With the prospect of many international players being drafted in the 2011 NBA draft, I thought it would be useful to understand why some teams draft international players but do not sign them to contracts immediately. International players almost always play for another professional team whenever they are drafted by NBA teams. This fact sometimes causes snags in the process of bringing the international player to North America to play in the National Basketball Association. When these issues arise, a number of teams employ what is sometimes referred to as the “draft-and-stash” approach.
There are three main reasons for this strategy: 1) contractual issues; 2) developmental reasons; and 3) roster space. It is common for all three reasons to play into a team’s decision to “draft-and-stash.”
Because nearly all international players play for other professional teams when they are drafted, some contractual issues arise. Many player contracts, whether in the NBA or other professional leagues, are signed for multiple years. Just like teams are not allowed to skip out on paying a player’s salary, a player cannot leave the team and go play for another team (that would be a breach of contract). Therefore, international players commonly have a contractual obligation to their current professional teams. In order to get out of the contract, the player has to pay a “buyout.”