The NBA draft was June 21. Free agency will start July 1, and players can officially sign July 6.
But what if free agency began before the draft, as the NFL does it?
Houston is the first NBA team to officially propose it, and the idea has gained some momentum — including the support of a few prominent general managers, league sources say. The Rockets are now working with those supporters and the league office to construct a semi-specific calendar outlining how events would flow from free agency, to the draft, and through summer league.
The goal should be optimizing the allocation of players on teams. Sometimes, players get stuck on teams that don’t want them – which serves nobody.
And maybe moving free agency before the draft would help.
More players move in free agency than the draft, so teams would have a better understanding of their rosters entering the draft. This could allow teams to trade draft picks to teams with a higher desire for those picks, and the teams acquiring the picks would get to select their prospects rather than being stuck with whomever the dealing team chose. Teams would also have more cap flexibility to facilitate trades in a later draft, as expiring contracts will have come off the books.
But the current system seems to work well enough. People generally oppose change, even change that would improve the situation, when the status quo is satisfactory. Fear of the unknown is powerful.
A compromise solution that wouldn’t radically alter the landscape: Move the draft to the start of the following league year rather than holding it at the end of the previous league year. (For example, the 2018 draft technically occurred during the 2017-18 season rather than the 2018-19 season.) That’d free cap flexibility while keeping the order of events – draft then free agency – intact.