NBA Draft 2024: Rookie Contracts for Every First-Round Pick (2024)

kurt badenhausen

·4 min read

The 78th NBA Draft tipped off Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. It marks the first time the draft will take place over two days, with the second round set for Thursday at the ESPN Seaport District Studios in Manhattan.

There was no consensus first overall pick this year, a contrast to 2023 when French teenager Victor Wembanyama was selected No. 1 by the San Antonio Spurs. The Atlanta Hawks selected Zaccharie Risacher, another French teen, who was the betting favorite to go No. 1 this year. Next up, the Washington Wizards selected Alex Sarr, a French-born athlete who played for OTE in the U.S. and the NBL in Australia.

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Reed Sheppard (Houston Rockets), Stephon Castle (Spurs) and Ron Holland II (Detroit Pistons) rounded out the top five. There were three French players picked among the first six picks and four overall in the first round.

One thing already settled before the draft was what the top pick will earn—a four-year contract worth roughly $57 million.

Rookie contracts for first-round picks are tied to the NBA salary cap, which is currently projected to be $141 million for the 2024-25 season. The cap is expected to increase 3.7% versus last season, with rookie deals up the same percentage—Wemby signed a four-year contract worth $55.2 million. Accounting on the 2023-24 NBA season, which determines the final cap figure next season, will be completed this week.

The value of the contracts drops steeply for picks lower in the first round. The Miami Heat chose Kel'el Ware with the 15th pick and should offer the Indiana center a deal worth $20.5 million over four years. The final pick of the first round, Creighton guard Baylor Scheierman (Boston Celtics), will earn $12.8 million.

The first two years of these contracts are guaranteed with “protection for lack of skill and injury or illness” as laid out in the NBA collective bargaining agreement. Teams hold two options for years three and four, although typically only a handful of picks each draft class don’t have their options picked up. The 30 picks would receive a total of $718 million in salary over the next four years if all their options were exercised. Endorsem*nts will pad this total further.

Teams must offer at least 80% of the “rookie scale contract” per the terms of the CBAand can go as high as 120% of the rookie salary slot. In practice, almost every deal is completed at the maximum slot value, and these contract projections reflect that.

Second-round picks do not have any salary restrictions, but the players often sign deals for the league minimum or even two-way contracts with different salaries for the time spent in the developmental NBA G League versus the parent NBA team. Last year’s largest second-round contract was the 34th pick—Colby Jones, who signed with the Sacramento Kings for $8.8 million over four years. This year’s second round will have added intrigue with Bronny James, son of LeBron, expected to find his NBA home then.

The NBA system is similar to the NFL, where first-round picks sign four-year contracts and have their pacts tied to their draft slot. Caleb Williams, whom the Chicago Bears picked first overall, is set to earn $39.5 million, including a $26.6 million signing bonus—but Williams still has not signed his contract. The gap in contract values between the two leagues for first picks has grown to 45% from 18% in 2020, as the NFL “borrowed” money against future rookie compensation pools in 2021 to prevent a decline in rookie deals following the 2020 COVID-19-induced revenue shortfall.

The new NBA CBA, which went into effect this past season, kept the existing salary structure in place for first-round picks. The league and union discussed allowing players to once again enter the league straight from high school but ultimately kept the current “one-and-done” policy in place. The biggest CBA change for future draftees was making attendance at the annual NBA draft combine mandatory to be eligible for the draft, starting in 2024.

(This article has been updated with a new photo and throughout the story with updates from the first round.)

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NBA Draft 2024: Rookie Contracts for Every First-Round Pick (2024)


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