NBA first overall pick salary explained

2013 NBA Draft
All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Wondering what’s the salary of guys like Zion Williamson, Anthony Edwards, and Cade Cunningham? The NBA first overall pick salary is higher than you think! Being the most talented player in the draft just means that they deserve to get paid even if they are just new to the league.

NBA first overall pick salary

The average salary of an NBA rookie is around $2,700,000. However, first overall picks make as much as $10,000,000 in their first year in the league. Their salaries are even higher than some of the most tenured NBA players.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the NBA first overall pick salary…

How long is the rookie contract of the first overall pick?

The rookie contract for the NBA draft first overall pick and other first rounders is four years. Only their first two years are fully guaranteed while their third and fourth years are team options.

Teams can also keep their prized rookie for an extra (fifth) year using the qualifying offer clause. In the fifth year, the rookie will become a restricted free agent which allows the team to match any offer the player gets from another team.

For second-round and undrafted players, their contract is going to look a lot different. These players need to prove themselves further to get the contract they wanted. It can range from one to four years that are either guaranteed or non-guaranteed.

How much is the salary of the No. 1 pick?

The contracts of all first-round picks are almost the same. The only thing that’s going to be different is their salaries based on the CBA’s rookie scale. It’s a preset amount based on the player’s draft selection. The higher the draft pick, the higher the base salary.

For the 2021-22 season, the NBA first overall pick salary is $8,375,100.


Agents can negotiate the contract of their clients anywhere from 80% to 120% of the current $8,375,100 figure. The agent will definitely negotiate the higher end of the percentage since his client is the No. 1 pick.

Let’s take a look at the salaries of the first overall pick for the past three years…

Zion Williamson (2019)

2019/20: $9,757,440

2020/21: $10,245,480

2021/22: $10,733,400

2022/23: $13,534,817 (Team option)

2023/24: $17,595,262 (Qualifying offer)

Anthony Edwards (2020)

2020/21: $9,757,440

2021/22: $10,245,480

2022/23: $10,733,400

2023/24: $13,534,817 (Team option)

2024/25: $17,595,263 (Qualifying offer)

Cade Cunningham (2021)

2021/22: $10,050,120

2022/23: $10,552,800

2023/24: $11,055,360 (Team option)

2024/25: $13,940,809 (Team option)

2025/26: $18,123,052 (Qualifying offer)

As you can see, the NBA draft first overall salary stayed the same from 2019 to 2020 but increased from 2020 to 2021. This means that the rookie scale continues to increase as time passes by.

Can the rookie contract of the first overall pick be extended?

The rookie contract of the first overall pick can be extended to a maximum of four years, even when traded. This extension can only be done before the fourth year of the rookie deal. They should prove themselves that they are worthy of the extension.

Generational talents like LeBron James is a no-brainer to get their rookie contract extended to a max deal. In 2006, the Cavs decided to extend James to a four-year deal worth $60.4 million.

However, not all first overall picks get their rookie contracts extended. Since 2008, only Anthony Bennett and Deandre Ayton didn’t get their extension.

Can the rookie deal of the No. 1 pick be renegotiated?

Only contracts that cover four or more seasons can be renegotiated. However, rookie contracts are exempted from this rule even though the contract runs for four years.

The agent can’t renegotiate the amount on what’s currently stated on the rookie contract even if his client is playing at an MVP level. LeBron James was being paid less than $6 million during his first four years with the Cavaliers even though he averaged 31.4 points per game at one point in his rookie contract.

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About Jeremy Mallari 128 Articles
Jeremy lives and breathes basketball. He's an avid NBA fan for almost a decade now.

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