Are NBA Contracts Guaranteed 2024? Surprising Insider Insights

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Secure your financial future with my expert advice: are NBA contracts guaranteed? Learn about the contractual obligations and protections for NBA players.

Are NBA Contracts Guaranteed? Overview

Types of NBA Contracts

NBA contracts come in several forms to accommodate the needs and strategies of players and teams. Fully guaranteed contracts ensure that players receive the total agreed-upon salary, regardless of circumstances like performance or injury. This contract type is common among high-profile players.

On the other hand, non-guaranteed contracts provide teams with more flexibility, allowing them to release a player and be free from their salary obligation before certain conditions are met. Rookie scale contracts are predefined agreements for first-round draft picks, offering set salaries that escalate over their first four years.

A 10-day contract is a short-term agreement that allows teams to evaluate players during the season. Two-way contracts allow players to split time between the NBA and the G League, while a max contract represents the maximum salary a player can receive, often established stars in the league.

What are Guaranteed Contract?

Guaranteed contracts in the NBA provide financial security for players, ensuring they’re paid their full contract amount no matter what the future holds. Guarantee dates are crucial, as they dictate when a contract shifts from partially guaranteed to fully guaranteed. Typically, January 10 is when all NBA contracts become guaranteed for the remainder of the season.

Conversely, some agreements might include specific guarantee thresholds, where a portion of salary becomes guaranteed after a player meets criteria like being on the roster beyond a specific date or achieving predefined performance benchmarks. For detailed nuances on these arrangements, you can review Spotrac’s 2024 NBA Contract Guarantees research.

Contract Mechanics

A basketball court with a contract document and a mechanic's tools, symbolizing the guaranteed nature of NBA contracts

Salary Cap Implications

When a team signs a player, the contract amount counts against the salary cap, the limit imposed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement on the total amount teams can spend on player salaries.

Guaranteed money is the portion of a player’s salary they are entitled to receive, regardless of the circumstance – whether they’re playing or not. If a player’s contract is fully guaranteed, their entire salary counts towards the team’s salary cap, reducing the amount the team can spend on other players.

Contract Options and Clauses

Contracts can include various options and clauses that offer players and teams opportunities to adjust their commitments before the agreement ends.

A player option gives the player the right to extend their contract for another year, allowing them to stay with the team or enter free agency to negotiate a new deal.

Conversely, a team option allows the franchise to extend the contract. These options typically impact how the salary is calculated against the cap for the duration of the contract.

Roster Management

NBA contracts are being managed by a team

Trades and Transfers

In navigating trades, your team might seek to acquire a player to fill a specific need or to manage the salary cap more effectively. Remember, trades usually involve both the receiving and sending teams agreeing on the respective players’ value. NBA trades can also include draft picks and cash considerations. For instance, a team might trade away a player like J.R. Smith to gain future draft assets or create roster space.

Injury and Waivers

If a player on your team is injured, the contract details become crucial. Many NBA contracts are guaranteed, meaning an injured player receives their salary regardless of their playing ability. However, there’s a nuance in situations where contracts aren’t fully guaranteed.

In such cases, teams might place a player on waivers, allowing other teams to claim the player’s contract. If the player goes unclaimed, they are waived and may negotiate a settlement or be owed the remainder of their guaranteed contract.

For instance, when a player like Mike Conley signs a partially guaranteed contract, specific provisions dictate what happens if they’re cut from the team due to an injury.

Financial Considerations

A stack of NBA contracts with "guaranteed" prominently displayed

Luxury Tax and Penalties

The luxury tax is designed to level the competitive playfield and ensure that teams with deeper pockets don’t overshadow the rest. If your team’s payroll exceeds a certain threshold determined by the league’s collective bargaining agreement, it must pay a set penalty for the amount over the limit. This tax progresses in tiers—the more you go over, the higher the penalty.

For example, if the salary cap is at $112 million and the luxury tax threshold is set at $136 million, but your team spends $150 million, your team will be subject to a luxury tax. This excess can have a range of repercussions, including a repeater tax—a stiffer penalty for teams consistently over the luxury tax threshold across several seasons.

Exception Rules and Bonuses

NBA salary structures come with exceptions that allow teams to sign players even if they’re over the cap. These can include the Mid-Level Exception (MLE), Bi-Annual Exception (BAE), and others. For instance, the MLE lets teams sign a player or players for a total starting salary up to a specified amount, despite being over the cap.

Contract bonuses also play a role and can be categorized as likely or unlikely to be earned. Likely bonuses are included in your team’s current salary, while unlikely bonuses are not. They can affect cap space if a player achieves certain benchmarks that trigger their bonuses, potentially pushing the team salary closer to or over the luxury tax threshold.

When it comes to trades, understanding these financial mechanics is key. Your team might trade a player with a high salary to avoid the luxury tax or to obtain a trade exception, which offers additional leeway to acquire new players without busting the cap.

Player Perspectives

A stack of NBA contracts sits on a desk, each one bearing the team's logo and the player's name. The words "guaranteed" are prominently featured on each contract

Free Agency and Market Value

As a free agent, you can leverage your market value. Players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James have consistently secured contracts that are not only significant in value but fully guaranteed due to their high impact on team performance and revenue.

On the other hand, free agents with less star power aim to negotiate for as much guaranteed money as possible, recognizing that their market value is variable.

Factors influencing a player’s market value:

  • Performance: On-court achievements and statistics.
  • Health: History of injuries and games played per season.
  • Potential: Projected future contribution and improvement.

Agent Negotiations and Strategies

Your agent plays a critical role in negotiating the terms of your contract. Agents consider the guaranteed salary and the terms and conditions that protect you in various scenarios. High-profile players, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, typically have strong bargaining positions, which agents use to negotiate lucrative guaranteed contracts.

Strategic considerations for agents:

  • Contract Length: Short-term contracts may be strategic for maintaining flexibility.
  • Incentives: Bonuses for achievements supplement base salary.
  • Player Options: Giving you the choice to stay or explore free agency.


How many people on an NBA team have a guaranteed contract?

NBA teams can have up to 15 players on their roster during the regular season, and each team can have up to two additional players on two-way contracts. Typically, most players on an NBA team have guaranteed contracts, meaning their salaries are fully guaranteed for the duration of their contracts. However, the number of players with guaranteed contracts can vary from team to team and season to season, depending on roster decisions and salary cap considerations.

Are NBA two-way contracts guaranteed?

NBA two-way contracts are not fully guaranteed in the same way as standard NBA contracts. Two-way contracts allow players to split their time between the NBA team and its G League affiliate. While players on two-way contracts receive prorated NBA salaries for their time with the NBA team, their contracts are not fully guaranteed for the entire season. Two-way players can be waived or transferred between the NBA team and its G League affiliate throughout the season.

How do contracts work in the NBA?

NBA contracts are typically negotiated between players and teams and are subject to the rules and regulations outlined in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Contracts specify salary, contract length, guaranteed money, incentives, and other provisions. NBA contracts can vary in duration, with standard contracts lasting for one to five seasons. Players may also sign shorter-term contracts, such as 10-day contracts, or exhibit 10 contracts, depending on roster needs and player performance. Additionally, contracts may include options for teams or players, trade clauses, and other special provisions negotiated between the parties involved.

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Leave me a comment and make sure also to check out How Much Do NBA G League Players Make.

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Fabian Kühar
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