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NBA Draft eligibility explained

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As we start to creep closer to the NBA Draft lottery on June 22nd 2021, the focus will shift away from the NBA playoffs for a brief moment in time. NBA Draft eligibility for the top prospects and NBA Draft rules for players who put their name into the mix will take center stage. While a few select teams will still be vying for the NBA championship, the teams that did not qualify for the playoffs will have their fingers crossed, hoping the ping pong balls bounce their way.

NBA Draft eligibility explained

Once the order has been set, the players who will shape the league for the next decade will be highlighted.

We’ll take a look at some of the NBA draft rules and regulations surrounding prospects. We will also recall some players who weren’t drafted at all, that went on to have memorable careers in the NBA.

What are the requirements to enter The NBA Draft?

The most basic rule of thumb for the majority of players who enter the NBA Draft is that one season needs to elapse after their high school graduation.

In 2021, the deadline for submission for American underclassman (freshman, sophomores and juniors) and younger global prospects was May 30th. This is roughly 60 days before the draft is scheduled to be held, on July 29th.


It used to be that once a prospect hired an agent, it meant that they were committed to remaining in the NBA Draft, and could not back out.

However, the league has relaxed those rules, as a measure of giving players flexibility to back out if their stock doesn’t quite pan out as expected. Players can now hire an agent, but still return to their respective university if they showcased their skills during the NBA Draft combine.

How old do you have to be to play in the NBA?

The simple answer to the minimum age requirement to play in the NBA is 19 years old.

That age will usually satisfy the rule that they must be one season removed from high school. There are some players though, who have taken unorthodox routes to the NBA, that didn’t involve four years of high school.

LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets only played high school basketball as a freshman and sophomore. After that, he took his talents overseas to play professional ball in Lithuania, and then in Australia.


Although this was a circuitous route to the league, there’s another rule that says any American player who played professionally overseas or in the G-League can enter the NBA at age 19 as well.

Can you play in the NBA without going to college?

It’s become increasingly popular for players to forgo college in one form or another, and play in the NBA.

Guys like R.J. Hampton and Brandon Jennings decided not to attend college in the United States, and played overseas for one season before entering the NBA Draft.

There are a couple of prominent prospects in the 2021 Draft who will be in the league soon without playing a minute of collegiate hoops as well. Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga played in the NBA G League this season after their high school graduation.

It will be interesting to see if more players use the G League as an alternative option to college in the near future.

What is the One And Done Rule?

Because of the rule that states that a player must be a season removed from their high school graduation in order to play in the NBA, many high school seniors enrol in college knowing they’ll only be there for one season.

This was put in place ahead of the 2006 NBA Draft. Before this regulation, players could be drafted straight out of high school. Some of the most memorable guys who made the leap shortly after their senior prom were Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Tracy McGrady.

Who are the best undrafted NBA players?

There are more players who enter the NBA Draft than there are available selections, so inevitably many guys end up going undrafted.

It doesn’t mean their basketball journey is over; it just signifies that they will have to work that much harder to make it to the most competitive league in the world.

It’s not an impossible task, and several players have taken this challenge head-on to become established NBA contributors.

Ben Wallace was just named to the 2021 class of the Pro Basketball Hall Of Fame. No team selected him after his college career at Virginia Union ended. He ended up becoming one of the more notable rebounding big men in NBA history. More recently, Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors has made a name for himself, going undrafted out of Wichita State. He just signed a four year, $85 million contract last offseason, proving that hard work and dedication can overcome significant hurdles.

Still looking to get to grips with the NBA Draft? Click here for our explainer on the lottery…

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