This offseason has seen three members of the 2018 draft class sign their rookie-scale extensions.
Next up will be the 2019 draft class.
They are eligible to sign their extensions next offseason and there is one player who will be extended an offer immediately – Zion Williamson.
The 21-year-old is entering his third year in the league and has lived up to the hype that has followed him since middle school.
While durability issues have persisted, he has shined when he is on the court.
The 6’7” forward averaged 27 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists last year in 33 minutes per game.
Zion Williamson last season🔥
— NBA Quick Report™🏀 (@NBAquickreport) August 13, 2021
All while shooting 61% from the field.
His play was good enough to earn him his first All-Star appearance as a New Orleans Pelican.
New Orleans has clearly found their future superstar and now must lock him up for the future.
We will try to determine what his rookie-scale extension might look like based on recent deals and the projected salary cap next offseason.
Zion Career Comparison
To keep things relatively even, we will be comparing Zion’s career to five of the most recent maximum rookie-scale extensions.
The previously mentioned Young, SGA, and Doncic as well as 2018 draft members Jayson Tatum and De’Aaron Fox.
Below is a list of each player’s accomplishments before becoming eligible for their rookie extension.
- Trae Young: 1x All-Star, All-Rookie
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: All-Rookie
- Luka Doncic: 2x 1st Team All-NBA, 2x All-Star, ROY, All-Rookie
- Jayson Tatum: 3rd Team All-NBA, 1x All-Star, All-Rookie
- De’Aaron Fox: No Awards
Nobody on this list comes close to Doncic.
He was the youngest player in league history to earn multiple All-NBA First Team Selections.
Here’s the breakdown of the Luka rookie max extension:
Extension is based on 30% of the projected $119M salary cap in 2022-23.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 9, 2021
As dominant as Zion has been, he only has one All-Star Selection and All-Rookie Team nomination.
Putting him, at least accolade-wise, on the same plane as Trae Young.
Impressive as it may be to be selected to the All-Star team, those selections do not factor into contract negotiations.
Per the CBA, a max rookie-scale extension can be worth 25% of a team’s salary cap.
In order for a player to earn 30% of a team’s salary cap, the player must make one All-NBA team within his first three years.
That is why Luka Doncic was able to sign for 5 years, $207 million, and Trae Young was only able to sign for 5 years, $172 million.
However, Trae does have a clause built into his contract that will elevate his contract to $207 million if he makes an All-NBA team.
Projected Salary Cap
The 2019-2020 salary cap for the NBA was $109.14 million.
COVID-19 implications forced that number to remain the same for the 2020-2021 season.
The NBA Board of Governors has unanimously approved changes to the CBA to allow for the start of the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22. COVID necessitated CBA changes including shortened season and possibility of revenue decreases, which may impact salary cap. The NBPA needs to approve.
— Alicia Jessop (@RulingSports) November 11, 2020
Something that had not happened since the 2012-2013 year.
The NBA has set projected cap values for the next three seasons which factor in COVID losses due to lack of fans.
They are doing this to try and offset losses across multiple years instead of just one year.
As of now, the 2022-2023 season has a project salary cap of $115.7 million with a projected tax of $140 million.
Barring a massive change in COVID vaccination or transmission rates, those values probably will not change.
Based on recent rookie extensions, Zion’s career accomplishments to this point, and the projected salary cap, we can make a good guess at what his extension will look like.
Making an All-NBA team is extremely difficult, but Zion has the talent to earn a spot.
If he can improve on an outside shot that has shown promise, it would take his game to the next level.
And if he can make the Pelicans a playoff team, it would be tough to keep him off the All-NBA list.
With that said, here are projected max rookie-scale extension contracts for Zion Williamson.
- Without All-NBA Selection: 5-years, $175 million
- With All-NBA Selection: 5-years, $210 million
Even if Zion is not selected to an All-NBA team this upcoming season he will almost assuredly have the 30% Escalator Clause worked into his contract.
This would take his 5-year, $175 million deal and convert it to the 5-year, $210 million deal.
If he can stay healthy, his dominance on the court should just make it a matter of not if he will make an All-NBA team, but when.