NBA rookie contracts look up to NFL

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:

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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