The deadline has passed for players to declare for the NBA Draft, and a record number of them availed themselves of the opportunity.
According to ESPN, the NBA’s early-entry list includes 236 players, up 30 percent from last year’s then-record of 182 players. Of those 236, 181 come from American colleges, up 32 percent from last year’s total (137). It’s important to note that those figures all include players who declined to sign with an agent, thereby retaining the option of pulling out of the draft. Per ESPN, about 55 players have signed with an agent thus far, while the rest have until May 30 to decide whether to do so.
The NBA says 236 players, 181 from colleges and post-graduate institutions & 55 international players, filed as early entry candidates for the 2018 NBA Draft. Under NCAA rules, to retain college basketball eligibility, underclassmen who have entered must withdraw by May 30.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) April 24, 2018
This year, the crop of early entrants includes the stars who will likely be selected at the top of June’s draft — DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic, Mo Bamba, Trae Young, Jaren Jackson Jr., Michael Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges, Collin Sexton, etc. — but also a bunch of guys who won’t likely hear their names called in the first round, or perhaps at all. Everyone from the Final Four Most Outstanding Player (Donte DiVincenzo) to Florida Gulf Coast’s seventh leading scorer (Michael Gilmore).
There are several explanations for the recent surge in early entrants (G League expansion probably contributes, for example), but the biggest is almost certainly the NBA’s recent change to the deadline to declare, which went into affect last year. Whereas players formerly had to decide on whether or not to leave school by mid-April, the new rule extended the window until 10 days after the NBA combine. Now, players can dip their toes into the NBA waters, gauge interest from teams, request feedback from the Undergraduate Advisory Committee, see if they can score a combine invite and decide with a more complete understanding of their professional prospects than they once would have had.
Some people like to argue that a bloated number of early entrants is a sign that many players are making rash decisions, forgoing education for a minuscule chance at landing in the NBA. But although it’s likely that some prospects are getting bad advice, most probably know exactly what they’re doing. For some early entrants, the point isn’t necessarily to make the NBA but rather to begin a professional career at one level or another. Declaring for the draft is simply the first step toward that.