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NBA Rookie Contracts (1st Round vs 2nd Round Salaries)

How much do rookies make in the NBA?

It depends on if the player was a 1st or 2nd round draft pick (or undrafted). First round picks make the most, but are paid a fixed amount based on their draft position.

Read on for a detailed look at NBA rookie contracts and salaries:

Let’s get started!

1st Round Draft Picks (Rookie Salary Scale)

Victor Wembanyama is happy
Victor Wembanyama got paid!

Rookies that are picked in the first round of the NBA draft can only sign contracts based on the official “rookie salary scale”.

Here are the salary amounts for each first round pick from the latest CBA (Exhibit B – Baseline Rookie Salary Scale):

Baseline Rookie Salary Scale (2023)

Pick #1st Year Salary2nd Year Salary3rd Year
(Team Option)
4th Year: % Increase over 3rd year
(Team Option)
1$9,212,600.00$9,673,400.00$10,134,000.0026.10%
2$8,242,700.00$8,655,000.00$9,067,200.0026.20%
3$7,402,200.00$7,772,100.00$8,142,400.0026.40%
4$6,673,700.00$7,007,500.00$7,341,300.0026.50%
5$6,043,500.00$6,345,400.00$6,647,700.0026.70%
6$5,489,000.00$5,763,400.00$6,038,100.0026.80%
7$5,010,800.00$5,261,500.00$5,511,800.0027.00%
8$4,590,500.00$4,820,100.00$5,049,600.0027.20%
9$4,219,600.00$4,430,800.00$4,641,700.0027.40%
10$4,008,600.00$4,209,000.00$4,409,300.0027.50%
11$3,808,200.00$3,998,700.00$4,189,200.0032.70%
12$3,617,900.00$3,798,900.00$3,979,800.0037.80%
13$3,436,900.00$3,608,900.00$3,780,700.0042.90%
14$3,265,300.00$3,428,500.00$3,591,900.0048.10%
15$3,101,700.00$3,256,800.00$3,411,900.0053.30%
16$2,946,800.00$3,094,100.00$3,241,600.0053.40%
17$2,799,300.00$2,939,300.00$3,079,300.0053.60%
18$2,659,500.00$2,792,300.00$2,925,400.0053.80%
19$2,539,700.00$2,666,600.00$2,793,900.0054.00%
20$2,438,000.00$2,559,900.00$2,681,600.0054.20%
21$2,340,500.00$2,457,600.00$2,574,700.0059.30%
22$2,247,000.00$2,359,300.00$2,471,600.0064.50%
23$2,157,200.00$2,265,200.00$2,372,700.0069.70%
24$2,071,000.00$2,174,500.00$2,278,100.0074.90%
25$1,987,900.00$2,087,200.00$2,186,900.0080.10%
26$1,922,100.00$2,018,100.00$2,114,200.0080.30%
27$1,866,600.00$1,960,000.00$2,053,500.0080.40%
28$1,855,000.00$1,948,100.00$2,040,700.0080.50%
29$1,841,700.00$1,933,700.00$2,025,900.0080.50%
30$1,828,300.00$1,919,600.00$2,011,300.0080.50%
Salaries for NBA 1st round draft picks (#1-30)

Salaries can actually be from 80% to 120% of the amounts listed above.

For example, the 1st overall pick can make up to $11,055,120 in his first season (120% of $9,212,600), or as little as $7,370,080 (80% of $9,212,600).

If a player has a decent agent, he will usually get the 120% amount. Most highly touted picks will get the 120% regardless.

The rookie scale is adjusted each year based on the salary cap. So, if the salary cap increases by 5% next season, then the rookie salaries will also increase by 5%.

For the 2023-2024 season, the salary cap increased by about 10%, so the 1st overall pick actually gets a first year base salary of $10,133,860 (10% increase from $9,212,600). If he gets 120% of this, his salary is actually $12,160,632.

Note: A team can sign their first round draft picks to a rookie scale contract even if it puts the team over the salary cap. This is known as the “rookie exception”.

Rookie Contract Lengths

Chet Holmgren and Josh Giddey discussing their rookie contracts
Chet and Giddey are both on standard 1st round pick rookie contracts

All first round picks have contracts for four years, using a “2+2” format.

The first two years are fully guaranteed (i.e. the player will receive his full salary even if he is waived).

The third and fourth year are team options. This means that the team can decide to extend the player’s contract, or not.

Example: Joshy Giddey, Tre Mann, and Aleksej Pokusevski of the OKC Thunder all had their rookie options exercised last year.

If a player’s option is exercised by the team, the third year salary is fixed based on the rookie salary scale (see chart above), while the fourth year is set as a percentage increase over the third year.

If a team decides not to extend the player’s contract, he will become a free agent.

NBA 2nd Round Draft Picks

Emoni Bates pointing at someone
Emoni Bates signed a Two Way contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2023.

Unlike first round picks, second round picks have no restrictions on the contract they can sign.

Their contract may be fully guaranteed, non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed. The contract length can also vary. It is really up to the player’s (or their agent’s) negotiation abilities.

Teams can not use the “rookie exception” on second round picks. If they want to sign a second round draft pick, the team must be able to fit the player’s contract into their salary cap.

Most second round picks that do get signed usually end up signing for around the minimum amount, and are non-guaranteed.

Many second round picks also end up signing G League two-way contracts. If this is the case, their salary is set at 50% of the NBA rookie minimum salary (i.e. approximately $559,782 for the 2023/2024 season).

Once in awhile, a second round pick manages to secure a guaranteed multi-year deal. See Example #2 below:

Example #1: Emoni Bates, Cleveland Cavaliers, Two-Way Contract

Emoni Bates was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2023 with the 19th pick in the 2nd round (49th overall). He recently signed a 1-year, non-guaranteed, two way contract (flat salary of $508,891).

Example #2: Kennedy Chandler, Memphis Grizzlies, 4-year Contract

Kennedy Chanlder got paid, then got waived
Kennedy Chandler got the most guaranteed money ever for 2nd round draft pick.

Kennedy Chandler was drafted in the 2nd round (38th overall) in the 2022 NBA draft by the Spurs. He was traded the next day to Memphis. He then secured a 4-year, $7.1 million contract, with $4.9 million guaranteed (3 seasons). This was the highest guaranteed amount EVER for a second round draft pick.

Chandler was waived earlier this year (2023), but will still be getting paid until the 2024-2025 season thanks to his guaranteed contract.

What is NBA rookie minimum salary?

Jaden Hardy adjusting his underwear
Jaden Hardy made the rookie minimum last season (2022-2023).

The rookie minimum salary for 2nd round picks, or undrafted players is $1,119,563 (for the 2023/2024 season).

This is based on the “Minimum Annual Salary Scale” found in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Note that this amount is for players signed to standard NBA contracts (i.e. full-time players). It is not for Two Way players, or players on 10-day contracts.

Two Way players get 50% of the minimum, and 10-day contract players get a pro-rated amount of the minimum salary.

Click here for more info about NBA minimum salaries

Who is the highest paid rookie in NBA history?

Glenn Big Dog Robinson about to eat
Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson wanted to become the NBA’s first $100 million man.

The highest paid rookie in NBA history is Glenn Robinson, a.k.a “Big Dog”.

Robinson was selected with the #1 pick in the 1994 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. He proceeded to sign a 10-year, $68 million contract — the biggest rookie contract ever!

The record still holds today. Adjusted for inflation, that is approximately $141 million in 2023.

Rumor has it that Big Dog was actually holding out for a 13-year, $100 million contract, in an attempt to become the first $100 million basketball player ever. 😂

It was actually because of Glenn Robinson that the NBA implemented a rookie salary cap (i.e. “salary scale”) the very next season.

It is also no longer possible to sign a 10-year contract. Currently, the longest contract length is 6 years.

So, rookies these days can thank Big Dog for their, perhaps, lower than possible salaries.

FAQ

Who is the highest paid NBA rookie? How much does the #1 draft pick make?

The current highest paid rookie is Victor Wembanyama, the No.1 pick of 2023 (San Antonio Spurs). He signed a 4 year deal worth approximately $55 million.

How much was Michael Jordan rookie contract?

Rookie MJ about to score

Michael Jordan’s rookie contract was reportedly for 7-years, $6.3 million.

He ended up re-negotiating part way through the contract, so it ended up being for 4-years, $2.76 million.

In his last season with the Bulls, Jordan was paid $33 million, which was actually higher than the salary cap at the time (approximately $24 million). There was no maximum contracts at that time. 😂

How much was Kobe’s rookie contract?

Kobe Bryant’s rookie contract was reportedly for 3-years, $3.5 million.

Are NBA salaries guaranteed?

Not all NBA salaries are guaranteed. Some are completely non-guaranteed, and some are partially guaranteed.

Check out this article for more info on guaranteed contracts in the NBA

How much do NBA two way contracts pay?

Two way contracts pay 50% of the rookie minimum salary. In 2023-2024 season, that is equal to $559,782.

When can a NBA rookie become a free agent?

An NBA rookie can become a free agent if he is waived, or completes his contract and is not extended by the team.

Summary

What do you think about rookie contracts in the NBA? Is the rookie scale fair?

Or, should the NBA go back to uncapped rookie contracts like the Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson days?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Larry Lee

Larry Lee

Larry is a basketball addict, and the founder of Hoop Dojo. He started Hoop Dojo to share his love of the game and help the next generation reach their full potential.