The players selected in the first round in tonight’s NBA Draft will receive three-year contracts are fully guaranteed. That is the good news for the NBA top picks compared to the top picks of the NFL Draft. The bad news compared to NFL top picks – for now at least -- is the amount of guaranteed money in these shorter contracts. Although NFL veteran contracts pale in comparison to NBA veteran contracts, it is financially much better to be a top NFL draft pick – sometimes by tens of millions of dollars -- than a top NBA draft pick.

NFL would like NBA system

The NFL and the NFL Players Association all seem to agree that rookies at the top of the Draft make too much, especially compared to veteran players. With union leaders such as Kevin Mawae and others on record denouncing the disproportionate rookie contracts, it will come as no surprise if and when the new agreement is finally forged between NFL ownership and players, rookies are served up for sacrifice for the greater good of the rest.

Top ten look

With that, let’s look at a comparison of the top ten picks in each 2009 Draft and the amount of guaranteed money in millions of dollars. The comparisons are startling:


Pick        NBA                                                         NFL
1.            Blake Griffin                16                            Matthew Stafford            41.7
2.            Hasheem Thabeet      14.4                         Jason Smith                    33
3.            James Harden            12.9                         Tyson Jackson                31
4.            Tyreke Evans              11.6                         Aaron Curry                    34
5.            Ricky Rubio *              10.5                         Mark Sanchez                 28
6.            Jonny Flynn                 9.6                          Andre Smith                    21
7.            Stephen Curry             8.7                          Darrius Heyward-Bey      23.5
8.            Jordan Hill                   8                             Eugene Monroe              19.2
9.            DeMar DeRozan         7.4                          BJ Raji                             17.7
10.          Brandon Jennings       7                             Michael Crabtree            17

*if he were to have signed

As a group, the top 10 picks in last year’s NBA Draft made $106 million in guaranteed money compared to $266 million for the top ten NFL picks, a difference of $160 million. And the 10th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Michael Crabtree, will make more in guaranteed money than the top pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Blake Griffin.

Veterans opposite

In contrast, a look at veteran contracts paints a completely different picture. Beyond the rookie wage scale, there is very little about NBA salaries that NFL management would envy. The average NBA salary is approximately $3.4 million, roughly twice the average NFL salary of $1.74 million. And while the cream of the crop of NFL veteran contracts boast guarantees of $30-40 million guaranteed with the highest guarantees being those of Stafford and Albert Haynesworth (heard of him?) at $41 million, NBA veteran contracts dwarf those amounts. Here are some guaranteed amounts for contracts -- in millions -- signed in recent years by NBA players:

Player                    Total Guarantee (in millions)
Jermaine O'Neal           126
Gilbert Arenas               111
Shaquille O’Neal           100
Kenyon Martin                91
Michael Redd                 90
Elton Brand                    80
Ray Allen                       80
Erick Dampier                73
Carlos Boozer                70 
Monta Ellis                     67
Baron Davis                   65
Tyson Chandler             64 

All of these players, some hardly household names, make considerably more guaranteed money than any NFL player by over $20 million. And this does not even include the riches to come for LeBron and company next month.

The players picked tonight in the first round of the NBA Draft will know their guaranteed money over the next three years immediately. There is little to no negotiations of first-round NBA contracts. Indeed, many of these contracts of players just picked tonight will be completed before first-round NFL contracts of players picked two months ago (no first or second rounder has signed at this time).

Size of the herd

Although it is an inexact science, I always look at the size of the group with the player on Draft night – whether NFL or NBA -- as a harbinger of things to come. Players with the largest entourages are the ones I worry about in regard to future issues and money problems. I have no data on this but my thought is the larger the herd in the picture with the Commissioner the more likely we are going to be reading about that player being broke in ten years. Give me the draft pick that goes on stage for a picture with just his mother. I’ll take that kid anytime.

Enjoy the festivities tonight live from New York, the only time in the NBA where the money comes up short against the NFL.

Follow me on Twitter at adbrandt.

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