Every year, hundreds of college basketball players and international prospects declare for the NBA draft with hopes of being selected by one of the 30 teams in the league. However, only 60 players are drafted each year, leaving many talented athletes needing a team to call their own. For these players, going undrafted can be a disappointing and uncertain experience. Have you ever wondered, “What happens if you go undrafted in the NBA?”
What Does Undrafted Mean in NBA?
When a player goes undrafted in the NBA, it means that no team selected him during the draft. This can be a crushing blow to a player’s dreams of playing professional basketball, but it is not the end of the road. That’s pretty disappointing, right? Not so fast.
Undrafted players still have opportunities to make it to the NBA, including playing in the NBA G-League, signing a two-way or Exhibit 10 contract, and participating in summer league or training camp with an NBA team. In short, they are technically free agents who can sign with any team who may give them a chance.
However, these paths are not easy and require hard work, determination, and a bit of good luck. If they don’t make it to the NBA, some may choose to go professional, mainly playing in overseas leagues in Europe, China, and the rest of Asia, where the pay isn’t too bad.
Players who enter the NBA Draft usually prepare and analyze their class to lessen the risk of going undrafted. Their agents will probably track mock drafts or gauge interest among NBA teams and advise their clients about the best decision. If there is no interest, some prospects return to college and try their luck next year.
Sometimes, though, players may choose to go undrafted just so they can sign with the team they’re targeting all along. For example, Austin Reaves and his camp reportedly dissuaded teams from drafting him in the second round so he could sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. It paid off in the long run for Reaves, but it’s a bold and particularly risky move. He is one of the best undrafted NBA players right now.
What Contracts Do Undrafted Players Get?
Undrafted NBA players are technically free agents; hence, they may sign a standard NBA contract or a two-way contract.
A standard NBA contract is the same type of contract that a drafted player would sign, and it offers a higher salary and greater security since most of these contracts are guaranteed. At the very least, it may be partially guaranteed.
A two-way contract, on the other hand, is a type of contract that allows a player to split their time between the NBA team and the team’s G League affiliate. Players on two-way contracts can spend up to 45 days with the NBA team, and the rest of their time must be spent in the G League. Two-way contracts offer a lower salary than standard NBA contracts, but because of the structure, they provide more opportunities for playing time and development.
In both cases, it is rare for undrafted players to sign for a more significant amount of money on their first contract. Interested teams smartly offer the players minimum salary, perhaps some type of a “prove yourself” contract, before offering the bag. Undrafted players did not get selected in the draft for a reason, and therefore, most of them do not really pan out in the NBA.
How Long is an Undrafted Contract in the NBA?
There is technically no such thing as an “undrafted contract.” However, if an “undrafted contract” means either a two-way or a short-term standard contract, then it may be answered. The length of an undrafted contract in the NBA varies depending on the specific terms negotiated between the player and the team.
Generally, undrafted players are signed to non-guaranteed contracts ranging from one year to multiple years. However, the most common length of an undrafted contract is one year. After the contract expires, the team may choose to negotiate a new deal or release the player. It’s also important to note that the NBA has a minimum salary scale for undrafted players, which increases with each additional year of experience. For the 2022-23 season, undrafted rookies earn a minimum of $1,017,781.
Do Undrafted NBA Players Get Paid?
Yes, undrafted NBA players get paid if they ever sign a contract with any interested NBA team. As mentioned, the minimum salary for undrafted rookies signing guaranteed contracts this season is just over a million dollars.
What about current undrafted NBA players who signed a two-way contract? These players receive flat salaries of exactly half of the undrafted rookie minimum, which is $508,891. As they say, if you find yourself sitting on an NBA bench with a chance to check into the game, you’ve already made it.
5 Undrafted Players Who Became All-Star
Only a handful of notable NBA undrafted players have become a fixture of their team’s rotations. Now, set the bar higher to All-Star appearances, and the list becomes even shorter. Here are the only five undrafted players who made an NBA All-Star team:
1. Brad Miller
Miller was a big man who was ahead of his time. He played out of the high post and was an underrated passer and jump shooter. The Purdue product was not only undrafted in 1998; he started out playing in Italy after getting shunned by 30 NBA teams.
Eventually, Miller turned the tide in his favor and became an All-Star for the Indiana Pacers in 2003 and Sacramento Kings in 2004. In this span, Miller averaged 13.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks. He is only second behind Vlade Divac (706) in total assists by a center with 505.
2. Fred VanVleet
VanVleet went undrafted in 2016 after playing four years at Wichita State. He clawed his way from the Raptors G-League affiliate to NBA champion in 2019, playing behind Kyle Lowry at the point guard position. With Lowry now in South Beach, Fred became the starting point guard for Toronto and made the All-Star team last year after averaging 20.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 6.7 assists.
3. Ben Wallace
Undrafted out of Virginia Union, Big Ben was a defensive monster in his prime and was so good he made multiple All-Star teams without averaging double-digits in scoring. Wallace began his string of four All-Star appearances in 2003 and was also named the DPOY in as many times (2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006). Interestingly, the year when he wasn’t named the Defensive Player of the Year (2004) was the same year they beat the Lakers for the NBA championship.
4. John Starks
Starks was the starting point guard of many New York playoff teams in the 90s. He was undrafted out of Oklahoma State in 1988 and made the All-Star team in 1994. That year, he averaged a career-high 19 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.6 steals.
5. Connie Hawkins
Hawkins’ case differed from anybody else on this list, but he still fits the bill. The Hawk was blackballed because of his expulsion from Iowa, so he went undrafted in 1964. The ABA gave him a second chance and showed up, winning a championship and the MVP in 1968. He secured a contract with the Phoenix Suns in 1969 and became an All-Star from 1970 until 1973.
Wrapping Things Up: What Happens if You Go Undrafted in the NBA?
Every college basketball player and young prospect dreamed of getting called upon the podium and drafted by an NBA team. Many have come to live out the fantasy, but even more have fallen short. Why? It’s because not everybody can get drafted. Out of hundreds of hopefuls, only a maximum of 60 could get drafted, and sometimes, teams pass drafting in the second round.
So, the question goes: What happens if you go undrafted in the NBA? Simply put, an undrafted player is technically a free agent, meaning he can sign with any interested team. However, most undrafted rookies are rarely offered guaranteed deals from the get-go. They are either signed for two-way contracts or any lesser deal that allows them to prove themselves, or they could get cut any minute.
Admittedly, going undrafted is almost a death sentence for one’s career, but a handful of success stories prove it’s not the end all be all. At least five have made All-Star teams– Brad Miller, Ben Wallace, Connie Hawkins, John Starks, and Fred VanVleet. Only VanVleet is currently playing, but other notable NBA undrafted players include Austin Reaves of the Lakers and Christian Wood of the Dallas Mavericks.
Therefore, if you’re wondering what happens if you go undrafted in the NBA, you are given a more challenging path, but it’s not the end of the road. The odds are stacked against undrafted players, but many stuck it out and had solid careers in the league.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.