An Insight into the NBA Rookie Minimum Salary

By Aditya Bhattarai / 16 February 2023 07:39 AM

The minimum amount that an NBA Rookie can get is set by the league each year.
Source : canva

NBA rookie minimum salary is $953,000. An NBA player is guaranteed to receive this value after signing a contract with any team in the league.

The NBA is the third wealthiest sports league in the world, with $10 Billion in annual revenue. The first and second belongs to NFL and MLB.

Considering the annual turnover size, the franchises associated with the league can provide a huge sum to the star players of each team.

They conduct a draft annually in June to provide opportunities for sixty talented college basketball players from NCAA. There are two rounds in the draft, and the thirty teams can obtain one player in each round.

Since each team has its strengths, the monetary value of each franchise is different based on its popularity. As such, there is a limit to the payments provided for rookie players set by the official NBA league.

While the teams and other news portals often mention the highest earnings of NBA stars, the minimum value earned by basketball rookies is rarely known to the public. 

Minimum Salary Of An NBA Rookie In 2023

An NBA rookie minimum salary for 2023 is estimated at $953,000. A rookie draft can negotiate the contract based on the least payable price.

Spotrac estimated the minimum limit for 2023 based on the change in the draft amount for the past few years. An athlete is entitled to receive the least amount set by the NBA after being chosen by a team.

The amount received by the rookie players varies based on the following factors;

  • Draft pick position and round
  • Number of contract years
  • Player's experience and reputation in college
  • Factors such as popularity and global reach

Jabari got a $1.01 million in his first year as the 57th pick in the NBA draft 2022 by Portland Blazers.
Source : instagram

Previously, in the NBA draft 2022, the lowest salary cap was set at $925,258, while the 57th draft pick Jabari Walker signed a three years contract worth $4.75 million with the Blazers. His rookie year salary was $1,017,781 which is higher than the lowest limit.

Similarly, the highest salary in the last draft was received by Paolo Banchero as the first pick in the first round of the draft. The Orlando Magic signed a 4-year $50.1 million contract with Banchero. His rookie year salary was $11,055,120, the highest possible amount after the negotiations.

Banchero had a starting amount of $11.05 million in his rookie year as the NBA draft 2022 first pick.
Source : instagram

While NBA is yet to reveal the salary limit for rookies of the NBA draft 2023, the amount from previous years provides a tentative estimate. Sources such as Spotrac and Realgm has updated a table of possible salary range for the first-round players in the draft.

Reason Behind The Limit In The NBA Rookie Salary

The rookie salary limit was introduced in 1995 after a discussion between all NBA teams.

Initially, there were no limitations and teams could freely sign players for five to ten years as long as they could consent to a suitable amount. 

However, things started to change when the Bucks signed a 10-year $68 million deal with a rookie first pick in 1994. The following year, the league determined that a limit was necessary considering the interest of both parties.

Robinson was drafted by the Bucks in 1994 for a 10 year $68 million deal.
Source : twitter

Since then, the NBA has set a minimum and maximum limit on payments to rookie players. Meanwhile, the teams and players can further negotiate the amount to a maximum of 120% and a minimum of 80% based on their capabilities.

In addition, each team can only sign the player for a maximum of four years, giving them the option to renew the contract or choose to become a free agent after the tenure.

Rookie Salary Negotiations Under Collective Bargaining

An NBA rookie can negotiate the amount they receive with the team based on their status. The team can pay from 80% to 120% based on the player.

Most of the time, if a player is drafted in the top ten picks of the first round, they are given the highest 120% limit on the salary cap by NBA. On the other hand, the players drafted in the lower positions get a variable amount from anywhere between the 80% to 120% limit.

National Basketball Players Association formed the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement after the rookie limit was introduced in 1994. The CBA lets the players achieve a suitable contract amount based on the signing years.

Furthermore, they can come to terms with the first-year payments and the increments based on the number of years. It lets the players drafted below the top ten picks negotiate a deal more suitable for their past achievements.

Richest Rookie In NBA

The NBA player that earned the highest amount in his rookie year is Zion Williamson. Zion had a base salary of $9,757,440 with a guaranteed $20,002,920 in his contract.

Zion is dubbed as the richest NBA rookie after receiving a 7 years shoe deal from the Nike.
Source : instagram

Williamson had signed a four-year contract with the New Orleans Pelican for $44.271 million. Moreover, he also received a massive contract worth $75 million with Nike for seven years, as per Axios.

In the past decade, his shoe deal with Nike was reported as the largest a rookie has ever signed with the company. There has never been a rookie in NBA that has obtained such lucrative deals. 

Nonetheless, with the rising salary cap for rookies, someone might surpass the range in the upcoming years. On the other hand, the shoe deal is what separates Zion from the regular rookies.

Zion is the second player after Lebron James to receive such hype in the first year of their draft. The Nike deal can support him in choosing any team he desires after he finishes his contract with New Orleans.

Difference In NBA Rookie Incomes For 2022

NBA rookies from the 2022 draft had a decreasing income range regarding their position. The difference between the first and second picks was $1,163,880.

While the first pick Paolo Banchero received $11,055,120, the second overall player Chet Holmgren had a rookie salary of $9,891,240.

Similarly, the third overall Jabari Smith Jr got $8,882,640 in his first year with the Rockets which is again lower than Chet's by $1,008,600. 

In this manner, the amount paid goes down to $2,193,960 for the 30th pick Peyton Watson in the first round. The variation between the first and thirtieth picks is $8,861,160.

Rookie Salary Estimate For NBA Draft 2023

The estimated NBA rookie salary for the upcoming NBA draft 2023 is updated by Spotrac in the table below.

NBA rookie salary 100% scale for the top thirty picks from the draft season 2022-2023.
Source : spotrac

In the table above the projected salary range of the NBA draft 2023 is based on the 100% range. The first pick salary listed as $10,133,900 can go up to $12,160,680 as the 120% limit. 

Similarly, the salary listed for the 30th pick in the first round is $2,011,300 which can become the lowest up to 80% value of $1,609,040. Likewise, it can reach the 120% value of $2,413,560 if the player and the team reach the best possible terms for the contract.

The data given is based on the reports updated after applying an increment of 10% on the amounts provided in the NBA draft 2022 on Spotrac.