Prolonged inhibition of nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) is a strategy for targeting cancer metabolism. Many NAMPT inhibitors undergo NAMPT-catalyzed phosphoribosylation (pRib), a property often correlated with their cellular potency. To understand this phenomenon and facilitate drug design, we analyzed a potent cellularly active NAMPT inhibitor (GNE-617). A crystal structure of pRib-GNE-617 in complex with NAMPT protein revealed a relaxed binding mode. Consistently, the adduct formation resulted in tight binding and strong product inhibition. In contrast, a biochemically equipotent isomer of GNE-617 (GNE-643) also formed pRib adducts but displayed significantly weaker cytotoxicity. Structural analysis revealed an altered ligand conformation of GNE-643, thus suggesting weak association of the adducts with NAMPT. Our data support a model for cellularly active NAMPT inhibitors that undergo NAMPT-catalyzed phosphoribosylation to produce pRib adducts that retain efficient binding to the enzyme.