With Summer League now wrapped up and all major free agency moves completed, attention will quickly turn to the start of the 2021/22 NBA season.
It has quickly become one of the most anticipated seasons in recent times following a number of impressive offseason transactions that have left a number of teams with a shot of competing in their respective conferences.
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However, this article will be taking a closer look at the riches on offer in the NBA and the 10 highest salaries of players coming into the new season. Ever since the salary cap boom in 2016, NBA superstar salaries have skyrocketed through the roof, seeing players earn unprecedented amounts from their guaranteed contracts.
There are now 30 players making in excess of $30m per year in the league and below is the list of the top 10 player salaries in the NBA.
1. Steph Curry – Golden State Warriors – $45,780,966
Golden State Warriors point guard and two-time league MVP Steph Curry takes the top spot as the highest-paid player in the NBA for the 2021/22 season. Curry recently made history by becoming the first player in NBA history to sign two $200m contracts in his career, with the second deal not kicking in until next season. By the 2025/26 season, aged 37, Curry will be making an eye-watering $59,606,817 under the terms of his newly signed contract and Golden State fans will feel his contribution to the franchise will make him well worth those bucks.
2. James Harden – Brooklyn Nets – $44,310,840
Second, on the list is another former league MVP and one of the best scorers in the game today in James Harden. Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets last season in a four-team trade that saw the Houston Rockets receive a pretty measly return for a player who had averaged over 30 points per game in three consecutive seasons prior to being dealt. He is now running the show as the Brooklyn Nets point guard in a big three alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
3. John Wall – Houston Rockets – $44,310,840
A surprising name in the top 10 let alone the top 3, John Wall was well worth his super-max contract at the time of signing back in 2017. He had just come off of a career-best regular season that saw him average 23.1 points – a total that raised to 27 points in the Playoffs – and 10.7 assists per game. At that time Wall was one of the premier point guards in the NBA but injuries have set his career back in recent times. He is now a member of the rebuilding Houston Rockets, who finished last season with the worst record in the league.
4. Russell Westbrook – Los Angeles Lakers – $44,211,146
Last summer, Russell Westbrook was traded for the aforementioned John Wall to the Washington Wizards and is on the move once again this summer. He is returning home to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, something he surely only would have dreamt of twelve months prior when he was deemed to have one of the worst contracts in the NBA. Only he and Wall could be traded for each other at that time but Westbrook now finds himself back in a winning situation once again playing in his hometown and for the team, he grew up supporting.
5. Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers – $43,750,000
Damian Lillard has finally started to get the credit he deserves over the last few seasons and is well worthy of being the fifth-highest paid player in the NBA this season. Just who will be giving him those paychecks remains to be seen as Portland’s lack of progression and improvements has seen Lillard grow frustrated. Unlike the previous two names on this list, Lillard’s $43m salary won’t put off potential suitors from acquiring his services if he is made available between now and the trade deadline. He has always remained loyal to Portland, who have rewarded him and his bank balance generously, but he is on a team that is not built to compete for an NBA title.
6. LeBron James – Los Angeles Lakers – $41,180,544
LeBron James had been known to take pay cuts earlier in his career – namely with the Miami Heat – to build a contender but those days are over for the 36-year-old. A four-time NBA champion and the best player of all time in the eyes of some, James will be playing with an almost entirely new roster this season. While his salary may be the sixth-highest in the league, his off-court endorsements and business ventures give him the highest net worth of all current active NBA players. However, James’ main goal ultimately remains to win his second championship in Los Angeles.
7. Kevin Durant – Brooklyn Nets – $40,918,900
Kevin Durant also took pay cuts during his title run with the Golden State Warriors but is also cashing in on his max contracts these days. Many have now argued that Durant is the best player in the NBA ahead of the aforementioned James having almost single-handedly defeated the eventual NBA champion, Milwaukee Bucks, during the Playoffs. KD is currently in the final year of his contract before his recently signed 4 yr(s) / 194,219,320 kicks in, a pretty strong indication that he plans to finish his prime in Brooklyn.
8. Paul George – Los Angeles Clippers – $39,344,970
The Los Angeles Clippers had no choice but to re-sign Paul George to a supermax contract after giving up an enormous amount of assets to get him and Kawhi Leonard to Staples Center. George penned a 4 yr(s) / $176,265,466 contract last year and rewarded the Clippers faith in him with a strong showing during the Playoffs, helping to somewhat eliminate the memory of his nightmare postseason showing the year before. The 31-year-old will likely be without his running mate Leonard for the upcoming season due to injury, leaving him with the main responsibility of scoring.
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks – $39,340,000
There will be no player with greater confidence or swagger coming into the new NBA season than Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. He dominated as the Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 4-2 in the NBA Finals, adding NBA Champion and Finals MVP in the process to a resume that already included two MVPs and a Defensive Player of the Year award. He turned down the chance to become a free agent this summer by signing a fresh contract with the Bucks last summer and the city certainly belongs to him after his exploits.
10. Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors – $37,980,720
Despite not touching an NBA floor in over two years, Klay Thompson remains the 10th-highest-paid player in the league. Thompson tore his ACL back in the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors before suffering an Achilles tear on his return during the 2020 offseason, causing him to miss a season apiece from each respective injury. While it remains to be seen how he returns athletically, Thompson will still have the same lethal shooting ability that saw him and Curry becomes the most feared backcourt in the league.