This post has been revised after noticing a mistake in salaries of four-year rookie contracts. My air head regrets the error.
With top college basketball players declaring for the draft left and right save for Jabari Parker, whose decision seems very much up in the air, I looked at the contracts for first round picks and how much money is really lost when top prospects slide in the draft. There are also cases when a player like Anthony Bennett gets drafted, when a team either reaches for a draftee or takes a player that might not have been on the radar for that draft slot.
But to start, contracts for first round picks are scaled ahead of time (up to the year 2020 can be found here) with teams having the option to offer as little as 80 percent of the fixed price or as high as 120 percent, according to Larry Coon’s cbafaq.com. Players often have that slight raise with Anthony Davis as just one example, but taking less than the slot scale has happened before thanks to Andre Roberson. Those contracts can last up to four years, but teams have options after the first two seasons to either release their once-first rounders or hold onto them at what’s likely a bargain price.
Below is a table looking at the scaled salaries for first rounders in the 2014 NBA Draft, sorted by draft slots. The first sheet is the combined salary, year after year, of the first four years. That’s assuming they all play through their rookie contracts and take the slight raise that teams can offer. The second sheet is the salary each season with the raise percentage they could get in their fourth.
But the first sheet is most important as it’ll be applied to a second batch of tables comparing how much money could be lost between draft slots. Take a look at the most money each slot could make through their first four seasons:
For a player like Anthony Davis, whose combined salary over four years is around that $20 million range, he makes as much over those seasons as Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and LeBron James make this season alone, among others. But that’s for Davis, who was drafted first overall in 2012. The 8th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft will make just under half of the 1st overall pick’s salary over four years (unless their contract includes incentives).
It’s simply a huge get for a franchise to score a first round pick that’s not only productive and can stay in the league, but an overall positive on the court. The sooner they’re a positive contributor the better, obviously, but even if a player hangs on for three years of his contract despite producing little and then becomes a key cog in Year 4, it still seems worth it given how many contracts around the $10 million/year range end up not so terrific. Looks like fun times all around for teams with those first rounders.
As for the draft prospects projected to go in the first round, slipping in the draft may provide positives such as a chip on their shoulder and a better fit with a better team. However, depending on how far a prospect slides and how high they were slated to go, it can be quite a blow to their bank account. For example, if the first overall pick and sixth of the 2014 Draft each play out all four years of their rookie contract (and take that raise they can be offered), the difference in salary between them is over $10 million. Maybe something comes up with Joel Embiid that hurts his draft stock or teams have second thoughts on Andrew Wiggins, who knows. Crazier things have happened, for better or for worse.
Regardless, dropping in the draft means an obvious decline in the salary they can earn and below are tables hopefully showing the difference for each draft pick over the course of two, three, and four seasons under their scaled pay. Again, that includes taking the slight raise they can be offered. Salary lost is in parenthesis while salary gained — if a prospect is drafted ahead of their projected slot or range — is not.
Also, because the sheets were fairly large, I made columns of draft slots on the bottom of them and to the right side in case it becomes hard to tell which draft slot is which. Anyway, take a look if you’d like:
Jabari Parker could very well be that player who slips in the draft not because of a performance issue but the overall talent that’s at the top. Is it worth it for him to trade being a top-5, maybe top-7 pick in this year’s draft in exchange for being a top-3 pick in 2015 and Duke being a title contender next year?
Some other highly-touted prospect is bound to drop in the draft regardless, but hopefully to a team that he’ll fit right in with. Trey Burke, Gorgui Dieng, and Tim Hardaway Jr. probably weren’t the ninth, 21st, and 24th-best available players in last year’s draft but they all look like they’ll end up as solid gets for the teams that chose them.
Which players will be this season’s Burke, Dieng, or Hardaway? Better yet, will anyone be the next Anthony Bennett in terms of rising in the draft for whatever reason? I guess we’ll have to wait, um, like 76 more days for all of this, though. Ugh, but if some player drops or rises then hopefully the tables posted above can help look at the impact it’ll have in their paychecks.
Any other thoughts are certainly welcome. You can find previous years here.