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Zion Williamson Contract & Rookie Max Salary Breakdown

The New Orleans Pelicans’ young star owns a mega rookie extension. Boardroom takes a look at the numbers behind this massive new Zion Williamson contract.

There’s not much that’s more exciting for a fanbase than seeing the flashes of potential in a top NBA Draft pick. Pelicans fans, however, have not had enough of an opportunity to see Zion Williamson at his finest, as injuries have hampered the start of his career.

Despite those stops and starts, the Pelicans were confident enough in his long-term potential to give him a five-year rookie max extension worth $193 million.

Williamson has only played in 85 total games in his three seasons, but in those 85 games, he is averaging 25.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He was an All-Star in the 2020-21 season, in which he played 61 games, but was sidelined all of last year with a foot injury. Now that we’ve hit the offseason, there are signs that point to him recovering fully as well as refining his body, and that’s what the Pelicans are banking on.

Boardroom looks at the numbers behind this breakthrough Zion Williamson contract extension.

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Zion Williamson Contract Details & Salary

All dollar figures via Spotrac.

Years: 5
Total value: $192,850,000
Average annual value: $38,570,000
Free agency: 2028

NOTE: The value of Williamson’s contract can escalate to the full $231,000,000 rookie max extension if he makes an All-NBA team in 2022-23.

Remaining salary under current deal:

2022-23: $13,534,817

Annual rookie max salary earnings (at $192,850,000 total):

2023-24: $33,250,000
2024-25: $35,910,000
2025-26: $38,570,000
2026-27: $41,230,000
2027-28: $43,890,000

July 76video of Zion Williamson signing his extension, c/o WWLTV

Zion turned 22 earlier this month, so this extension is likely to be the first of a few big deals in his career. He could hit free agency at just 27 years old, with the probability of supermax contracts continuing to skyrocket in value as the NBA’s TV rights deals send revenues through the roof.

If Nikola Jokic and Devin Booker will be making $60+ million on their extensions come 2028, what could a presumably superstar-level Zion in his prime demand by the time he’s up for another extension?

Another interesting clause in Zion’s contract is that if he is traded, it will activate a “poison pill” provision. There are two iterations of what the poison pill is, but let’s focus on the one involving rookie extension deals. AsHoopsHype explains, if a rookie is extended and then traded before that extension goes into effect, the outgoing team treats the player’s salary number as is, while the incoming team must treat the player’s salary number as the average of all the yearly money remaining.

In Zion’s case, if the Pelicans were to trade him before July 1, 2023, his salary would be the roughly $13 million he’s still owed on his current contract, while the new team will have to value him as $38,570,000 — the average annual value of his max extension. This would make dealing him outrageously difficult.

Zion Williamson’s Career Earnings

Salary data via Spotrac.

NBA SALARY EARNINGS THRU 2021-22$30,736,817

TOTAL SALARY EARNINGS THRU 2028 SEASON (no All-NBA in 2022-23): $236,511,297
TOTAL SALARY EARNINGS THRU 2028 SEASON (makes All-NBA in 2022-23): $275,271,634

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