The lives of 30 basketball players changed forever Thursday night when their names were called by Commissioner Adam Silver in the 2016 NBA Draft in Brooklyn, New York. A guaranteed two-year contract awaited each first-round pick, with each player expected to make at least $2 million, and with some selections earning eight-figure deals.
For players drafted in the first round, there isn’t much mystery over what type of contract they can expect. The rookie salary scale determines how much each player can make over the course of their first NBA contracts, which include team options for a third and fourth year. Players’ salaries can be as little as 80 percent or as much as 120 percent of the scale amounts, according to the NBA collective bargaining agreement.
Draft picks usually end up agreeing to contracts worth the maximum salary, and that should be the case in 2016. A year ago, No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns signed a two-year, $11,663,760 contract. D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor, who went No. 2 and No. 3, signed for 120 percent of the rookie scale, as well. The same was true in the middle of the round with No. 15 Kelly Oubre, and even at the end of the first round with Kevin Looney, who signed a two-year max deal worth $2,314,800 with the Golden State Warriors as the final pick before the second round.
Third-year team options include a slight increase in pay, and fourth-year team options are worth as much as an 80.5 percent raise for players drafted near the end of the first round. Fourth-year options for players drafted for the first seven picks call for an increase between 26 and 27 percent of the previous year’s salary.
Going first overall to the Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons is expected to make $5,903,160 in his first season, or 120 percent of the $4,919,300 that is slotted for the No. 1 pick on the 2016-17 NBA rookie scale. There had been a debate as to whether the 76ers would take Brandon Ingram with the first overall selection, but Ingram will get paid approximately $600,000 less as a rookie by going to the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 2.
The difference in guaranteed money becomes pretty significant as the draft moves along. While Simmons is projected to get more than $12 million over two years, the Chicago Bulls will pay the final lottery selection less than $4.3 million with the No. 14 overall pick.
If Philadelphia ends up exercising both of Simmons’ team options, his rookie contract will be worth up to $26,620,450 over four years. The last pick of the draft can earn up to $5,977,897 on his four-year rookie deal.
The third and fourth-year options of high draft picks are usually picked up, but it's no guarantee. Anthony Bennett was drafted first overall in 2013, but after becoming one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history, he will be a free agent in his fourth season.
With their three first-round picks on Thursday, Philadelphia will have to cough up more than $17 million over two years. The Phoenix Suns have three picks as well (Nos. 4, 13 and 28), and they could owe close to $16 million in guaranteed money if they don’t trade any of their first-rounders.
Below is a look at the projected worth of the rookie contracts for each first-round draft pick. The figures include only the two guaranteed years.
1) Philadelphia 76ers: $12,072,000
2) Los Angeles Lakers: $10,810,080
3) Boston Celtics: $9,699,480
4) Phoenix Suns: $8,747,120
5) Minnesota Timberwolves: $7,919,280
6) New Orleans Pelicans: $7,192,680
7) Denver Nuggets: $6,566,160
8) Sacramento Kings: $6,015,240
9) Toronto Raptors: $5,529,600
10) Milwaukee Bucks: $5,252,760
11) Orlando Magic: $4,990,200
12) Utah Jazz: $4,740,840
13) Phoenix Suns: $4,503,600
14) Chicago Bulls: $4,278,600
15) Denver Nuggets: $4,064,280
16) Boston Celtics: $3,861,360
17) Memphis Grizzlies: $3,668,160
18) Detroit Pistons: $3,484,920
19) Denver Nuggets: $3,327,960
20) Indiana Pacers: $3,194,760
21) Atlanta Hawks: $3,067,400
22) Charlotte Hornets: $2,944,440
23) Boston Celtics: $2,826,720
24) Philadelphia 76ers: $2,713,560
25) Los Angeles Clippers: $2,605,080
26) Philadelphia 76ers: $2,518,560
27) Toronto Raptors: $2,445,960
28) Phoenix Suns: $2,431,080
29) San Antonio Spurs: $2,413,320
30) Golden State Warriors: $2,395,800