NBA veteran minimum explained

Jared Dudley Klay Thompson
Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

One of the big questions that even hardcore basketball fans often have is to hear the NBA veteran minimum explained.

The NBA is one of the wealthiest sports leagues on the entire planet. The players are paid handsomely thanks to a great collective bargaining agreement and a small roster size that sees each player taking a bigger piece of the salary cap pie than in other sports.

NBA veteran minimum explained

Diving into the NBA salary cap can be a murky business. There is a reason that individuals are paid for no other reason than to manage the cap. A big part of that cap is getting good players on the NBA veteran minimum salary and we are here to explain exactly what that is.

What is the NBA veteran minimum salary?

The NBA veteran minimum salary is not a fixed amount that any player on a minimum contract receives. The salary depends on a player’s years of experience in the league. For the 2021-22 season, this means that a second-year player would be on a salary of just under $1.5 million, while a player with 10 or more years of accrued experience would be on over $2.6 million.

Most NBA vets signing a minimum deal with more than a couple of years experience rarely sign for more than two years on the minimum as they are looking to play well enough to earn a much more lucrative contract as soon as possible.

What is considered a vet in the NBA?

The NBA veteran definition is a player that has signed at least one contract with an NBA team. This could mean a player as young as 23 years old could be considered a veteran under the right circumstances.

Given the length of rookie deals, especially for second-round picks and free-agent rookies, there are many players in the league with two or three years of experience playing on veteran minimum deals.

Often a player will perform well enough on a deal to be offered an NBA veteran extension. There are a number of rules to this including that the player must only have one or two years left on a current deal.


The player must also be entering his eighth or ninth year in the league and have only moved teams a maximum of once by trade. These designated veteran player extensions are different from NBA veteran minimums and are the most valuable contracts in the game.

Does veteran minimum count against the cap?

The answer to this is yes, but not in the way that might be expected. The NBA wants to protect its veteran players that have made a career out of playing basketball. In order to do this, the league had to find a way to stop teams from signing a bunch of younger players with smaller cap hits.

The way that this is done is that all players signed on the veteran minimum will result in the same cap hit regardless of their paycheck for years accrued. This means that the cap hit is just under $1.7 million even if a team pays a player the salary of $2.6 million minimum for having 10 or more years experience.

Different types of minimum contracts

The veteran minimum is capped at $2.6 million for the 2021-22 season. Players like Blake Griffin and Trevor Ariza will be making this as players with more than 10 years of experience being paid their minimum.

Another type of minimum contract commonly seen in the NBA is the rookie minimum. This is the payment for any rookie coming into the league that was not offered a bigger contract. The rookie minimum for the 2021-22 season is $925,000.

Players signing contracts at the minimum value of their year’s experience after the season has started will have a prorated portion of that minimum. The figures for the 2021-22 season represent a 3% increase on the season before as broadcast deals and other revenues see the salary cap grow each year.

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