2021 NBA Draft Dates, Deadlines To Watch

We’re still more than two-and-a-half months away from NBA draft day, but before we get to July 29, there are several other important dates and deadlines on the calendar. Here are some of those dates and deadlines worth keeping an eye on:

May 30 (11:59pm ET): Deadline for early entrants to declare for the draft

College players and international early entrants have until the end of the day on May 30 to submit their names into the 2021 NBA draft pool. They can withdraw their names later if they decide they’re not quite ready to go pro, though if college players want to maintain their NCAA eligibility, they must put off hiring an agent who’s not certified by the NCAA.

In a typical year, once the early entrant list is set, NBA teams can begin conducting or attending workouts for those players. However, with COVID-19 still looming as a factor, it’s not clear what form pre-draft workouts will take in 2021.

June 19-21: NBA G League Elite Camp

After having to cancel this event in 2020 due to the pandemic, the NBA will bring it back in 2021.

In 2019, the Elite Camp – having recently been revamped by the NBA – consisted of 40 G League invitees participating in the first half of the event, followed by 40 top draft-eligible players (who weren’t invited to the actual combine) taking part in the second half. It’s unclear if the format will remain the same this year.

June 21-27: NBA draft combine

This week-long event allows NBA teams to get a first-hand look at many of the year’s top draft-eligible players. According to the league, the plan for this year’s combine is to conduct five-on-five games and strength and agility testing, though that’s subject to “evolving public health conditions.”

The combine is often particularly important for early entrants who have yet to decide whether or not to stay in the draft. The feedback they get at the combine could go a long way toward dictating whether they keep their names in the draft or return to school for another year.

June 22: NBA draft lottery (8:30pm ET)

The 2021 draft lottery will be the third one that uses the new format, which was introduced in 2019. With the lottery odds flattened out, the NBA’s worst team will only have a 14% shot at the No. 1 overall pick, as opposed to the 25% chance it had prior to ’19.

The new system has provided some excitement during the past two draft lotteries, as five of the eight teams that claimed top-four picks in 2019 and 2020 entered the night without a top-six spot in the lottery standings.

Our reverse standings provide a glimpse at what the pre-lottery draft order could look like.

July 7 (11:59pm): NCAA early entrant withdrawal deadline

College underclassmen (and, this year, seniors) who want to retain their NCAA eligibility will have to withdraw their names from the draft pool by July 7. NBA rules call for a later withdrawal deadline, but the NCAA has its own set of rules that say the deadline is 10 days after the combine.

An early entrant could technically wait until after July 7 to withdraw from the draft and could still retain his NBA draft eligibility for a future year. However, he would forfeit his amateur status in that scenario, making him ineligible to return to his NCAA squad.

July 19 (5:00pm ET): NBA early entrant withdrawal deadline

This is the NBA’s final deadline for early entrants to withdraw their names from the draft pool and retain their draft eligibility for a future year.

By this point, we generally know whether an NCAA underclassman kept his name in the draft or not, but this is an important deadline for international players, who aren’t subject to the same restrictions as college players. We’ll likely hear about several international early entrants withdrawing from the draft during the days leading up to July 19.

July 29: NBA draft day

The most exciting few weeks of the NBA offseason unofficially get underway on draft day, which is often when some of the first major trades of the summer are completed and we get a sense of which direction certain teams are heading.

It’s also worth noting that the hours and days after the draft ends will be hugely important for many of this year’s draft-eligible prospects — a ton of players who aren’t selected with one of the 60 picks in the draft will reach agreements shortly thereafter to play for an NBA team’s Summer League squad, to attend training camp with a club, or to sign a two-way contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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