A Look At Some Of The NBA Draft's Top Black Picks Over The Past Three Years Based On The Value Of Their Rookie Contract
Photo Credit: Arturo Holmes

A Look At Some Of The NBA Draft's Top Black Picks Over The Past Three Years Based On The Value Of Their Rookie Contract

Basketball hosted one of its most exciting nights, the NBA draft. Each year, prospects from around the world wait in anticipation, hoping their hard work on the collegiate level or in semi-professional leagues will earn them one of the most coveted spots in the world’s most revered basketball league.

Year after year, new talent emerges, and the idea of who will be the NBA’s next big star enters sports chats. With all of the hype around this pivotal night, another focus is the deals and payouts draftees receive due to their newfound success.

Young superstars of today benefit from rising costs due to inflation, the advancement of endorsement deals, and the ability to leverage highlight reels and salary caps to move the needle for their large rookie contracts.

Photo Credit: Nic Antaya

By comparison, some of the league’s best players in history commanded top-dollar salaries. For example, Ervin “Magic” Johnson signed an estimated $2.3 million contract over five years as part of his 1979 rookie contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1984, the proverbial GOAT of basketball, Michael Jordan, signed a $6.3 million contract over five years with $1 million guaranteed with the Chicago Bulls.

Showing how rookie contracts evolved over time, Lebron James signed his rookie contract in 2003 for $18.8 million over four years with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And in 2009, the current NBA champion Steph Curry signed a four-year $12.7 million contract with the Golden State Warriors.

One thing is for sure: all NBA contracts are not created equal, but time shows the financial impacts of the league’s newest stars.

Sportico released a report of this year’s top draftee’s salary numbers, but for context, let’s look at the NBA’s top picks over the last three years based on the value of their rookie contract.

Editorial Note: All contract numbers are based on research and data from Spotrac.

Cade Cunningham

Rookie Contract Value: $45.6M Over Four Years

Cade Cunningham was the 2021 No. 1 overall draft pick and went to the Detroit Pistons. As a rookie, he had an average salary of $11.3 million per year with $20.6 million of his contract guaranteed.

Anthony Edwards

 

Rookie Contract Value: $44.2M Over Four Years

Drafted No. 1 by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2020, Edwards has an average salary of $11.06 million. He will earn a base salary of $10.7 million, with a dead cap value of $10,733,400.

Zion Williamson

Rookie Contract Value: $44.2M Over Four Years

New Orleans chose Williamson as the No. 1 draft pick in 2019. Projected to have a breakout year, Williamson was injury-prone, but that did not stop him from earning a salary of $11 million with $20 million guaranteed over time.

Jalen Green

Rookie Contract Value: $40.8M Over Four Years

In 2021, the Houston Rockets picked Jalen Green at No. 2 with an average salary of an annual average salary of $10,202,112. In the upcoming 2022-23 season, Green will earn a base salary of $9.4 million.

James Wiseman

Rookie Contract Value: $39.6 Over Four Years

The Golden State Warriors selected James Wiseman with the No. 2 pick in 2020. Wiseman was another rookie who suffered from injuries but still brought in an average salary of $9.9 million while carrying a cap hit of $9.6 million.

Ja Morant

Rookie Contract Value: $39.6 Over Four Years

The No. 2 2019 draft pick Memphis Grizzlies superstar has captivated audiences with his athletic prowess, earning an average salary of $9.9 million annually. Of this contract, $27.5 million is guaranteed for the young superstar.

Evan Mobley

Rookie Contract Value: $36.6 Over Four Years

The Cavaliers drafted Mobley at No. 3 in the 2021 NBA draft. Of his $36.6 million contract, Mobley will earn an average salary of $9.1 million, which comes out to a base salary of about $8.7 million with slight increases yearly.

RJ Barrett

Rookie Contract Value: $35.6 Over Four Years

Barrett is the breakout star for the New York Knicks and was selected third overall in 2019. With $35.5 million of his contract guaranteed, Mobley will earn an average salary of $8.8 million per year.

LaMelo Ball

Rookie Contract Value: $36.5 Over Four Years

The Charlotte Hornets signed LaMelo Ball in 2020 as the No. 3 pick. He earns an average salary of $8.8 million while carrying a cap hit of $8.6 million.