Talented basketball players are identified at early ages on school playgrounds and city parks. College coaches and amateur leagues have incredibly strict rules regarding scouting and contacting potential players. The professional scouting ranks for the NBA are a little looser, but missteps can be costly to a scout's pocketbook and reputation. Inappropriate contact can also cost players their amateur status.
Scouts learn a great deal about players during sanctioned competition. But at times they will want a closer examination of particular skills, such as ball-handling or shooting. An amateur athlete playing under NCAA rules may not participate in a paid workout for a professional team in any sport, including for NBA representatives. A tryout may occur only during the summer, and at the expense of the athlete. Failure to abide by this rule will cause the amateur to forfeit all remaining eligibility.
NBA scouts will be praised and financially rewarded for their ability to clearly define player attributes and deficiencies. Teams use this valuable information to make draft choices and offer contracts to eligible talent. However, scouts must follow the rules as well as have an eye for talent. In 2010, a scout for the New York Knicks was cut loose from the organization for violating the league's ethics rules by having secret workouts for top college players. The scout also had questionable contact with at least one high school player.
Amateurs and foreign talent cannot be signed by NBA teams until they have been eligible for at least one player draft. Because of the nature of the work, scouts can be the team representative closest to the players. Article X of the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement sets forth specific guidelines for players to be tendered contracts. A scout acting on the team's behalf violates this rule if he negotiates compensation or terms of a contract prior to the league's timeline, which is generally July 1 of each year. A violation of player contract negotiation rules could result in a $20,000 fine levied against the team.
The NBA has a summer developmental league (D-league) for rookies and second-year players needing more game experience. The D-League scouts talent at college games, camps and international tournaments to select players. By rule, D-League staff then share information and player evaluations with the NBA home office and, subsequently, all teams.
- NCAA: Frequently Asked Questions on Amateurism and Tryouts
- National Basketball Players Association; Collective Bargaining Agreement Article X; 2005
- National Basketball Players Association; Collective Bargaining Agreement Article XXXVI; 2005
- "New York Daily News"; Rodney Heard's Scouting Assignments Scaled Back by Donnie Walsh Before Learning of Alleged Violation; Frank Isola; Oct. 28, 2010
- "USA Today"; NBA Minimum-Age Rule Provides Scouting Opportunity; Rob Harrington; July 1, 2005
- International Business Times; Knicks — Scout Dropped for Violating NBA Rules; July 13, 2011
- NBA: NBA D-League Frequently Asked Questions
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