Are NBA contracts guaranteed?
It depends. 🙃
In general, the majority of NBA player contracts are guaranteed, or at least partially guaranteed — i.e. players are still paid a certain amount even if they get released or waived before finishing their contract.
There are also some players that have fully non-guaranteed contracts. In the end, contract guarantees come down to a player’s situation and their (or their agent’s) negotiation abilities.
In this post we take a detailed look at:
- Fully Guaranteed Contracts
- Non-Guaranteed Contracts
- Partially Guaranteed Contracts
- January 10th … the guarantee deadline
- and more…
Read on for all the interesting facts and details … GUARANTEED!
NBA Fully Guaranteed Contracts
Some NBA contracts are fully guaranteed.
This means that the player will get paid their full contract amount even if they are waived, or released by the team.
The only time when a player with a fully guaranteed contract would not receive their salary is if they were to do something illegal that breaks their contract. For example: getting caught doing hard drugs; being charged with sexual assault; or participating in some criminal activities, etc.
Typically, all the big name players, or well established veterans will have fully guaranteed contracts: Steph Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, etc.
Here are some fully-guaranteed contract examples:
E.g #1: Steph Curry Fully Guaranteed Contract
Steph Curry signed a four year, $215 million contract in 2021, which is fully guaranteed. Everything has gone swimmingly for Steph and the Warriors since then, winning one championship. If, for whatever reason, Golden State decides to waive him next year, he will still get the remaining amount on his contract (i.e. approx. $55 million per season).
E.g. #2: John Wall Full Guaranteed Contract
John Wall signed a fully guaranteed, four year, $171 million contract that started during the 2019-2020 season. He has barely played the last few seasons due to injuries, and other reasons. Since then, he has been traded (Washington to Houston), and also waived (by Houston, twice). He is currently not on a team, even though he was the second highest paid player in the entire NBA during the 2022-2023 season.
Despite all of this, Wall still received all of his $171 million, thanks to his contract being fully guaranteed.
Rookie Scale Contracts
Rookies that are drafted in the first round are signed to standardized rookie scale contracts.
A rookie scale contract is for 4 years (two years guaranteed + two years team option). The first two years of the contract are always fully guaranteed, while the next two years are team-option (i.e. the team can decide to extend the contract past two years or not).
Note: Only the player’s base salary can be guaranteed. Bonuses for making the playoffs, winning a championship, making all-star team, etc. can not be guaranteed
If you’re not a superstar, and fighting for a spot on an NBA roster, you may have signed a non-guaranteed contract.
If a player with a non-guaranteed contract is waived before a certain deadline (usually January 10 or first day of regular season), then he will not receive the remainder of his salary. Guarantee dates and amounts may differ by contract (see examples below)
According to this 2017 NBA.com article, only about 10% of players are on fully non-guaranteed contracts.
E.g. #1: Harry Giles 1-year Non-Guaranteed
The Nets signed former high school prodigy, and 2017 first round draft pick, Harry Giles to a 1-year non-guaranteed deal worth around $2 million.
If Giles is cut before the Jan. 10 deadline, then he will not receive the rest of his salary for the season. It is also possible his contract gets converted to a Two-way G League contract.
E.g. #2: Darius Bazley 1-year Non-Guaranteed
The Nets also signed Darius Bazley to a 1-year non-guaranteed deal, worth around $2 million.
His structure is a bit different than Harry Giles above. According to HoopsHype, Bazley will be guaranteed $200,000 if he is not waived before the first day of the season. If he is still on the team by December 15th, he will be guaranteed $700,000. If he is still on the team after January 10th, then his contract becomes fully guaranteed.
Non-Guaranteed Training Camp Contract
Another variation is the “Non-Guaranteed Training Camp Contract”. In this case, a player is signed for training camp. If he is cut before the start of the regular season, then he will not be due any salary.
Partially Guaranteed Contracts
Most players in the NBA actually have partially guaranteed contracts.
If a player with a partially guaranteed contract is waived before January 10th (or another specified date), then they will still receive their salary, but not as much as what they could have received had they not been cut.
Sometimes, players that sign multi-year contracts will have the first couple years guaranteed, but the remaining non-guaranteed.
Here are some examples:
E.g. #1: Jose Alvarado 4-year Partially Guaranteed Contract
Jose Alvarado signed a 4-year, $6.8 million, partially guaranteed contract with the Pelicans in 2022.
In 2022-2023, only $1.1 million of the approximate $1.5 million was guaranteed. For the 2023-2024 season, his $1.8 million salary is fully non-guaranteed. If Jose is still on the team after Jan. 10, his salary will become fully guaranteed.
E.g #2: Mike Conley 3-year Partially Guaranteed Contract
Mike Conley signed a 3-year, $68 milllion, partially guaranteed contract with the Utah Jazz in 2021.
The first two years were fully guaranteed (approx $22 million per season). The final year (2023-2024) was partially guaranteed for $14 million, and became fully guaranteed on June 24, 2023 (two days after NBA draft). This was so that the team could possibly trade Mike on draft day, and not be required to pay his entire salary.
The January 10th Guarantee Deadline
For many players on non-guaranteed (or partially guaranteed) contracts, January 10th is the most important date of the season.
January 10th was chosen as the standard league-wide date when non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts become fully guaranteed.
The date players must look for is actually January 7th, since it takes a few days to clear waivers (i.e. Teams must waive a player on Jan. 7, to have them off their roster by Jan. 10).
If a non-guaranteed player can stick on a roster until January 10th, then he will be able to get his full salary (for that season). 💰
January 10th is the standard date, but different contracts may specify different dates. In the Mike Conley example above, his guarantee date is June 24th.
Other Guaranteed Contract FAQ
Are NBA rookie contracts guaranteed?
Rookies that are first round draft picks are signed to a standardized rookie salary scale contract.
The standard rookie contract is for four years. The first two years of the contract are fully guaranteed.
After two seasons, the team has the option to extend the player’s contract for a third and/or fourth season.
Do NBA 2nd round picks get guaranteed contracts?
There are no rules for 2nd round draft picks. Their contract can be guaranteed or not, and comes down to their own (or their agent’s) negotiation skills.
Interesting note: In 2022, the Memphis Grizzlies signed Kennedy Chandler to the largest guaranteed contract EVER for a 2nd round pick — $7.1 million for 4 seasons ($4.9 guaranteed)
What is the longest contract allowed in NBA?
The longest contract allowed in the NBA is six seasons.
Only “designated veteran”, or “designated rookie” contract extensions can get this length.
Is Steph Curry contract guaranteed?
Yes, Steph Curry’s current contract is guaranteed.
He signed a 4 year, $215 million, fully guaranteed contract with the Golden State Warriors in 2021.
Can an NBA contract be terminated?
Yes, an NBA contract can be terminated if a player partakes in prohibited activities which break his contract agreement. Some examples include:
- Injury from prohibited activities (sky diving, hang gliding, bungee jumping, etc.)
- Prohibited drug/substance abuse
- Conviction of felony
What is the minimum NBA player contract?
The minimum NBA player contract depends on a player’s experience in the league.
For the 2023-2024 season, the minimum salary for players with zero years of NBA experience is $1,017,781.
What do you think of guaranteed contracts in the NBA?
Is it good for the league to have fully-guaranteed contracts? Or should all players only get partially guaranteed contracts?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!