Draft Deadlines Facing NCAA Underclassmen

The college season is winding down, and with that transition comes the annual influx of underclassmen declaring early entry for the draft. There’s a proposal with strong backing that would make it easier for those players to declare and return to college with their NCAA eligibility intact, but the soonest any such change would take effect is 2016. For now, “testing the waters” remains a practical impossibility, as Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress has explained in-depth each of the past three years after the existing rules were implemented in 2012. Here’s a look at the key dates in the process this year, as mined from NBA.com and a letter that the NCAA sent potential early entry candidates in February that’s posted on NCAA.org:

  • April 12th: NCAA Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline
  • April 26th: NBA Draft Early Entry Eligibility Deadline (10:59pm CT)
  • April 29th: NBA teams can begin conducting and/or attending workouts with early entrants
  • May 12th-17th: NBA Draft Combine (Chicago)
  • May 19th: NBA Draft Lottery
  • June 15th: NBA Draft Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline (4:00pm CT)
  • June 25th: NBA Draft

The April 12th date is the key. That withdrawal deadline comes three days earlier than it did last year, giving prospects even less time to make a decision. The NCAA has an Undergraduate Advisory Committee, made up of executives from 20 NBA teams, that gives feedback on a player’s draft stock if he applies to receive it, but last year the committee wasn’t obligated to respond until a day before the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline. The NCAA doesn’t allow NBA workouts for early-entry prospects until April 29th, three days after the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft.

Still, a player can retain flexibility if he doesn’t officially declare for the draft until April 26th, the last day the NBA permits early entry, so there’s incentive to wait, as Givony has pointed out. That’s nonetheless a stark contrast to the NBA’s June 15th deadline for early entrants to pull out of the draft, a date that applies mostly to international prospects, since a college player couldn’t return to NCAA ball if he were to withdraw at that point. Only one college player withdrew from the draft after declaring last year, and that was because he’d signed with an overseas team.

The system makes it difficult for college prospects to receive first-hand information on how highly they’re likely to be drafted or whether they can expect to be drafted at all, as Givony has detailed. That’s not an issue for top underclassmen, like Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, who’ll clearly be taken near the top. Second-tier early-entry prospects are those who feel the effect, and it’s a large group. There are only 18 college seniors among Givony’s top 100 prospects.

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