What is the Average NBA Rookie Salary?

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Fans often talk about how much money NBA players command, but the fact of the matter is the league’s salary system is highly driven by status. Young superstars in their primes get the lion’s share, veterans on their way out signs for the minimum, and so forth. The new kids on the block, the rookies, are somewhere in between. What is the average NBA rookie salary, and how are their salaries determined?

This article explores the factors that influence rookie salaries, examines the current average figures, and highlights important considerations contributing to determining these earnings.

What is the Average NBA Rookie SalaryWhat is the Average NBA Rookie Salary?

Because a rookie salary scale is already established before each season, contract discussions after teams make their selections at the NBA Draft usually take little time. The scale fluctuates each year depending on the salary cap and is also predicated on the draft position. In short, Victor Wembanyama, the first overall selection, will not be paid the same amount as Cam Whitmore, the 20th pick, even though they are both rookies.

First-round selections can be signed by teams for any price between 80% and 120% of the rookie scale’s maximum, which is a little less than $10 million for the 2023–24 season. In the case of Wembanyama, his salary could be as low as over $8 million or could be high as over $12 million, based on that projection. That is based on the 2023-24 season salary cap, which stands at $134 million, over $10 million, or roughly 8.4% more than the previous season. 

Second-round picks and rookie free agents (undrafted) are not compelled to sign deals with rookie-scale salaries but are subject to a minimum salary. The rookie minimum salary last year was around $953,000, but since there is a $10 million increase in the salary cap for 2023-24, it should reach $1 million. That’s a hefty sum for a minimum salary, no matter how you look at it!

How are NBA Rookie Salaries DeterminedHow are NBA Rookie Salaries Determined?

The NBA rookie salaries are pre-determined according to the salary cap for the year and the position in which a rookie was picked. First-round picks may negotiate their contract from 80% to 120% of the rookie scale. More often than not, the majority sign 120% of their rookie scale contract. For example, last year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero signed for 120% of the rookie scale set at $9,212,600. Banchero secured a salary of $11,055,120 in his first year.

Rookie contracts may either be a three or four-year deal and are guaranteed for the first two years, with teams having options by the third or fourth year to cut ties.

Do NBA Rookie Salary Scale ChangeDo NBA Rookie Salary Scale Change?

Yes, it does! The NBA rookie salary scale changes because the salary cap changes annually. On top of that, not every rookie receives the same salary range. How much money a player makes on their first contract depends on where they were selected in the draft. 

Also, the rookie scale is a prominent part of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the league and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). The CBA is typically negotiated for a certain period, often several years, and during these negotiations, changes can be made to various aspects of player salaries, including the rookie scale.

For example, from 2005 to 2011, all salary, including the rookie scale, was primarily based on Basketball Related Income. Obviously, changes were made after that until the current rules say it is based on the salary cap.

Do All NBA Rookies Get Paid The Same_ Do All NBA Rookies Get Paid The Same? 

No, they are not. NBA rookie contract rules dictate that first-round picks differ in salary scale from second-round picks and undrafted rookie free agents. In addition, the top picks have the lion’s share of the salary over the late first-rounders. Last season, No. 1 pick Banchero made over $11 million, while the 30th pick, Peyton Watson, was paid a little less than $2.2 million.

Second-rounders and undrafted rookie free agents who signed with NBA teams are often offered an NBA rookie salary minimum contract. In the 2022-23 season, the minimum salary was around $953,000, which should probably hit around $1 million this year after the 8.4% spike in the salary cap.

Top 5 Highest-Paid Rookies in NBA HistoryTop 5 Highest-Paid Rookies in NBA History

Did you know the NBA rookie salary scale was only part of the collective bargaining agreement until 1995? It’s because, in 1994, the Bucks offered their rookie Glenn Robinson a whopping 10-year, $68 million deal, taking the other owners by surprise. They decided to discuss and forge new NBA rookie contract length and rules the following season. Both parties agreed to a four-year contract max, the standard still being followed today.

So, if Robinson made $68 million or $6.8 million on average, how did he fare in comparison with the highest-paid rookies in NBA history?

1. Bogdan Bogdanovic (signed a “rookie” contract with Sacramento Kings in 2017)

Bogdanovic was drafted in 2014 by the Suns, but he remained and played basketball in his native Serbia until 2017. Phoenix decided to trade his rights to the Kings in 2016, so in 2017, Sacramento decided to offer him a contract worth $12 million annually! Since Bogdanovic was drafted three years prior, he was not tied to the NBA rookie contract rules. As a result, he made more than any other player in a debut or “rookie” season.

2. Victor Wembanyama (2023 No. 1 pick, San Antonio Spurs)

Wemby hasn’t even signed yet, but according to the things mentioned in the previous sections, he is almost a lock to secure a rookie contract of around $12 million annually. The Spurs shouldn’t have any qualms about giving him a salary 120% more than the 2023-24 rookie salary scale. That puts him in Bogdan Bogdanovic’s territory, but unlike Bogie, the French kid is truly signing a rookie scale contract under the current rules.

3. Paolo Banchero (2022 No. 1 pick, Orlando Magic)

Banchero was aforementioned to have earned over $11 million for his first year, ranking him third overall in this list. That’s even higher than the Zion Williamson rookie contract, which was “only” at over $9.1 million in 2019. Needless to say, Zion does not make the cut in this countdown due to the fact that the rookie scale has been steadily increasing since his rookie year.

4. Brandon Miller (2023 No. 2 pick, Charlotte Hornets)

Miller has been signed by the Hornets, and his rookie-year salary is projected to be $10 million if he signs 120% of the rookie scale for the No. 2 pick. That’s not bad compared to last year’s No. 2 pick, Chet Holmgren. Holmgren made over $9 million in his first year with OKC, but he’s paid all that money to sit on the bench after suffering an injury in a Pro-Am game.

5. Cade Cunningham (2021 No. 1 pick, Detroit Pistons)

Unfortunately, Cunningham missed almost all of last season after undergoing surgery on his left shin. That still did not take away the fact that he is currently the fourth highest-paid rookie of all time, as he earned a little over $10 million during his rookie season in 2021-22.

Wrapping Things Up: What is the Average NBA Rookie Salary?

Every dreaming hooper would love to be in the NBA, and one big reason is the money. The league pays its players more than any other sport, even when compared side-by-side with the NFL, MLB, and NHL. As soon as you sign a contract and step foot into the NBA, you are probably set for life if you use the money wisely. 

So, what is the average NBA rookie salary? There are no definite numbers on it, but based on the data in the 2022-23 season, the highest-paid rookie was Paolo Banchero at $11 million, while second-rounders and undrafted rookies were paid the NBA rookie salary minimum of $953,000. The average NBA rookie salary should be anywhere between these numbers, most probably in the $3 million range. Since the salary has increased by roughly 8% for the upcoming season, the average NBA rookie salary should also mark up.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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