What Are the NBA Scouting Rules?

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Identify hoop talent early on, but make sure you follow the rules.

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.

  1. NCAA Standards

    • 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.

    Ethical Behavior

    • 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.

    Unauthorized Contracts

    • 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.

    Developmental League

    • 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.

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