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Examining The Financial Grind of Playing in NBA Summer League & Trying to Impress

From the NBA D-League to Summer League, aspiring pro athletes aren't making much money while on their quests for guaranteed deals with big league teams.


Towards the end of last season, examined the (somewhat) shockingly low pay of NBA D-League athletes. The simplest way to break things down is this: there are considered to be three different tiers of minor league players, with the levels of salaries breaking down as follows: $13,000, $19,000, and $25,000.

It's obvious that when young guns stay stateside to play in the NBADL, it's not for the money. The exposure they receive being able to strut their stuff in front of NBA executives on a nightly basis is the type of experience they won't get overseas. That said, playing internationally will likely provide them with a much more lucrative and/or favorable contract instead.

NBA D-League players are constantly on the grind for any NBA gig that comes their way at all. Taking into consideration their annual salaries, it seems likely that even playing out a ten day contract with a big league team (and getting paid to do it at a prorated amount of the minimum NBA salary) would, at the very least, triple their salary and make sticking it out in the minors until then that much more worth it.

With that all in mind, it would appear as though Summer League players have to embark on a similar grind, albeit for not as long. It shouldn't take too much getting used to, as many of the aspiring NBA players in Las Vegas went through the motions in the D-League this past season anyway.

If the highest NBADL player salary is approximately $25,000, how much can players possibly be making this week in Las Vegas? Clearly, it's can't be enough to comfortably go out and spend a night gambling it all away at Bellagio.

Some insight into the living conditions of Summer League athletes is provided here. An $100 per diem isn't much in Vegas, but at least flight and hotel accommodations are made.

The ironic thing about NBA Summer League is that it's not all about the NBA teams and their own respective open roster spots. There is a slew of international scouts present ready to pounce on those prospects who don't get offered guaranteed contracts in The Association and are forced to look elsewhere.

A prime example of a situation like that would be Dwight Buycks, who played for the Oklahoma City Thunder in Orlando last week. The former Tulsa 66ers' point guard played overseas in France this past season, and was reportedly poised to do it again this coming year as well. A source suggested to that Buycks highly favored a more lucrative international contract over a non-guaranteed contract with an invite to NBA training camp invite. Perhaps that's why the Raptors had to throw a multi-year contract offer his way to fully lure him in. With the promise of serving as their backup point guard next season, one would have to believe that (at the very least), the first year is guaranteed.

The different opportunities and possibilities are certainly endless for aspiring NBA players. That said, the potential for earnings this week isn't exactly what you would call favorable, regardless of how you slice it.

The poster boy for truly being on the grind for more money should be Andrew Goudelock. Earlier in the season, the guard told that that's what it was all about. After earning himself the D-League M.V.P. award this season, Goudelock has already begun to hear "M.V.P." chants during Summer League in Vegas. It's been a long year for the high-scoring guard, but the grind turns out to be well worth it if players like himself can snag guaranteed contracts. They just won't make a lot of money while attempting to do so.