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I'm asking this question because of my ignorance of the fine aspects of drafts.

Suppose that I'm playing basketball in college (I don't know if the specific sport matters; let's stay with basketball) and I'm good enough to have a decent stab at getting into the NBA. I declare draft eligibility, and on draft night, the Phoenix Suns (say) pick me. Suppose now that I just don't want to play for them, for whatever reason (for example, because it would require me to live in Phoenix long term). Do I have a right to pass on their offer?

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This depends on what you mean by "pass on their offer". Nothing requires you to sign any sort of contract with Phoenix, so you're perfectly free to ignore the fact that Phoenix have drafted you and go and get a job doing something else entirely (including, if you happen to be good enough, a different professional sport).

However, what you can't do is to sign a professional basketball contract with an NBA team which is not the Phoenix Suns - in the typical language, they own your "draft rights" and have the exclusive right to sign you to an NBA contract for (normally) the next year. The NBA Salary Cap FAQ details the situations in which the Suns could own your rights for more than a year - perhaps the most significant is if you play professional basketball outside the NBA, in which case they own your rights until one year after you finish playing professional basketball anywhere in the world.

  • This. It's similar in the NFL, and the Manning family generated a mild controversy when it looked like the sub-par San Diego Chargers would draft Eli (and they did, before trading him on the same day to the New York Giants) – KeithS Mar 13 '15 at 0:34
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If i am correct you have to join the team you get picked for, but can immediately declare a trade to a different team /I'm going to set an example using the NFL when Eli Manning got picked by the San Diego Charges and Giants picked up Philip and they did a trade. People/ teams usually already know who they are picking as in The ball brother getting picked for the Lackers also known as teams that are interested. But most players are fine with being on anytime since there making that money and are in the NBA now with fame and everything. But if it ends up being that you can't trade im sure you can just quit or keep trying to trade teams since NBA team WILL NOT require you to stay playing for 1 team and it's a choice if you want to play for that certain team.

  • Players cannot "declare a trade" - the team owns the rights to the player, and are the only one than can make a trade. Players can try and persuade their team to trade them, but that's a very different thing. – Philip Kendall Jun 22 '17 at 21:11

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