Thursday’s NBA Draft went as most would imagine: For the second consecutive year, a player from a non-NCAA Tournament team was selected first overall, Bulls superstar Jimmy Butler was shipped out of town, LaVar Ball made another public cameo, and the Knicks swooped up another European hooper in the lottery. What separates the 2017 draft from its predecessors, though, is its youth.
For the first time in NBA Draft history, the first ten ex-collegiate players off the board were freshmen. The first round also had the most freshmen (16) and fewest seniors (2) ever. Colorado’s Derrick White (29th overall) and Villanova’s (30th overall) were not only the two seniors taken in the first round, but also the final two picks of the round. Last year’s draft saw five seniors selected in the first 30 picks, with the first being Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield at #6 overall. There were more freshmen selected in this year’s lottery (picks 1-14) than in the entire first round of the 2016 NBA Draft. It’s safe to say the youth movement was alive and well on Thursday night.
So just how young is the 2017 NBA Draft class? Even despite the abundance of freshmen taken in the first round, the second round included far more older players, most notably Arizona’s Kadeem Allen (24), who is just the fourth 24-year-old chosen since 2010. The average age of each draft class dating back to 1989 (the final draft with just 60 picks) is listed below, with the 2017 draft falling just short of becoming the youngest draft class ever in terms of age.
Unsurprisingly, as the one-and-done movement in college basketball continues, recent draft classes are getting younger and younger. Prior to the 2006 season, players could go directly from high school to the NBA Draft, which explains why the 2003, 2004 and 2005 draft classes rank among the top five in terms of youngest average age. A whopping 22 players were selected out of American high schools over that three-year span, but the abundance of upperclassmen selected otherwise explains why the previous two draft classes have had younger average ages overall.
The age of players selected also increases as the draft progresses, indicated by the table below.
Since 1989, the average age for lottery picks is 20 years and 259 days. The remainder of the draft, though, compiles an average age of 21 years and 222 days, almost a full year older. The number of teenagers selected in the draft has also increased. In the past two drafts, a combined 40 players that were younger than 20 years old at the day of the draft were picked. From 1989 to 1994, just one teenager (Seattle SuperSonics’ Shawn Kemp) was drafted. As long as NBA commissioner Adam Silver has the one-and-done rule in place, expect these trends to continue.