Howard to earn in range of $3.5M this season

Updated: July 7, 2004, 10:48 PM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Orlando Magic signed Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, their two first-round draft picks, to three-year contracts Wednesday.

Top overall pick Howard, an 18-year-old forward who played at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy last season, was the first of eight high school players taken in the opening 19 picks of the draft. Three of the last four No. 1 picks have been players jumping directly from preps to pros.

The rookie scale under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement calls for the No. 1 overall pick to earn a little more than $11.2 million over the life of the contract, and almost $3.5 million this season.

The 6-foot-11 Howard won the 2004 Naismith Award given to the nation's top high school player. He finished his prep career with 2,146 points, 1,728 rebounds and 811 blocked shots in 129 games. As a senior, he averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds, 3.5 assists and eight blocks, while leading Southwest Christian to the Class A Georgia state championship.

Nelson, The Associated Press player of the year, led Saint Joseph's to a 27-0 regular season and 30-2 overall record, averaging 20.6 points and 5.3 assists per game. He was drafted 20th overall by Denver, which shipped his rights to Orlando for a future first-round pick.

Over the next three seasons under the NBA's rookie pay scale, Nelson will earn $921,800, $991,000 and $1.06 million.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press