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Zion Williamson's salary: How much the NBA rookie could earn

Thomas Barrabi

Zion Williamson is on track for a major payday if the New Orleans Pelicans select him with the first overall pick in this June’s NBA Draft as expected, but his real earning potential lies in opportunities off the court.

In a surprise outcome, the Pelicans won the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, despite entering with just a 6 percent chance of earning the first overall pick. It is considered a virtual certainty that New Orleans will draft Williamson, who is the most hyped basketball prospect since LeBron James after a dominant freshman season at Duke University.

As the first pick in the 2019 draft, Williamson would be entitled to a guaranteed two-year contract worth an estimated $20 million, according to calculations by Spotrac. The deal will also include two team options for a third and fourth season, which would push Williamson’s earnings to nearly $45 million through the end of the 2022-23 NBA season and his first chance at free agency.

The NBA pays rookies based on a sliding scale tied to their draft position and the league’s salary cap. For the 2019-2020 season, the first overall pick is set for a base salary of $8.12 million, according to Real GM, which tracks the sale. However, rookies can sign for as much as 120 percent or as little as 80 percent of the base value after negotiations.

Salaries can increase significantly if teams exercise their third and fourth-year options.

Williamson is expected to earn an even bigger check for his sneaker deal. Sonny Vaccaro, an industry legend who has worked for Nike, Adidas and Reebok, said Williamson could land an unprecedented deal worth $100 million with whichever brand wins the bidding war for his services. By comparison, James signed with Nike in a deal worth $87 million ahead of his NBA debut.


The Pelicans will make their final decision on whether to take Williamson at the 2019 NBA Draft on June 20.

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