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Protected vs. Unprotected NBA Draft Picks: Understanding the Key Differences

Protected vs. Unprotected NBA Draft Picks: Understanding the Key Differences

The NBA draft is an annual event that allows basketball teams to choose players who have never been a part of the NBA (National Basketball Association) before.

With the NBA, there is often an exciting issue. There has been much confusion regarding what an NBA-protected pick is versus an unprotected draft pick.

Despite what some people believe, the two have some subtle differences.

The main difference between NBA-protected and unprotected picks is that an NBA-protected pick typically comes with stipulations if it is traded away. There are a variety of forms in which these stipulations could be expressed. In contrast, unprotected picks are not subject to such restrictions.

I’ll explain further about these picks in this article, so keep on reading.

What Is The NBA Draft?

Since 1947, the NBA draft has been an annual event where the league’s teams can select eligible players from the pool.

It takes place during the NBA off-season near the end of June. The game is divided into two rounds. The number of players selected in each draft is sixty. The age for the selection is at least nineteen years.

The players are typically college students who have been out of high school for one year. The program is also open to college players who have completed their degrees.

Moreover, players over twenty-two outside the United States are also eligible to compete.

Protected NBA Draft Pick: What Is It?

Protected draft picks are the ones that come with some protection clause on their players.

Teams are allowed to exchange or even sell their picks for the year in exchange for money or the following year’s pick.

If a team wants to trade a pick but puts forward the stipulation of top-three protected picks, then team b wouldn’t be able to get the team a pick if it falls in the top three picks.

In this way, team A can keep their pick out of the top three. So, picks that have been protected have more value than picks that have not been protected since the original team has the option to keep the pick if it is high.

However, if it repeatedly occurs for four years, the protection will be declared null, and the other team will have the pick irrespective of its placement.

Unprotected NBA Draft Pick: What Is It?

The unprotected NBA draft picks are the simple ones without any associated protection clause.

Consider the case where team A traded away their 2020 NBA Draft pick in 2017. The team that received the unprotected draft pick will keep it regardless of whether it ends up being the number one pick. 

Moreover, team b can even trade this pick to another team and can add their stipulations to this trade.

Know The Difference: Protected VS Unprotected NBA Draft

The difference between protected and unprotected picks is the addition of protection clauses against the picks.

In a protected pick, A team that chooses to trade its pick to another team lays down some rules to specify the trade.

It’s primarily done to protect their pick if it lies in the top three or ten positions, as these players are the best in the selection pool.

Meanwhile, the unprotected pick is a simple trade of a pick in which a team trades its next year’s pick to the other team and takes their current year’s pick.

There are no rules that can specify anything about that trade. The other group can have the team pick irrespective of its placement in the selection pool.

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Why Do Teams Trade Their Picks?

Teams often trade their picks to improve their positions in current or future drafts, as each pick is the opportunity opened for your team for its next game.

Picks are the assets that can help you change the course of the next game, So the club executives have the authority to trade their pick if they think it’ll benefit them in the future.

How does the NBA draft lottery work?

There is a random combination generated for the NBA and ignored if it is found in the drawing process of the lottery. The team receives 140 combinations out of the 1000 remaining ones if it has a 14% chance of winning the top pick.

Then the fourth team receives 125 combinations, and so on based on ranking.

Here is a short video to explain the NBA Draft Pick Protection:

Explanation of NBA Draft Pick Protection

Can A Player Refuse A Draft Pick NBA?

Yes, the players have the full right to refuse if they are not interested in playing for the team that picked them. Its the part of the rules of the NBA Draft.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Drafted In The NBA Draft?

Players not selected in the NBA draft are forced to pursue other professional options such as the G League or Europe if an NBA team does not sign them.

How long is the NBA draft?

Every team receives 5 minutes among the picks. which means that the draft is likely to last for four hours. Further, The draft only consists of two rounds and lasts for a day.

In the 2022, NBA Draft, there are a total of 58 picks.

What does the top 5 protected draft pick mean?

If trading is done by team A to team B in terms of “5 best-protected picks”, it suggests that only if the pick is apart from the top 5, only then team B will get a pick. However, in the lottery, if team A gets number 6 then team B gets the chance to pick.

Moreover, if the pick is between numbers 1 to 5, then team A gets the pick.

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What Is The Eligibility For The NBA Draft?

The eligibility criteria for the NBA Draft are pretty simple. Here is a small table giving details about the ones who are eligible.

Age (For US Residents)At least ten years during the year of NBA drafting.
Age (For Foreign Players)At least twenty-two (22) years.
For Students At least a high school graduation with one year in college
For GraduatesStudents who have completed their four-year graduation are eligible for foreigners and US nationals.
Eligibility Criteria for NBA drafting

Final Verdict

NBA Draft is the event in which teams from the whole country are allowed to pick new potential players for their teams. Teams tend to trade their picks during this event. These picks might be protected or unprotected.

  • Protected picks are the ones that are laid out for trade with some specific set of rules that allow teams to defend their picks if they are potentially helpful for them.
  • Unprotected picks are the ones that are traded without any clauses put forward by the team to protect their future pick.
  • Most protected picks lie in the top tens as those are at the highest potential among the pool.
  • However, the protection rule expires after four years of missing the trade and becomes available for the other team.

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