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Betting on the NBA Draft

The NBA Draft is a big deal. Every year there’s a huge amount of discussion and speculation in the leadup to the draft, and the debate around who will be the #1 pick is often intense.

Basketball fans love following along as future legends prepare to start their professional careers. There’s a mixture of tension and excitement about what their favorite teams will do, and how they’ll end up looking for the new season.

There are also opportunities to make money via betting on the draft. NBA Draft betting is very popular, and widely available at most bookmakers and sportsbooks.

If you are interested in learning how to bet on the NBA Draft, you’ve come to the right place. Our team of basketball gambling experts created this guide to give you everything you need. We cover the basics and provide you with the tips and advice you need for successful betting.

We also explain how the whole NBA draft process works, sharing details on players’ eligibility, the lottery, and the selection itself.

About the 2020 NBA Draft

After plenty of uncertainty because of the global pandemic, we now know that the 2020 NBA Draft will take place on November 18. The current class is considered weaker than what we saw in the past several years, but you never know what’s going to happen.

Stay tuned to our NBA blog where we are covering the 2020 draft extensively with our usual mix of interesting and useful content.

You’ll find our thoughts on who will be picked first, which teams will have the best and worst drafts, which players will be busts, and more. We also pay close attention to the latest NBA Draft odds and betting markets and keep you up to date with those.

  • Guide to the 2020 NBA Draft
  • Where to Bet on the 2020 NBA Draft
  • How to Bet on the NBA Draft

    If you don’t know how to bet on the NBA Draft, you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s nothing complicated about it.

    The first thing you’ll need is an account at one of the top NBA betting sites. These sites are the best options for betting on the NBA Draft as they offer a great selection of wagers for related markets.

    If you’re completely new to betting online, our main NBA betting guide talks you through the steps you need to take. It’s really just a case of choosing a site, opening an account, and then depositing some money.

    Once you have your funds in place, you can start placing real money wagers on the NBA Draft.

    The following are some of the most common NBA Draft prop bets you’ll find.

    Player draft position over/under
    You can bet on the drafting pick that will be used to select a specific player. This market is usually available for the top 10-15 prospects every year.
    1st overall pick
    You can place a wager on the player that you believe will be selected with the 1st pick of the draft.
    Number of international players drafted
    Simply bet on how many international players will be picked in the draft.
    Who a team will pick first
    This NBA Draft prop is usually available for all teams, with options for which player they take with their first pick.

    This is just a very small taste of what’s available. Most online sportsbooks offer many more NBA Draft prop bets.

    We recommend that you spend some time exploring ALL the opportunities to bet on the NBA Draft, as this is the best way to find the most profitable bets.

    NBA Draft Betting Tips

    tips for betting on the NBA Draft

    Now that you know how betting on the NBA Draft works, let’s look at how to improve your chances of making some money.

    These NBA Draft betting tips are not guaranteed to bring you untold wealth from your gambling exploits, but they’ll certainly get you going in the right direction of turning a profit.

    Let’s start with perhaps the most important part of your draft betting strategy. Preparation.

    It is VITAL that you prepare properly for betting on the NBA draft. This means soaking up as much relevant information as you can.

    Scouting reports and mock drafts are good for this. They can deliver insightful information about the prospects in the upcoming draft class and help you form accurate predictions. Just be careful about which sources you use.

    Almost everyone seems to share a mock draft these days, but many of them are just guessing. Stick with those from genuine basketball experts.

    The next factor you need to consider is the selection order and the needs of every team. If you are going to bet on the top pick, for example, be sure to check which franchise has the first selection and what they are expected to do.

    In some cases, a team might simply go with the most talented player from the draft class, regardless of his position. In other situations, the team might have specific needs they need fulfilling and make their pick based on that.

    You shouldn’t forget the main sports gambling fundamentals that apply to ANY real money betting either. This means looking for the best value, following proper bankroll management, and staying objective.

    These fundamentals, and more, can be found in our general sports betting guide, and they all apply to betting on the NBA Draft.

    Eligibility for the Draft

    If you are going to bet on the NBA Draft, it’s good to know how it works. Let’s start with the rules related to player eligibility.

    Every American athlete must become 19 in the same calendar year to enter the NBA draft and at least one season must have passed since he graduated high school.

    The following players are automatically eligible for the draft and don’t have to declare it.

    • US players who have completed their college eligibility in the same year
    • International players who turn 22 by the end of the draft year
    • US players who sign a contract and play for professional international teams by the age of 19

    In every other case, the athletes must declare their eligibility up to 60 days before the NBA Draft or they won’t be part of it.

    There are several additional rules regarding that. For example, one states that any player that declares for the NBA Draft twice or hires an agent loses his eligibility for college basketball. Another states that no player is eligible for more than two NBA drafts.

    Draft Lottery Explained

    The current rules state that there are 60 picks in the NBA Draft each year and they are split into two rounds. Every franchise has the right to pick once in each round unless it has traded that right to another team.

    Since one of the goals of the NBA Draft is to keep the talent distribution in the league relatively equal, the selection process is designed to help the teams that had a bad year.

    Every franchise that didn’t qualify for the playoffs in the previous season is part of the NBA Draft Lottery. The process for this is a simple draw that distributes the top 14 picks in the NBA Draft.

    The franchises that didn’t make the postseason are given seeds based on their record. The team with the worst record has the top seed and the organization with the best one gets the 14th seed.

    After that, the lottery takes places and each team is assigned a pick for the upcoming draft.

    Here are the probabilities of each team to land a top 4 pick.

    Seed 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick 4th Pick Any Top 4
    1 14.00% 13.40% 12.70% 12.00% 52.10%
    2 14.00% 13.40% 12.70% 12.00% 52.10%
    3 14.00% 13.40% 12.70% 12.00% 52.10%
    4 12.50% 12.20% 11.90% 11.50% 48.10%
    5 10.50% 10.50% 10.60% 10.50% 42.10%
    6 9.00% 9.20% 9.40% 9.60% 37.20%
    7 7.50% 7.80% 8.10% 8.50% 32.00%
    8 6.00% 6.30% 6.70% 7.20% 26.30%
    9 4.50% 4.80% 5.20% 5.70% 20.30%
    10 3.00% 3.30% 3.60% 4.00% 13.90%
    11 2.00% 2.20% 2.40% 2.80% 9.40%
    12 1.30% 1.40% 1.60% 1.80% 6.20%
    13 1.20% 1.30% 1.50% 1.70% 5.70%
    14 0.50% 0.60% 0.60% 0.70% 2.40%

    Once the first four picks are awarded, the remaining ten picks are ordered by the teams’ regular season record, in reverse order.

    That means that the organization with the worst record that didn’t land a top four pick gets the fifth pick. The one with the best record receives the 14th pick.

    If you want to see how the whole ceremony works, here’s a video from 2019 that shows it clearly.

    Once we know the top 14 picks, the rest are distributed automatically, based on the team’s regular season records, once again in reversed order.

    That applies to both the other 16 picks from the first round of the draft and the 30 picks from the second round.

    NBA Draft Selection Process

    Once the final NBA Draft day comes around, it’s time for the teams to select the players they wish to sign. The process is fairly simple and the franchises simply take turns to pick the athletes in the order that was determined by the draft lottery.

    The NBA Draft ends when all 60 picks have been used to select players. The athletes that entered the draft but were not selected then basically become unrestricted free agents. They can still be signed by any team that is interested in their services.

    Most undrafted players enter the D-League or sign with a pro club abroad, but some find their way to the NBA eventually.

    In fact, there are plenty of undrafted players who make a career for themselves. Here are 10 excellent examples of why not getting drafted is not the end of the world.

    Trading Draft Picks

    trading NBA draft picks

    It’s common for NBA teams to trade draft picks. They are viewed as assets that can be exchanged for stronger players, cash, or multiple lower draft picks.

    We’ve seen all sorts of trades in the past and they happen every season.

    There aren’t many rules here and the teams can use their selections however they chpose in most cases. They can trade future picks beforehand and without knowing where they will land, or they can use picks for an upcoming draft that are already clear.

    In cases like the former, the organizations could agree on a “protection”. For example, a top 5 “protected pick” means that if the selection falls into the top 5, the team gets to keep it and the other franchise receives the pick for the next year.

    Another important rule is that no team can make a trade that leaves it without two first-round picks for two years in a row in the future. This is called the Stepien Rule, named after former Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien who left his franchise without first-round picks in five consecutive years.

    NBA Draft History

    Kahwi Leonard NBA Team of the Decade

    The NBA Draft started in 1947, allowing organizations to recruit the best college players in the country. In the early days, the selection process ended only when the teams ran out of athletes to pick from.

    The draft was initially reduced to 21 rounds and then to 10 rounds before the current system of only two was deployed in 1985. The main concept here is that this leaves undrafted players the opportunity to sign with any team that’s interested.  This actually improves their chances to play in the league.

    International players were always part of the draft and there were no rules preventing them from entering. And yet, there were no athletes from abroad until 1978 when Mychal Thompson, the father of Klay Thompson, was drafted.

    The number of foreign players slowly increased in the 1980s and the real invasion began in the 1990s. Nowadays, we see plenty of international prospects every year.

    Another important aspect of the draft is related to players who don’t attend college. That was a rarity in the early days of the draft, but more and more athletes started joined the NBA Draft after high school.

    That’s why the league deployed a rule that requires at least one season to pass before the athlete graduates high school for him to become eligible for the NBA Draft.

    If you want to check all picks from every single year so far, the official site of the NBA has a complete history of every edition of the draft.

    The history of the NBA draft is littered with examples of teams that did brilliantly, teams that did terribly, great players that got missed, and hyped up players that flopped.

    Our basketball writers regularly explore some of these examples.

    NBA Draft Betting Summarized

    • The top online sportsbooks offer odds for betting on the NBA Draft each year
    • There are usually many different NBA Draft prop bets available
    • You can make money betting on the NBA Draft with the right approach
    • It’s important to do your research and choose your bets carefully

    Hopefully we’ve given you all the information you need to not only enjoy betting on the NBA Draft, but also to make a profit from it.

    Once the draft is over each year, attention then turns to betting NBA futures before wagering on individual games once the season starts. If you want some help choosing your bets on those markets, be sure to check out our NBA betting picks.