Kansas’ Ben McLemore’s decision to enter the NBA Draft Tuesday is no surprise, as he should be guaranteed to make between $7.1 million and $10.9 million as soon as his name is called in 79 days, even if he never plays an NBA game. If he goes in as the No. 1 pick, as some expect with Nerlens Noel coming back from injury, then he is practically guaranteed $10.9 million. However Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas and Louisville’s Russ Smith are among 12 underclassmen planning to give up college to be a 2nd round pick–which often does not result in receiving a single dollar from the NBA.
The draft will be held June 27.
The NBA has a very strict salary structure for rookies, which is detailed below. The projected draft picks listed are based on the mock draft on NBA Express, which seemed to be the most accurate early mock draft last season. Reggie Bullock SF, Tim Hardaway Jr SG, Myck Kabongo PG, C.J. Leslie SF/PF, Doug McDermott PF, LeBryan Nash SF, Adreian Payne PF/C, Phil Pressey PG, Russ Smith PG, Tony Snell SF, Deshaun Thomas SF/PF and C.J. Wilcox SG are all expected to leave college for this year’s draft, but not go in the second round and therefore not be guaranteed any money.
|Pick||Guaranteed Millions||NBA Draft Express||School|
|1||$10.9||Nerlens Noel C||Kentucky|
|2||$9.7||Ben McLemore SG||Kansas|
|3||$8.7||Marcus Smart PG||Oklahoma State|
|4||$7.9||Anthony Bennett PF||UNLV|
|5||$7.1||Victor Oladipo SG/SF||Indiana|
|6||$6.5||Cody Zeller C||Indiana|
|7||$5.9||Trey Burke PG||Michigan|
|8||$5.4||Otto Porter SF||Georgetown|
|9||$5.0||Shabazz Muhammad SF||UCLA|
|10||$4.7||Rudy Gobert PF/C||Cholet|
|11||$4.5||Alex Len C||Maryland|
|12||$4.3||Michael Carter-Williams PG||Syracuse|
|13||$4.1||Mason Plumlee C||Duke|
|14||$3.9||Kelly Olynyk C||Gonzaga|
|15||$3.7||Isaiah Austin C||Baylor|
|16||$3.5||C.J. McCollum PG/SG||Lehigh|
|17||$3.3||Gorgui Dieng C||Louisville|
|18||$3.1||Archie Goodwin SG||Kentucky|
|19||$3.0||James McAdoo PF||North Carolina|
|20||$2.9||Steven Adams C||Pittsburgh|
|21||$2.8||Jeff Withey C||Kansas|
|22||$2.7||Jamaal Franklin SG||San Diego State|
|23||$2.5||Tony Mitchell PF||North Texas|
|24||$2.4||Sergey Karasev SF||Triumph Moscow|
|25||$2.3||Giannis Adetokunbo SF||Filathlitikos|
|26||$2.3||Mouhammadou Jaiteh C||Boulogne|
|27||$2.2||Shane Larkin PG||Miami FL|
|28||$2.2||Lorenzo Brown PG||N.C. State|
|29||$2.2||B.J. Young SG||Arkansas|
|30||$2.2||Allen Crabbe SG||California|
Once a team takes a player in the first round they are locked into paying them for two seasons. The first pick is practically guaranteed $10.9 million, and virtually everyone agrees McLemore will go at least in the top five. If a 1st round pick were a complete bust in camp, or injured and the team realized he could never even compete, then they technically can sign him for only two-thirds of this money. So if Nerlens Noel was picked first and could never play an NBA game, then the Charlotte Hornets or whoever ends up with the first pick could technically give him just $7.25 million for two years.
The trick comes when you get to the end of the first round. A player who is picked 30th knows he will get $2.2 million for his first two years, but the player picked 31st is guaranteed $0 and will be in an immediate scramble to make the team in rookie camp and try to be impressive enough to sign a one-year deal for $500,000 or $600,000. The only player who benefited in recent years from not being picked out of the first round was Wesley Matthews from Marquette, who was not drafted at all but was a rare player who made the Utah Jazz through their rookie camp and therefore received less than $500,000. However, unlike the 1st rounders who were locked into a four-year deal, Matthews had a great rookie season and was therefore free to negotiate a deal his second season, when he made a cool $9 million for just that season as the beginning of a multi-year deal.
He is the exception though, as Smith, Thomas, and the other underclassmen who leave early but do not go in the first round are fighting for a job and a paycheck.