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NBA draft picks come up short compared to NFL top rookies

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The players selected in the first round in tonight's NBA Draft will receive three-year contracts are fully guaranteed. That is the good news for the NBA top picks compared to the top picks of the NFL Draft. The bad news compared to NFL top picks - for now at least -- is the amount of guaranteed money. Although NFL veteran contracts pale in comparison to NBA veteran contracts, it is financially better to be a top NFL draft pick - sometimes by tens of millions of dollars -- than a top NBA draft pick.

NFL would like NBA system

The NFL and the NFL Players Association all seem to agree that rookies at the top of the Draft make too much, especially compared to veteran players. With union leaders such as Kevin Mawae and others on record denouncing the disproportionate rookie contracts, it will come as no surprise if and when the new agreement is finally forged between NFL ownership and players, rookies are served up for sacrifice for the greater good of the rest.

Top ten look

With that, let's look at a comparison of the top ten picks in each 2009 Draft and the amount of guaranteed money in millions of dollars. The comparisons are startling:

Pick NBA NFL
1. Blake Griffin 16 Matthew Stafford 41.7
2. Hasheem Thabeet 14.4 Jason Smith 33
3. James Harden 12.9 Tyson Jackson 31
4. Tyreke Evans 11.6 Aaron Curry 34
5. Ricky Rubio * 10.5 Mark Sanchez 28
6. Jonny Flynn 9.6 Andre Smith 21
7. Stephen Curry 8.7 Darrius Heyward-Bey 23.5
8. Jordan Hill 8 Eugene Monroe 19.2
9. DeMar DeRozan 7.4 BJ Raji 17.7
10. Brandon Jennings 7 Michael Crabtree 17

*if he were to have signed

As a group, the top 10 picks in last year's NBA Draft made $106 million in guaranteed money compared to $266 million for the top ten NFL picks, a difference of $160 million! And the 10th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Michael Crabtree, will make more in guaranteed money than the top pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Blake Griffin.

In contrast, a look at veteran contracts paints a completely different picture. Beyond the rookie wage scale, there is very little about NBA salaries that NFL management would envy. The average NBA salary is approximately $3.4 million, roughly twice the average NFL salary of $1.74 million. And while the cream of the crop of NFL veteran contracts boast guarantees of $30-40 million guaranteed with the highest guarantees being those of Stafford and Albert Haynesworth (heard of him?) at $41 million, NBA veteran contracts dwarf those amounts. Here are some guaranteed amounts for contracts signed in recent years by NBA players:

Player Contract Amount Guaranteed (in millions)

Jermaine O'Neal 126
Gilbert Arenas 111
Shaquille O'Neal 100
Kenyon Martin 91
Michael Redd 90
Elton Brand 80

And this does not even include the riches to come for LeBron and company next month.

Size of the herd

Although it is an inexact science, I always look at the size of the group with the player on Draft night - whether NFL or NBA -- as a harbinger of things to come. Players with the largest entourages are the ones I worry about in regard to future issues and money problems. Give me the draft pick that goes on stage for a picture with just his mother.