Magic’s Chuma Okeke Won’t Sign Rookie Deal Until 2020

4:44pm: Okeke will sign a G League contract to play for the Magic’s affiliate in Lakeland, according to Charania and Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

9:41am: Chuma Okeke has long been the only 2019 first-round pick who has yet to sign his rookie scale contract, and now we know why. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter), Okeke won’t sign his rookie deal with the Magic until the 2020 offseason.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Draft Pick Signings]

As Charania explains (via Twitter), the Magic intend to redshirt Okeke during his first professional season as he continue to recover from the ACL injury he suffered during this year’s NCAA tournament while playing for Auburn.

Postponing Okeke’s first NBA contract by a year could be a win-win for both Orlando and the young forward, who was the 16th overall pick in this year’s draft. Although he won’t earn an NBA salary in 2019/20, the 21-year-old projects to sign a rookie contract worth an extra $1MM or so in 2020 due to the rising value of the league’s rookie scale, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

When he signs in 2020, Okeke will earn the same salary as the 16th pick in the 2020 draft — the exact amount will depend on how much the cap increases, but based on the latest projection, his starting salary should be about $3.32MM.

Meanwhile, the Magic are currently just $3.8MM below the luxury tax line and would’ve been right up against that threshold if they’d signed Okeke to a rookie contract worth 120% of his rookie scale amount. He would’ve earned about $3.1MM in 2019/20 in that scenario. The franchise will now have him under control for an extra year as well, as his four-year rookie contract will run through the 2023/24 season. The rest of the 2019 first-rounders will hit restricted free agency during the summer of ’23.

[RELATED: Rookie Scale Salaries For 2019 First Round Picks]

It’s not clear whether Okeke will remain unsigned or if he’ll sign a G League contract for the 2019/20 season. A G League contract might make sense for both sides, since it would allow him to rehab within the organization while at least earning a modest salary. In either scenario, the Magic will retain his NBA rights.

The move will also open up an extra spot on the Magic’s 15-man regular season roster for the coming season. The team is currently carrying 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts, so there should be one one or two openings available heading into training camp.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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14 thoughts on “Magic’s Chuma Okeke Won’t Sign Rookie Deal Until 2020

  1. tharrie0820

    So teams can just wait a year to sign a player while stilling hold their rights? I did not know that

    • spinach

      Player has to go along with it. The team is required to offer the player the contract, either at 80% or 100% of the scale amount, I’m not sure.

      It would generally make no sense for player not to take it unless he was staying in Europe or something.

      This $1m rise thing makes it interesting. If it was just $1m it would make no sense for him not to sign, but that $1m will carry over to all four years of rookie scale, and be even bigger in fourth year, so it could be like a $5m difference. And an added wrinkle: I wonder if since he’s hurt they only offered him 80% or 100% of the scale amount if he signed this year rather than 120%: that could raise the delta from $5m to something like $8m to $10m.

      • Luke Adams

        To be clear, it’ll be about $1MM in total over the four years. Only about $200K in year one.

        I’d be shocked if the Magic and Okeke’s camp didn’t discuss this before they took him at No. 16. My guess is he likely wouldn’t have been picked nearly that high this year or next year without some sort of understanding in place.

          • Luke Adams

            As long as he signs a contract in the G League (or internationally) every year, they’d keep his rights indefinitely.

  2. Bad decision by the player. There are very few scenarios where he comes out better, and then by the smallest of amounts. Upside loss is huge.

    • hiflew

      Exactly. What happens if he gets hurt again between now and then? The Magic likely won’t be signing him and all that money would be gone. If this was going to be the case, why didn’t he just stay in school? He might have been drafted even higher next year after healing.

  3. Okeke takes a L with this deal. Instead of hitting free agency early like the rest of his draft class he now has to wait a year longer which means he will earn less

  4. x%sure

    Another new thing. Not sure it’s a win-win.

    Teams get weirdly enthusiastic about “stashable” players (assuming that’s how they view Okeke). I don’t think the record of success with these players equals players in general. There are good players who were never going to play their rookie year but they were put under contract.

    And Okeke took the promise not the money!

    • Completely agree with you on “draft and stash” players. I think a lot of times, it is just the front office trying to clear a logjam of players/picks, while saving money, and keeping fans happy.

  5. Danthemilwfan

    And when he blows out his knee in the gleague again, the magic will sign him anyway right? Goood luck

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