The Road To The NBA: How Many College Basketball Players Make The Cut?

College basketball is one of the most competitive sports one can partake in. But how many college basketball players make it to the NBA?

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How many college basketball players make it to the NBA?

While the exact number is difficult to estimate, it’s said that roughly only 2% of college basketball players enter into the NBA. This number varies greatly from year to year depending on players entering the draft, roster spots available, and more. But in 2021 less than 2% made it into the NBA. 

As a sports aficionado, I’ve been watching the NBA draft every year since 2000. I can tell you the amount of players that get into the NBA is minimal and the cut is very hard to make. 

Sometimes, families are left disappointed and heartbroken while other families celebrate and rejoice. The NBA draft is fickle, and always a truly entertaining event.

College Ball

There are a set amount of players that play college ball. Each team has a certain number of players and there are only a certain number of teams. 

Each spot on the team whether it’s starting or backup, is vital to each organization’s success. 

In the NCAA there are 1,500 Division I players. Out of these division I players only 60 players will get drafted into the National Basketball Association. 

The rest of the players will either be forced to compete in overseas basketball or enact the career they prepared for in college. An NBA team is looking for the cream of the crop when they look at D1 college players. Playing basketball as a career is a path only few can take because the draft margin is so slim. 

In Division I basketball, there are 350 member schools with a roster of up to 150 players. 

So the total number of players varies from year to year, but the final draft number is about 60, leaving the final percentage of college athletes drafted into the National Basketball Association around 2-3%.

NBA Draft

How many college basketball players make it to the NBA

The NBA draft has changed in recent years. For example, no longer can a player go directly from high school to the NBA to play basketball. 

The NBA doesn’t want to cheat American players out of a college education.  American players who are drafted into the NBA must be 19 and be removed at least one year from high school before beginning their NBA basketball career. 

According to some, like the commissioner of the NBA, 19 is too young, and he himself wants to push the age to 20, forcing kids to compete at the NCAA division level before entering the NBA.

Once eligible for draft, players can now attend a pro teams combine and see how they would fare in the draft. 

The NBA combine is the ultimate chance for a player to truly show off their skills to a team to see if the team wants to draft the players after the players display their skills. 

Some NCAA players are already considered being drafted for many different teams, so they attend the combines to shake hands instead of compete in tournaments and do drills. 

Next is the lottery. The lottery is chosen by shaking up balls in a ball shaker, and having the numbers picked out. The numbers chosen correspond to a team allowing them early draft picks. There’s 14 lottery teams, which squashes any hopes of tanking a season in order to secure an early draft pick.

After the order is chosen, teams may start to choose the players during draft night. Draft night is a busy and exciting night, as trades are often happening minutes before drafts. 

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NBA Team Draft Picks

The NBA teams get a certain amount of picks in order to fulfill the promise made to them to pick up new talent each year. 

30 young players are drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. In the second round of the NBA draft, another 30 student athlete players are drafted. 

This means there are a total of two rounds of drafting talented players from college in the NBA. Teams really put a lot of thought and effort into choosing the right individuals to turn into NBA players. 

This is because a draft pick has the potential to influence a franchise’s history for years to come.

Think about how greatly the Cavaliers were affected by the draft of Lebron James. 

It made the Cavs one of the hottest teams in the NBA for years, compared to previous years of poor crowd turnout and merchandise sales. 

So teams look for the following factors when looking at college athletics to join the ranks of the most professional NBA players.

  • Physical attributes: size, athleticism, strength, and mobility.
  • Skill set: shooting ability, ball handling, passing, and defense.
  • Basketball IQ: understanding of the game, court vision, and decision making.
  • Production: statistical performance in college or international play.
  • Potential: ability to develop and improve over time.
  • Injury history: past and potential future injury concerns.
  • Character: work ethic, coachability, leadership, and off-court behavior.
  • Fit with team: how well the player’s skills and style complement the existing roster.
  • Need: filling specific positional or style of play needs for the team.
  • Draft value: rankings and projections from various experts and draft analysts.
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This list is comprehensive of what teams look for in draft picks. 

Each player is considered thoroughly and compared to other players with the utmost respect and due diligence. 

To even be considered for the NBA draft is a great honor, and making it to the final round means you possess a quality from each of the categories above. 

Key Takeaways

  • Only around 2% of college ball players make it into the NBA.
  • Out of 1500 division 1 players, only 60 will be chosen for the NBA draft. 
  • The draft process is very involved and teams pick up to 60 members each draft year. 
  • NCAA players are gaining skills to play in the NBA while they play college ball. 
  • The NBA lottery chooses which NBA team gets to choose a draft pick first. 

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