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Is The NBA Rookie Salary Scale Bad?

Before I get into the actual topic of the post, let me just say that I have received a handful of emails asking about how many people and the specific names of those that Dynasty is advising after the MLB Draft.  This information will soon be made available to the public, but for now, I would rather keep it restricted to Dynasty’s members.  We are continuing to work around the clock researching for the young men that we are representing to make sure that if they accept an offer with the teams that selected them, they are not taken advantage of.  Now onto the story..

Tiago SplitterMany believe that the NFL will be the next major American professional sport to institute a rookie salary scale, at least for the first round of its draft. The NBA currently uses a scale for players drafted in the first round and the MLB does its best to force its member organizations to use a similar signing bonus number for a player drafted in the same slot in the previous year’s draft. Maybe slotting ends up becoming implemented in the NFL and turns out to work like a charm, but in the NBA, the system may have created some unintended consequences.

A team like the San Antonio Spurs has to worry that its last year’s first round draft pick may choose to stay overseas rather than come play for basketball’s most consistently solid team of this past decade. Tiago Splitter put up decent numbers this past year overseas in Spain and is probably due for a larger check from the Spanish club (Tau Ceramica) than he would receive as a rookie next year with the Spurs. It is not that the Spurs aren’t willing to pay Splitter enough money, but that the salary scale will only allow the team to hand over $771,000 at most in Splitter’s first year of play. Because of that ceiling (which lasts for two years and could be picked up for another two by San Antonio), the Spurs may never even have the chance to give that money to Tiago.

Splitter is not alone. Fran Vasquez and Rudy Fernandez are among the other players who have been drafted by NBA teams in the first round only to say “no thanks” and remain with their overseas clubs. If you were an NBA GM, would you draft a non-American player in the first round? If he is an early first round pick, maybe it is a different scenario, but taking a foreigner with a late first rounder is definitely a risk under the current slotting system.

Many have had nothing but praise for the NBA’s slotting system, but if it alienates foreigners, potentially forcing their fall to the second round, should it be kept? What can be done to fix the system? It will be interesting to follow this year’s draft and see how many foreigners are taken in the first round after the lottery picks have been made.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

12 replies on “Is The NBA Rookie Salary Scale Bad?”

The current scale system is not bad at all. The obvious advantage is that rookies never hold out before signing their deal. There is no competition among agents to see who can pull the most out of the team. Everyone knows who will make what based on where he is drafted. This system needs to be implemented by the NFL immediately because it is creating a huge problem. An untested rookie who could end up being the next Ryan Leaf, Matt Ryan, is scheduled to make more money than Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. Even a three year old can tell you how wrong that is. Tiago Splitter is one of the finest players overseas. But that does not mean we should change all the rules to accommodate him. Lets keep in mind that playing in the NBA is a Privilege and a not Right. When a player enters his name into the eligible player pool, he is saying If you Draft me, I will come and play. He is not saying ” I will play if you pay me more than my current team is paying me”. Two former Spurs were drafted while they were playing overseas and had a similar decision to make. But now Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have their comfortable contracts after playing on the rookie scale. Splitter needs to commit to the NBA and play to earn that next big contract. He should be excited that he has the chance to do it with the Spurs, and learn from the best active big man in the game, Duncan. If he wants to stay in Spain to make a little more this year, then let him. If his agent was smart he would say go to America, pay your dues for two seasons, and then demand that max contract when everyone knows how amazing you are. In 3 or 4 years he could be making $10 mil per season here, as apposed to slightly higher than what he is making in Spain if he stays there. The NBA is the best league in the world, not to mention the wealthiest, and thats why the best players from China, israel, Argentina, and other countries come over here without a doubt.

Right, but guys being stashed overseas for a year or two isn’t unusual. There’s a difference to me. In addition, if you’re going to say “this is a problem,” then give me a solution — and the NFL draft way of things isn’t it. Neither is the random wild west version of things in the MLB draft.

Zak’s spot on I think. If guys are smart they realize that the short term trade off by playing in the NBA is worth the long term advantages, both in terms of salary, and also in terms of marketing.

I agree with Zak as well. The NBA’s system is the best system in place by far as opposed to the other 3 major leagues in the US. Also, as Chris stated many teams select European players at the end of the first round or in the second round, not because their talent is superior, but because they know that they can keep them over in Europe for a year or two and the player can develop without complaint. Whereas, an American player wants to get drafted and play in the NBA immediately, especially if the player was selected in the first round. Not many guys even like to be demoted to the NBDL. It is a luxury that good teams have, they can select a high-ceiling Euro, retain his rights, let him mature his game and then bring him over when a roster spot presents itself. The Spurs have made a living off of this as have many other teams in the NBA. Its a great strategy for those types of teams or teams with multiple first round picks. Expect the Sonics to do that this year with at least 2 of their 6 picks.

I like this post. But I remember reading that the team holds team options for the 3rd and 4th season. So, for a late first round pick, it is likely that a player like Splitter is locked up for 4 years (unless he is the next P. O’Bryant). Darren, congrats on having players that you are advising – I think you work hard and hopefully are succesful with this agency thing. When you say he is playing with a different team, what do you mean? I recall a draft day trade? Is it better to not enter your name in the draft and do it like Navarro and Nocioni? How does a European player avoid being drafted and then become a free agent (what are the qualifications)? Thanks.

I think it’s a testament to the other leagues to show that the NBA is not as lucrative as it used to be. By this I mean the other leagues are catching up. A player can be very wealthy never having to step foot in the NBA. Euro leagues are getting richer, and thus paying their players very well. It’s good news for sports agents, as if theri clients fails to achieve a contract in the NBA, there are many other lucrative options throughout the world.

It should work better in the NFL because where else can they go ? I mean, I don’t really know if they can make more money playing in another football league if they can make roster in a NFL team. Rookie salary scale should end this holdouts and lengthy negotiations which only makes their agent rich.

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