selection and wound up latching onto one a regular-season roster spot.
Alex Caruso is a shining example of that as he didn’t get selected in the 2016 NBA draft. He earned the chance to play with the Oklahoma City Blue, who are the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G-League affiliate. He joined then LA Lakers’ G-League Team, the South Bay Lakers, in 2017.
Caruso received his first shot at NBA action in the 2017-18 season, which he worked his way into a two-way contract the following campaign. His contributions earned him a two-year, $5.5 million deal in July 2019, which he maximized to become a critical role player that helped the Lakers win the 2020 NBA title.
Every player hopes to get drafted, but the opportunity to play in the league goes well beyond that.