Molecular transport across the nuclear envelope in eukaryotic cells is solely controlled by the nuclear pore complex (NPC). The NPC provides two types of nucleocytoplasmic transport: passive diffusion of small molecules and active chaperon-mediated translocation of large molecules. It has been shown that the interaction between intrinsically disordered proteins that line the central channel of the NPC and the transporting cargoes is the determining factor, but the exact mechanism of transport is yet unknown. Here, we use coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations to quantify the energy barrier that has to be overcome for molecules to pass through the NPC. We focus on two aspects of transport. First, the passive transport of model cargo molecules with different sizes is studied and the size selectivity feature of the NPC is investigated. Our results show that the transport probability of cargoes is significantly reduced when they are larger than ∼5 nm in diameter. Secondly, we show that incorporating hydrophobic binding spots on the surface of the cargo effectively decreases the energy barrier of the pore. Finally, a simple transport model is proposed which characterizes the energy barrier of the NPC as a function of diameter and hydrophobicity of the transporting particles.