Cam Whitmore’s Slide Out Of The Lottery Cost Him Millions Of Dollars

It happens every NBA Draft — one or two players in attendance slide down the board as various concerns pop up in the weeks and sometimes hours leading up to draft night. We watch as cameras zoom in on their disappointed faces while family and friends try to console them. When NBA commissioner Adam Silver finally announces their name, it’s a mixture of joy and relief. Finally, they’ve joined the ranks of the NBA.

During the 2023 draft, Cam Whitmore was that player. The Villanova forward was pegged as a top-five pick in some mock drafts, with the general consensus being that he’d go within the top ten selections. Only that didn’t happen. Instead, Whitmore fell all the way down to No. 20, where the Houston Rockets scooped him up.

Teams voiced concerns about Whitmore in the days before the draft. They saw him perform well during games but not have the same intensity in practice moments, and his medical history — he missed seven games last year due to a broken thumb — scared off a few teams, too.

Whatever the reason, Whitmore’s drop cost him millions of dollars.

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NBA rookie contracts are on a sliding scale for first-round draft picks. We have a good idea of what the #1 pick will make, what the #30 pick will make, and what everyone in between will earn over their first four years in the NBA. Technically, teams can pay between 80% and 120% of the player’s draft slot salary. Almost all teams go for the 120% route — after all, you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with a potential star.

The fourth year is also a percentage increase over the third year’s salary. This percentage increases the lower in the first round you go. For example, in his fourth season, No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama will get a raise of 26.1% over his third-year salary, while 30th pick Kobe Brown will make 80.5% more in year four than in year three. However, Wembanyama will still earn significantly more overall, both this season and over his first four years in the league.

That brings us back to Whitmore. At the 20th pick, he’ll make about $3.2 million this season and nearly $15.6 million over the duration of his rookie contract.

Let’s say he was selected 10th overall, where Kentucky’s Cason Wallace was ultimately chosen. Whitmore would have made just under $5.3 million this season and just over $24 million across four years.

What if Whitmore went 5th overall, his highest projection of some mock drafts? He would have made just under $8 million this season and about $36 million throughout his rookie contract. Detroit instead chose Ausar Thompson with the selection.

By falling to the 20th pick, Whitmore will miss out on about $4.8 million during the 2023-24 season. His slide also costs him around $20.4 million over four seasons.

Perhaps Whitmore will use this as motivation. He’s joining a talented young core in Houston and will likely get significant playing time early on. If he parlays it into a big deal when his contract expires in four seasons, it would certainly make up for a rough draft night.

For now, falling entirely out of the lottery is a tough — and costly — break for Whitmore.

Cam Whitmore’s Slide Out Of The Lottery Cost Him Millions Of Dollars

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