Cavaliers’ Kevin Porter Jr. takes discount on rookie-scale contract

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The Cavaliers paid a record $5 million (and four second-round picks) to get No. 30 pick Kevin Porter Jr. from the Pistons.

Cleveland will recoup some of that money on Porter’s salary.

NBA first-round picks have a contract scale with set salaries on a four-year deal that includes two team options and provisions for restricted free agency afterward. There’s limited flexibility on those-rookie scale contracts. Teams can pay 80%-120% of scale each season. In practice, players nearly always get 120% of scale. The last player I remember getting less than 120% of scale was Andre Roberson with the Thunder in 2013.

Until Porter.

Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights:

I wouldn’t be surprised if Porter agreed on draft night to take below scale. He was slipping in the draft, and even a reduced rookie-scale deal would have guaranteed more money than he’d get as a second-rounder. In the second round, he likely would have received the minimum or slightly more.

Now, Porter will earn $645,480 less than the standard 120% of scale would have paid next season. But that’s still $392,650 more than the minimum.

He’s also guaranteed $515,179 more than the minimum next season. If his team options get exercised, he’ll get $347,619 and $1,914,402 above the minimum.

Here were Porter’s contract possibilities in a four-year deal – the typical 120% of scale, what he actually got and the minimum:

Contract 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
120% scale $1,936,440 $2,033,160 $2,130,240 $3,845,083
Actual $1,290,960 $2,033,160 $2,130,240 $3,845,083
Minimum $898,310 $1,517,981 $1,782,621 $1,930,681

Porter is now locked in for four seasons. If he signed as a second-round pick or undrafted free agent, he could have inked a shorter deal and hit free agency sooner.

Essentially, if he had a say in Cleveland picking him, Porter bet against himself.

But he gets more guaranteed money and security this way. He also would’ve gotten to choose the Cavs. There’s value in that.

The Cavaliers get a little more breathing room with the luxury tax. They’re right up against it.

They also might be trendsetters. First-round picks were ridiculously underpaid as the new national TV contracts sent the salary cap skyrocketing. Now, the Collective Bargaining has tied the rookie scale to the salary cap and phased in salary increases for first-round picks, culminating with this year’s scale.

So, first-round picks are now being paid more reasonable salaries. In this environment, teams might negotiate the scale amounts more often.