Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese are turning pro. Will that mean a pay cut?

CLEVELAND (AP) — Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese have both decided to forgo their final year of college eligibility and enter the WNBA Draft, though there aren't multimillion dollar WNBA rookie contracts awaiting them.

Clark, Iowa’s record-setting guard, is expected to be the No. 1 pick by the Indiana Fever, and rival from LSU should be selected later in the first round. The base salary for the first pick in the WNBA draft is $76,000, unlike the millions in rookie contracts for their NBA brethren.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives to the basket against the LSU during the second half of an Elite Eight round college basketball game during the NCAA Tournament, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Clark and Reese became millionaires during their college careers, and despite the WNBA salary range, going pro doesn't doesn't mean the collegiate standouts will take a dramatic pay cut — or any pay cut for that matter.

The pair had the top two name, image and likeness (NIL) valuations for women's basketball players and those deals are expected to carry over into their pro careers.

Clark's NIL deals are valued at just over $3 million and Reese at $1.8 million, according to On3.com. Clark's deals include Nike, Gatorade, State Farm and Buick; Reese, who has built her own brand over the past few years, has a long list of sponsors that includes Reebok, Coach and Sports Illustrated.

LSU forward Angel Reese (10) looks to pass against Iowa forward Addison O'Grady (44) during the third quarter of an Elite Eight round college basketball game during the NCAA Tournament, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

WHAT ARE WNBA ROOKIE SALARIES?

If Clark is the top pick in the WNBA as expected, she will earn around $76,000 in base salary. The 10th overall selection earns about $70,000, and Reese will get somewhere in between — depending where she is drafted. Both players also could earn hundreds of thousands dollars in league and team marketing deals as well as bonuses for performances on the court — boosting their WNBA earnings to potentially $500,000.

WHY IS THERE A GAP BETWEEN WNBA AND NBA SALARIES?

The top salaries for WNBA players are much less than the minimum salary of about $1,119,563 for NBA players (excluding those on two-way contracts) for various reasons. The primary one is the difference in profit margins for each league, driven in part by media rights. The NBA’s revenues topped $10 billion for the first time in 2022 and the league has a $24 billion, nine-year television deal. Its next one, set to kick in around 2025, is expected to be worth significantly more. The WNBA makes about $60 million a year in broadcast deals and its season is also half as long as the NBA season. The WNBA does not publicly release its revenue numbers.

COULD WNBA SALARIES INCREASE WITH CLARK AND REESE?

The WNBA's new TV deal will begin in 2025 and that contract should be for significantly more money than previous ones. That could result in a huge salary bump for players like Clark and Reese. Right now, the top current base salary is $242,000.

If Clark and Reese are able to bring their college fan base with them to the WNBA, it would only boost the league's TV deal negotiations.

All salary increases would have to be negotiated in the next collective bargaining agreement that runs through 2027. The mutual opt out date is Nov. 1 this year. If either side decides to opt out, the current CBA would end after the 2025 season.

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