Many kids look up to professional athletes more than their teachers or parents. As much as Charles Barkley would tell everyone he’s not a role model, young basketball players dream of making it big, particularly in the NBA, where the one-year minimum salary is almost $1 million!
But how realistic is that dream, really? What are the chances of making it to the NBA? Let’s separate fact from fiction and give the dreaming young basketball players a touch of reality.
What is the Percentage of Making it to the NBA?
There are many excellent basketball players worldwide, but only a select few get the opportunity to play in the NBA. And it’s not even entirely about opportunity; talent, God-given attributes, skills, and mentality are essential factors that may help a young basketball player to play at the next level. So, how hard is it to earn a contract and roster part in the NBA? Let’s put it into perspective.
There are 500,000 male high school basketball players in the United States alone. Around 1,500 of them go on to play NCAA Division I college basketball. Out of these 1,500, only 60 are going to get drafted in the NBA, and even when you’re drafted, you’re not guaranteed to play a minute of NBA basketball.
In addition to that, there are international prospects that lower the odds for American basketball players. Players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Ricky Rubio, Pau Gasol, Yao Ming, and Nikola Jokic did not play NCAA basketball but got drafted via the international route.
Therefore, by numbers, what are the chances of getting drafted into the NBA? If you’re a high school basketball player, your chances of getting drafted are around 0.012%. It goes up to about 4% if you play NCAA D1 ball, but it could be lower because of the aforementioned international prospects.
This year alone, Nikola Jovic (Croatia) and Ousmane Dieng (France) did not play U.S. college ball but got drafted in the first round. The presence of such players significantly reduces the odds for American college players.
How Many Players Make It to the NBA Every Year?
An NBA team is allowed to have 15 players on its roster, exclusive of contracts like the two-way and Exhibit 10. That means if all teams use up all their roster spots, there are 450 NBA players yearly.
Of the 60 NBA players drafted yearly, only a handful make it to the final roster. There could be undrafted players who may replace them in the pecking order or free agents who can sign to a team outright. International players who are over 22 years old can automatically sign to an NBA team. Pablo Prigioni, Marcelo Huertas, and Facundo Campazzo are just some international players signed directly by an NBA team.
How Hard is it to Make It to the NBA?
If you’re just beginning your basketball career as a young baller, your NBA dream only has a less than 1% chance of happening. That’s the reality of it.
That may not appear too difficult, but break those numbers down, and you’ll realize how hard it is to become an NBA player. You literally have to be the 1% of the 1% of the best in the world.
First, consider the people who are eligible to play in the NBA. That includes all boys who play high school basketball or higher. Around 500,000 boys high school basketball players in the United States and 16,000 college players play Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3 basketball. Think about this: There are only over 100 out of 16,000 who are ever going to make it to the big league. Needless to say, that’s a tough hill to climb! Add the international players to the mix, and it gets even more challenging.
How to Make it to the NBA
The NBA is a league of the world’s best basketball players. Most NBA players started playing ball at a young age and became really good early. There are cases where young players start showing out in college. However, most NBA players are already the top in their class while still in high school. This is the time young players start having the buzz around them.
Being good at an early age is an indication, but not the end all be all; after all, basketball players, even pros, have a lot of growing up to do. Even though talent and repetition may turn heads, eventually, you have to develop a work ethic to improve. If you have won the genetic lottery, luck you since you already got the tools to take your game to the next level.
The most significant factor for young players to get into the NBA is height. You don’t have to be the tallest; you only have to be tall enough to keep up with everybody. The average NBA player stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 218 pounds. You already have the upper hand if you’re somewhere around that stature. (In comparison, the average height of Americans is 5-foot-8.)
Again, height and weight are not the end-all-be-all. Skills matter in the NBA, and some shorter NBA players combine skill and athleticism that make them stand out among their peers. Isaiah Thomas, John Stockton, and Steve Nash are all listed at 6-foot-1, and they were perennial All-Stars. Nate Robinson, Muggsey Bogues, and Spud Webb are all under 6 feet but carved long and successful NBA careers.
What Do NBA Scouts Look For?
Playing at the highest level of basketball takes more than just measurables, skills, and talent. NBA scouts break prospects down like Gordon Ramsay fillets a fish, and these are some of the things high atop their checklists:
For this, the scouts have to do their homework. They may have to ask whoever has information about a player– coaches, friends, homeroom teachers, relatives, etc. An excellent indication of character is how hard he plays during games. Does he complain a lot to the referees? Does he bounce back immediately after playing mistakes?
Versatility is a crucial aspect of today’s basketball. A player must possess different skills and be able to play multiple positions if that’s what the coach wants. Sometimes, it’s a hit or miss even when a prospect is versatile, but there’s no doubt certain scouts value versatility over other things.
3. Basketball IQ and Feel for the Game
“Feel” and “basketball IQ” are said to be two things that can’t be taught. It may improve through proper guidance, but it is readily apparent that a prospect has the “it” factor. A prospect with a high basketball IQ makes good decisions and seems to be aware of what’s happening on the court at all times. They can adapt quickly to changes and know what to do if they don’t have the ball.
4. High Motor
Another one of basketball attributes that couldn’t be taught is “high motor,” which means players with this quality make a difference just by their energy. A player with a high motor is always involved in the game and never takes plays off. Coaches and scouts agree that it can be learned, but it probably has something to do with conditioning and staying in shape.
5. Cool Under Pressure
NBA teams often play pressure-packed games, so if you’re picking high up in the lottery, you might want to check prospects who have proven themselves in the pressure cooker. Scouts seek athletes who can maintain their composure in high-pressure circumstances and stay focused on the game even if a wrong call is made. A good indication of whether a player has the potential to remain calm in pressure situations has great sportsmanship. If his hardworking ways do not rub opponents the wrong way, you know that player is special.
Wrapping Things Up: What are the Chances of Making it to the NBA?
Drivers, healthcare professionals, and construction workers are the most common jobs in the world. On the other end of the spectrum are professional athletes, who comprise less than 1% of the population. The foremost among these athletes are NBA players, who are among the highest-paid professionals in the world. In case you didn’t know, a minimum contract in the NBA nears $1 million a season.
So, if you like basketball and want to be a pro, you may have wondered, “What are the chances of making to the NBA?” The chances of any basketball player making it to the NBA is 0.012%. The odds increase if you’re already an NCAA D1 player, but not by much because only 60 players get drafted in the NBA. Getting drafted is also not an automatic ticket to an NBA contract, plus the presence of international prospects makes matters more complicated. If you’re dreaming of becoming an NBA player, know that the odds of making it in the NBA are really very low.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.