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The 1979 NBA draft was the 33rd annual draft of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The draft was held on June 25, 1979, before the 1979-80 season. In this draft, 22 NBA teams took turns selecting amateur U.S. college basketball players and other eligible players, including international players. The first two picks in the draft belonged to the teams that finished last in each conference, with the order determined by a coin flip. The Los Angeles Lakers, who obtained the New Orleans Jazz' first-round pick in a trade, won the coin flip and were awarded the first overall pick, while the Chicago Bulls were awarded the second pick. The remaining first-round picks and the subsequent rounds were assigned to teams in reverse order of their win-loss record in the previous season. A player who had finished his four-year college eligibility was eligible for selection. If a player left college early, he would not be eligible for selection until his college class graduated. Larry Bird would have been eligible to join this draft class because his "junior eligible" draft status from being taken by Boston in 1978 would expire the minute the 1979 draft began, but Bird and the Celtics agreed on a 5-year contract in time to avoid that. Before the draft, five college underclassmen were declared eligible for selection under the "hardship" rule. These players had applied and gave evidence of financial hardship to the league, which granted them the right to start earning their living by starting their professional careers earlier. Prior to the draft, the Jazz relocated from New Orleans to Salt Lake City and became the Utah Jazz. The draft consisted of 10 rounds comprising the selection of 202 players.
a On August 5, 1976, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired 1977, 1978 and 1979 first-round picks, and a 1980 second-round pick from the New Orleans Jazz in exchange for a 1978 first-round pick and a 1977 second-round pick. This trade was arranged as compensation when the Jazz signed Gail Goodrich on July 19, 1976. The Lakers used the pick to draft Magic Johnson.
c 12 On the draft-day, the Detroit Pistons acquired the fifth pick from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for the sixth pick and cash considerations. Previously, the Bucks acquired the pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers on June 1, 1978, in exchange for a 1978 first-round pick. The Pistons used the pick to draft Greg Kelser. The Bucks used the pick to draft Sidney Moncrief
d On October 24, 1975, the Seattle SuperSonics acquired Gene Short and a first-round pick from the New York Knicks in exchange for Spencer Haywood. The Sonics used the pick to draft James Bailey.
e On October 4, 1978, the Seattle SuperSonics acquired Lonnie Shelton and a 1979 first-round pick from the New York Knicks in exchange for a 1981 first-round pick. This trade was arranged as compensation when the Knicks signed Marvin Webster on September 29, 1978. Previously, the Knicks acquired the 1978 and 1979 first-round picks on June 8, 1978, from the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Phil Jackson, a 1978 first-round pick and US$3.2-million settlement of their indemnification debt to the Knicks. The Sonics used the pick to draft Vinnie Johnson.
f On May 31, 1979, the New Jersey Nets acquired John Gianelli and the eighth pick from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Harvey Catchings. Previously, the Bucks acquired the pick on June 8, 1978, from the Indiana Pacers as compensation for the signing of Alex English as a free agent. The Nets used the pick to draft Calvin Natt.
g On November 23, 1977, the Detroit Pistons acquired Gus Gerard, John Shumate and 1979 first-round pick from the San Diego Clippers in exchange for Marvin Barnes, a 1978 second-round pick and a 1978 fourth-round pick. Previously, the Clippers acquired the pick on September 2, 1977, from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for John Gianelli. The Pistons used the pick to draft Roy Hamilton.
h On September 1, 1977, the New Jersey Nets acquired George E. Johnson, 1978 and 1979 first-round picks from the San Diego Clippers in exchange for Nate Archibald. The Nets used the pick to draft Cliff Robinson.
i On June 9, 1978, the Indiana Pacers acquired a first-round pick from the Atlanta Hawks as compensation for the signing of Dan Roundfield as a free agent. The Pacers used the pick to draft Dudley Bradley.