Hearing your name called on draft night is something that is on everyone’s wish list. With the rapid growth of the D-League, however, not getting drafted isn’t the end of the world. Teams are willing to push their rosters to the maximum limit in order to find players to assign to their D-League affiliate. In order to incentivize those guys to stay within their program, they partially guarantee contracts of these undrafted free agents.
As you can see, there is a total of $2.5 million spread across 26 players, with Maurice Ndour and Duje Dukan of the Mavericks and Kings respectively earning fully guaranteed first year salaries. In addition, there were 29 players from this draft that went undrafted and had the opportunity to make a roster via training camp. According to Pincus’ salary sheets, all undrafted camp invites have a total of $28.8 million in first year contract money that was offered.
Granted, 29 players had completely non-guaranteed contracts and only $2.5 million is guaranteed, but it is probably safe to assume that those players will have an opportunity to remain in the states playing in the D-League if they were invited to a training camp. To some players, the opportunity to pursue the dream of playing in the NBA is worth the pennies that D-League players make in their current salary structure.
For comparison, 12 second round players signed contracts to be with an NBA team this season, with the rest either staying in the D-League or playing overseas. Of those 12 second rounders, a total of $9.4 million was handed out in the first year of deals (only a half million isn’t guaranteed, which would be the one year tender that JP Tokoto signed with the Philadelphia 76ers). Much like the players who weren’t drafted but landed training camp invites and partial guarantees, most of those players are headed to the D-League. This, in theory, gives them the same chances of making an NBA roster as the people who actually got drafted in the second round before they did; they’ll be playing in the same environment and on the same teams as second round draft picks.
There is money to be had and chances to fulfil your dream as a player, even if you aren’t drafted. Through Summer League, training camp, preseason and the D-League, players who don’t hear their name called have ample opportunity to impress an NBA team, in fact just as much of a chance as guys who are drafted in the second round. The question then becomes whether or not players are willing to sacrifice money from other leagues across the world in order to chase their NBA dream.
While the majority of the money isn’t guaranteed, it still might be worth it to stay and capitalize on the offer to tryout for a team.