NBA Minimum Salary

Although The Best Sports Blog has already taken an in-depth look at the NBA Salary Cap system, one section of it is so convoluted that we thought it deserved its own section: the NBA minimum salary. Several Best Sports Blog users commented on how difficult it was to understand, so we wanted to try and break it down further. The NBA minimum salary is tiered based on service, which is common enough, but it also interacts strangely with the rest of the cap and plays a major role in determining deadline trades and playoff rosters. If you have any other questions about the minimum salary, please do not hesitate to comment or post in the forum! So, let’s take a look:

The NBA minimum salary is not explicit; it is elastic. Its number is determined on a specific player basis by the number of years a player has been in the NBA. In 2010-2011, the scaled numbers were as follows: 490,180 for a rookie and then increases to 788,872, 884,293, 916,100, 947,907, 1,027,424, 1,106,941, 1,186,459, 1,265,976, 1,272,279, and 1,399,507 after ten years of service. As you can see, the first increase-when a player becomes a veteran-is largest and most materially significant and the difference by year drops off each year after that until there is no difference after the tenth year. While this may change with a new collective bargaining agreement after 2010, it is a fairly straightforward system and there seems to be little impetus to change it.

Where the NBA Minimum Salary gets complicated, and important, is in its role within the current salary cap system. Unlike other contracts, NBA minimum salary deals for up to two years are exempt from the salary cap. The logic behind this is to make sure that teams can always fill their rosters-even if those players would theoretically be terrible-but it does not always work out that way. In fact, during the summer, savvy free agent veterans often latch on to competitive teams in the hopes of winning a championship. Moreover, after the deadline, even more valuable veterans in mid-career often sign with teams for the minimum after being bought out of their contracts by teams looking to save a few dollars. These veterans often play critical roles during the playoffs (anyone remember P.J. Brown’s role on the 2008 Celtics) and are a very important outlet for competitive teams looking for an extra edge for the playoffs. Indeed, this year alone, power forward Troy Murphy, small forward Tayshaun Prince, center Samuel Dalembert, point guard T.J. Ford, and others could be minimum salary candidates after next week’s deadline. Each of those players (not to mention a combination of them) could be the missing piece for a contender, which shows how important the NBA minimum salary is to clubs with title aspirations.

Check out our related stories: NBA Salary Cap and Pro Football Player Salaries.

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