Rhyne Howard’s career as a professional basketball player began this past week, when she became the first Kentucky player selected with the top pick in the WNBA Draft.
On April 11, the Atlanta Dream selected Howard with the No. 1 overall pick, helping Howard create a final moment of UK history before embarking on the next chapter of her playing career.
For those curious about what the monetary value is for being the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft, an essential resource is Her Hoop Stats, which offers a detailed look at rookie scale contracts in the league.
The current WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement — the agreement between the WNBA and the WNBA Players Association — was signed Jan. 17, 2020, and covers the 2020 through 2027 seasons.
The CBA outlines the base salary — the salary without bonuses — and the length of rookie contracts.
According to the 2022 rookie scale, as the No. 1 overall pick Howard will receive a base salary of $72,141.
This base salary would increase by 2% to $73,584 for Howard’s 2023 season.
After the 2023 season, though, Howard’s base salary increases by 10%, and she will have a base salary of $80,943 for the 2024 season.
Under the current CBA, all drafted players — like Howard — are given three-season contracts with a team option for a fourth season that would come with another significant increase in base salary
In 2025, which is Howard’s team option contract year, each base salary would be $91,981.
Rookie base salaries are not guaranteed, which means players are paid only for the portion of the season they are on the roster.
This isn’t expected to be a factor for Howard, who will be a key player on a rebuilding Dream team.
This base salary also doesn’t take into account potential performance bonuses for things like individual awards (Rookie of the Year, All-Star selections, etc.) or team success (reaching the playoffs, winning a conference title, etc.).
It also doesn’t account for marketing and endorsement money, as well as additional salary from playing overseas during the WNBA offseason, which is commonplace.
While WNBA rookie scale contracts continue to increase each year, a sizeable gap still remains in comparison to the NBA.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft — Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons — received a base salary of more than $10 million for the 2021-22 NBA season.
What will Louisville’s two WNBA Draft selections make this season?
Two other players with Kentucky ties were selected during the April 11 WNBA Draft, both after playing collegiately at Louisville.
With the No. 4 overall pick in the draft in the first round, the Indiana Fever selected forward Emily Engstler.
With the No. 16 overall pick in the draft in the second round, the Los Angeles Sparks selected guard Kianna Smith.
The WNBA rookie scale groups together draft selections 1-4, so Howard and Engstler are on the exact same base salary path.
As a second-round draft pick, Smith will receive a base salary of $63,389 this season, $64,657 for the 2023 season and $71,124 for the 2024 season, before a potential team option for the 2025 season that would pay her $80,823.
Because rookie base salaries are not guaranteed, this is contingent on Engstler and Smith sticking around with their respective teams.
This story was originally published April 15, 2022 7:53 AM.