In 2021, Thanasis Antetokounmpo signed a two-year, $3.6 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. That's a lot of money for averaging 3.6 points and 9.9 minutes per game.

Although being the brother of Giannis certainly helped secure the bag, most NBA benchwarmers are also earning a similar salary. But could they earn more in Europe?

Let's dive into the financial landscape of both leagues and try to answer the question, 'Who earns more: a star in the EuroLeague or a benchwarmer in the NBA?'

First, we have to define an average NBA benchwarmer and an average EuroLeague star.

Determining what defines a benchwarmer might be easiest by looking at the player's playing time. Sure, it's going to be subjective, but to us, a benchwarmer in the NBA is someone who plays under 10 minutes per game, most of those minutes coming in the garbage time. 

It's a harder task to characterize a EuroLeague star. It's important to understand that what makes a star in Old Continent, is different from the NBA.

The European game is much more team-oriented and individual stats play a lesser role. For the purposes of this story, we'll take the player's efficiency rating as the main indicator. It seems that most EuroLeague stars average at least 14.0 EFF.

Credit EuroLeague Basketball via GettyImages

Having this out of the way, we can deal with the financial part. The minimum NBA salary varies from $1 to $3 million per season, depending on the player's experience in the league. The more years you played, the more you'll earn.

This is why veteran players earn twice as much as the rookies do on a minimum-salary NBA contract. The reason we brought up the minimum contract first is that the average benchwarmer usually earns exactly that.

There are also a few important distinctions between salaries in NBA and Europe. First of all, you can easily find every NBA player's contract details while in Europe that's not the case and almost none of the clubs reveal those numbers. Luckily, BasketNews dug up last season's numbers to make things easier.

Secondly, NBA salaries are published in gross, meaning a big chunk of their money is paid for taxes. This depends on the state the player's team is located. On average a player loses almost half of their salary to the taxman, which really changes the picture.

Credit AP – Scanpix

Taking that NBA benchwarmers are earning the minimum NBA salary from $1 to $3 million per season, that leaves them with around $0.5 to $1.5 million. But what about Europe?

Last year, most of the EuroLeague stars fell in the range of $1.5 to $3 million per season, with an exception being Nikola Mirotic who racked up around $5M that year.

As you can tell from these numbers, the typical EuroLeague star earns double the amount.


But is it that simple for an NBA benchwarmer to become a star in the EuroLeague?

Let's take a look at some real examples. After a promising start to their NBA careers, Troy Daniels, Yogi Ferrell, and Dante Exum became benchwarmers and decided to try their luck in the EuroLeague.

Out of the three, only Exum managed to prove his worth, though it was still nowhere close to being a star. But it's not all set in stone.

With time it's possible for them to become stars. After a mediocre EuroLeague rookie campaign, Wade Baldwin had a break-out season the following year and is now considered one of the best guards in Europe. 

It seems that playing in the EuroLeague can be more profitable for someone who's struggling for minutes in the NBA. But there's one very important condition - you must adapt to the European game well and become a star.

Credit D.Repečka

Otherwise, the safer route appears to be ridding out the NBA bench while collecting the paycheck. Nik Stauskas is a prime example of this.

After failing to get playing time in the NBA, he decided to try to achieve success in Europe, but things didn't work out for the Canadian. He then came back to square one, joining the Boston Celtics bench and getting more money than he would in the EuroLeague.

Being in the NBA seems to be every player's dream. In addition, most American players are not willing to leave their home country and live abroad away from their families, which plays a big role in these decisions.

Meanwhile, Europe can provide not only more playing time right away but also the chance to become the leader of the team, play in front of the craziest fans in the world and earn more money later.

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The other advantage with trying to play in the NBA is that for some players (Bogdanovic, Doncic, Giannis, Jokic, Gobert, Fournier, Gallinari, etc.) if they have the talent and if they work hard enough they could end up being more than just a bench warmer in the NBA. They could end up being a valuable contributor off the bench or maybe even a starter...or even a star! Then they would make even MORE money. But they'll never know how good they could possibly become in the NBA if they don't at least give it a shot
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