The 2018 NBA first round draft picks salaries are essentially slotted based on where they are drafted. The higher you are drafted the more money you make. According to Real GM, teams can pay draft picks between 80 percent to 120 percent of the rookie scale. The No. 1 pick of the 2018 NBA draft is slated to earn $6.75 million during the 2018-19 season. This is close to a $1 million raise from what Markelle Fultz was pegged to make last season as the 2017 No. 1 draft pick.
A lot of fans consider draft picks valuable because of the upside of prospects, but what is equally valuable is the rookie scale that essentially underpays top players what they would make on the open market. Make no mistake, NBA rookies make good money, but there is a sizable difference with what many of the top players will eventually be able to earn.
We have seen teams like the Sixers and Celtics take advantage of this. The Sixers have Ben Simmons on his rookie deal giving them cap space to be players in the free agent market. The Celtics have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on rookie contracts giving them a bit of flexibility under the salary cap.
Teams can have first round picks on their first contract for up to four seasons. There is a team option for the fourth year, and a qualifying offer that can be issued for year five. The player’s salary goes up each season. This year’s top pick will earn just under $7 million, per Real GM. The second year the player will earn $7.9 million. He will make $8.12 million his third year. The fourth year team option sees a 26.1 percent jump from their third-year salary if the team picks it up. Finally, a team can issue a qualifying offer for a 30 percent increase from their fourth year salary.
The second round is a bit trickier. Unlike prior eras, players can now negotiate for guaranteed money, but it is not as structured as the first round. Some players argue the second round is better, because it gets players to their more lucrative second contract sooner. However, for players that are slower to develop, it also puts more pressure on them to perform right away, or risk being out of the league. Here’s how NBC Sports explains the potential advantage for second round picks.
First-round picks are bound by a salary scale negotiated by the league and union into the 2011 CBA. The scale is a set amount for each pick, increasing slightly each year. Teams can pay a player between 80% and 120% of his scale amount, and 120% is so common, it’s practically the set number.
Second-round picks are free to negotiate any contract. Teams must use cap space or an exception – e.g., mid-level or minimum-salary – to sign them.
So, with the salary cap skyrocketing, the proportions for first-round picks have become out of whack. In 2011, the first year of the CBA, the No. 1 pick earned 8.86% of the salary cap ($58,044,000). If the salary cap comes in as projected this year ($94 million), the No. 1 pick will earn 6.28% of the salary cap. That same effect is felt throughout the first round.
Meanwhile, second-round picks are free to partake in the newly available TV money.
Here’s a look at the 2018-19 salaries for every first round NBA draft pick courtesy of Real GM.
NBA Draft Pick Salaries: 1st Round