The contractual path for a No. 1 overall pick in the NBA is fairly well-scripted. First comes a bargain rookie scale contract, then a five-year max extension that forestalls restricted free agency, and finally a chance to hit the unrestricted free agent market. It’s that last step that’s proved difficult. Seven of the last eight No. 1 overall picks are still on either their rookie deals or maximum-salary rookie extensions, but only two former No. 1 picks are playing on max deals that they negotiated as unrestricted free agents. Just as many former No. 1 picks are making the minimum salary this season.
That’s partly because not every No. 1 pick turns out to be worth the max, or even worth the full value of a rookie scale contract, as the case of Anthony Bennett proves. The five No. 1 picks taken between Tim Duncan in 1997 and LeBron James in 2003 are no longer playing in the NBA. That says as much about No. 1 picks as it does about the endurance of Duncan, one of five active former No. 1 picks to sign a contract or an extension this past offseason. He probably could have commanded more than what he received from the Spurs this past summer if he were willing to entertain the thought of leaving the only NBA team he’s ever played for.
The list below shows what each active former No. 1 pick is making this season, rounded to the nearest $1K, along with information on the contract that produced that salary. The team listed is the player’s current team, not necessarily the team that drafted him.
- 2015: Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves — $5.704MM (still on rookie scale contract)
- 2014: Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves — $5.759MM (still on rookie scale contract)
- 2013: Anthony Bennett, Raptors — $947K (signed one-year, minimum-salary deal in 2015)
- 2012: Anthony Davis, Pelicans — $7.071MM (still on rookie scale contract, but signed five-year max extension in 2015 worth an estimated $143.175MM, based on next year’s maximum salary projections)
- 2011: Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers — $16.408MM (signed five-year max extension in 2014)
- 2010: John Wall, Wizards — $15.852MM (signed five-year max extension in 2013)
- 2009: Blake Griffin, Clippers — $18.908MM (signed five-year max extension in 2012)
- 2008: Derrick Rose, Bulls — $20.093MM (signed five-year max extension in 2011)
- 2007: Greg Oden — $0 (out of the NBA)
- 2006: Andrea Bargnani, Nets — $1.363MM (signed two-year, minimum-salary deal in 2015)
- 2005: Andrew Bogut, Warriors — $13.8MM (signed three-year, $39.454MM extension in 2013)
- 2004: Dwight Howard, Rockets — $22.359MM (signed four-year, maximum-salary deal in 2013)
- 2003: LeBron James, Cavaliers — $22.971MM (signed two-year, maximum-salary deal in 2015)
- 2002: Yao Ming — $0 (retired)
- 2001: Kwame Brown — $0 (out of the NBA)
- 2000: Kenyon Martin — $0 (retired)
- 1999: Elton Brand — $0 (out of the NBA, leaning toward retirement)
- 1998: Michael Olowokandi — $0 (retired)
- 1997: Tim Duncan — $5.25MM (signed two-year, $10.894MM deal in 2015)
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.