Major changes to the NBA draft landscape are coming in the new collective bargaining agreement, mutually agreed on by the NBA and the players' association this month.
A 91-page jointly written memo sent out by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association to teams and players Monday and obtained by ESPN highlights two significant changes to the NBA draft process, the effects of which will be felt for years.
Beginning in 2024, all invited players will be required to attend and participate in the NBA draft combine or be ineligible to be drafted until the "first subsequent draft for which the player attends and fully participates."
Participation will include league medical examinations, sharing of medical history and biomechanical and functional movement testing, as well as strength and agility testing, shooting drills, performance testing and anthropometric measurements. Players will also be required to conduct team interviews, media circuits, player development sessions and other assessments, as determined by the NBA in consultation with the NBPA. Players will not be compelled to compete in 5-on-5 scrimmaging, which typically only a handful of first-round prospects elect to participate in.
This represents a significant shift in favor of NBA teams that have long lobbied for this rule change. In the past, agents of elite prospects would regularly strategize to keep medicals of clients away from less-attractive franchises in hopes of steering their players to preferred destinations, something that will no longer be possible. This should also likely make the draft combine more compelling, as a large number of top prospects often elected to skip fully participating or attending altogether.
Players who are physically unable to participate, because of playing with a FIBA club still in-season, family tragedy, the birth of a child, or an injury, as determined by the medical director of the combine, will be required to complete components at a later date. Failure to do so will result in being ineligible to be selected on draft night.
There will be limits on sharing medical information among teams based on the projected draft range of top players. For example, the projected No. 1 pick will have his medical information shared only with teams picking in the top 10. Players ranked 2-6 will be shared with teams in the top 15, and players 7-10 with teams in the top 25, with the exception of potentially life-threatening injury or medical conditions that render a player unfit to perform his duties as a professional basketball player, in accordance with the Fitness-to-Play Panel process.
The NBA and NBPA will agree upon a method to rank the top-10 prospects before the NBA draft lottery, using a blend of publicly available rankings, an appointed panel of experts and a retained-scouting service.
For the first time, certified agents of participating players will be credentialed to attend the combine to "promote players' access to their representatives."
The NBA and NBPA also agreed to limit the ability of teams to attend agent-sponsored pro days outside of the combine setting. Pro days will be held in a single athletic facility either in California or on the East Coast, over no more than a two-day period. In the past, NBA teams would spend significant time traveling from gym to gym around the United States to attend pro days, a costly and resource-intensive process that was widely despised by scouts, but did not prevent them from attending en masse.
The second major change that will be instituted in the new CBA involves doing away with automatic eligibility for high school or collegiate players who sign professional contracts with entities such as G League Ignite, Overtime Elite (OTE) or the Australian NBL.
In the past, players who signed with such entities would be automatically eligible for the subsequent NBA draft, regardless of whether they were interested in doing so or not, provided they were turning 19 in that calendar year.
Examples include Jalen Green with Ignite, LaMelo Ball in Australia, the Thompson twins with OTE, or collegiate players who elected to turn pro without entering the draft, such as Efe Abogidi, who signed with G League Ignite after his sophomore season at Washington State. Even international players, such as Dyson Daniels, became automatically eligible for the following draft upon signing with Ignite.
G League Ignite had found loopholes to get around this restriction -- for example, signing players after the start of the NBA season -- but will no longer need to do so, significantly expanding the pool of potential prospects to include those who might need several years of development and seasoning before being ready to maximize their draft stock.
Forcing players to become automatically eligible had wide-ranging ramifications for the likes of Ignite, OTE and the NBL, with several players going undrafted as teenagers -- Daishen Nix (previously committed to UCLA) or Michael Foster with Ignite -- something that proved to be a significant deterrent for those considering professional pathways out of high school.
The revision of these sections of the CBA means that U.S.-based players will be able to sign pro contracts with G League Ignite, OTE or international teams and spend several years with those entities until they elect to enter the draft on their own volition, or turn 22 years old during the calendar year of the draft. This will likely have major implications on alternative pathway entities' ability to recruit elite prospects out of high school, international destinations or college, opening a wide range of options for players.
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and international teams.