James Harden (left) and Russell Westbrook take up a lot of cap space. Kim Klement/USA Today Images

The 25 highest-paid NBA players

Every NBA regular is well paid, but some guys are bringing home the bacon big time. These are the 25 most lucrative NBA contracts based on average value. Figures are via Spotrac and include extensions that have not yet kicked in.

 
Karl-Anthony Towns
Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

The Timberwolves hit it out of the park when they drafted KAT first overall out of Kentucky. While his defense could use some work, his offensive skill is at the top of the league, especially for a big man. That’s why the Wolves were willing to give him this big deal — five years, $158 million — after his rookie contract expired.

 
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Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

Hayward and the Celtics both suffered bad blows right after this deal, worth $128 million, was signed. In his first game with Boston, Hayward suffered a brutal leg injury. He’s never quite been the same since, though his skills have popped up here and there.

 
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Pascal Siakam

Pascal Siakam
Russell Isabella/USA TODAY Sports

Nobody would have seen this coming when Siakam was drafted by the Raptors. In fact, in his rookie season he spent time in the G League. However, in his third season he won Most Improved Player, and some thought he could arguably win it again in 2020 based on how he’s turned himself into one of the best players in the NBA. He signed a $130 million contract extension last year. 

 
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Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Back-to-back Raptors, and also back-to-back underrated players. A lot of people want to give Kawhi Leonard all the credit for Toronto winning the title, but he couldn’t have done it without Siakam and Lowry. Lowry is arguably the most beloved Raptor ever. Sure, he’s not as flashy as Vince Carter, but he’s stuck it out in Toronto and that has earned him the love and admiration of Toronto fans and an average salary of $33 million.

 
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C.J. McCollum

C.J. McCollum
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports

McCollum is forever playing second fiddle to Damian Lillard, who you will see later on this list. The Lehigh alum has averaged over 20 points per game in each of the last four seasons and is also one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. He will earn around $27 million this season.

 
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Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons
Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Simmons can’t shoot. Yes, he’s extremely hesitant to shoot threes. On the other hand, who cares? He’s an elite passer who can defend all five positions. The man is the size of a center with the passing skills of an All-Star point guard. Even if he never learns to shoot, and he’s still young, he’ll still be a great player in this league. He signed a five-year extension last year worth $170 million.

 
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Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

Murray isn’t as good as Nikola Jokic, but he was drafted higher and also signed his deal a couple of years later. The average value of contracts tend to rise from year to year. Murray is a good player, but he’ll need to take his game to the next level to live up to the fact that he makes almost $34 million per year.

 
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Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie is polarizing, both in his play and in his personality. There is a reason he’s basically been drummed out of two towns, and he hasn’t exactly gotten along great with his teammates in Brooklyn. Still, there will always be somebody to tolerate Irving given his ability. Few people can attack the basket like Kyrie, who makes around $34 million a year.

 
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Paul George

Paul George
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

George is the first player on this list who signed his huge deal with a different team than his current one. PG, who will make $33 million this year, signed his deal with the Thunder but has since been traded to the Clippers (at Kawhi Leonard’s behest). He and Kawhi are a true dynamic duo, as they are both elite players on both sides of the court.

 
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Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of the Clippers, Griffin signed his hefty contract, worth $171 million, with L.A. However, he has since been traded to the Pistons. His first full season in Detroit went really well, as he averaged 24.5 points per game. Unfortunately, this season he suffered through injuries and played in only 18 games — and there are still a couple of years left on the deal.

 
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Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi has played things pretty perfectly. He forced his way out of San Antonio, went to Toronto and completely salvaged his reputation. Leonard was great, and he helped the Raptors win their first title. Then he took over the offseason by signing with the Clippers and getting Paul George to join him. Plus, he’s normalized “load management” and yet he’s still getting over $34 million per season.

 
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Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler
Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports

Butler is another guy who is clearly a great player but seems to burn out wherever he goes. Case in point, the 30-year-old is already on his fourth team. Players as good as Butler rarely move around that much. So far, Butler has earned his contract on the court, making $20 million this season, and it seems like he’s fitting in with Miami…for now.

 
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Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

Playing in Charlotte, Walker was often overlooked. It’s not like the Hornets are ever on TV. And yet he was an All-Star in his last three seasons with the Hornets and then did it again in his first season with the Celtics, his current team. He will make $32 million this season.

 
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Khris Middleton

Khris Middleton
John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports

Right now Middleton is the highest-paid player on the Bucks, on a five-year, $178 million deal. Sure, that’s because Giannis is on his rookie deal still, and there are questions if the Bucks will be able to afford to re-sign him. That doesn’t mean Middleton isn’t worth the money. A second-round pick who was once an afterthought in a trade, he’s turned into one of the best players in the league. Maybe it’s a little surprising he’s quite this high up the list, but nobody can quibble with his contract.

 
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Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

People seem to think that it is inevitable that Beal will leave Washington eventually, and he was talked about as a trade target before signing his new deal, worth around $127 million. Beal is a great player, but with John Wall’s injuries, and onerous contract, it seems very unlikely he’ll be able to win with the Wizards.

 
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Tobias Harris

Tobias Harris
Sergio Estrada/USA TODAY Sports

With all due respect to Harris, a fine player, he’s a perfect example of a guy hitting the market at the right time. He’s never been an All-Star and has averaged 20 points per game only once in his career. However, he was a free agent last summer, and the 76ers knew they couldn’t keep everybody. The did hold on to Harris though, which meant he got a deal worth a whopping $36 million per season.

 
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Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

Thompson has done some crazy stuff in his career. One time he scored 37 points…in one quarter. He’s a great shooter and a perfect foil to Steph Curry. Part of that is his defensive skill. Curry is not a stalwart on that end, but Thompson has made the All-Defense Second Team once. He signed a five-year, $180 million deal last summer.

 
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LeBron James

LeBron James
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, any team would love to give LeBron as much money as possible. When we’re talking these top-level deals, we’re talking guys who are getting the maximum possible. The NBA has limits on individual contracts, and a luxury tax, which is why LeBron is making “only” $38 million per season with the Lakers. They didn’t have his Bird rights or anything, but James was willing to make the move to play for the legendary franchise.

 
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Chris Paul

Chris Paul
Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports

Some people say Paul’s contract is an albatross. After all, he’s 35 and won’t be a free agent until the summer of 2022. On the other hand, he’s still an All-Star-level player. Yes, he’s lost a step, and he’s likely to lose another before his contract, worth $160 million, is up. It takes money to afford a veteran who is a future Hall of Famer.

 
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Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry
Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports

Curry is the first player on this list averaging over $40 million a season. That’s what happens when you are maybe the best shooter in NBA history. Steph’s play has helped revolutionize the NBA. He can make a three from anywhere, and that’s how he has won two MVPs and three NBA titles. His first deal he signed was a steal because there were worries about his ankles. In a way, this deal kind of feels like a steal as well.

 
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Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant
Nicole Sweet/USA TODAY Sports

Durant and Curry were teammates for a minute there, and Durant got a couple of rings. He also caught a lot of flak for gunning for a title by joining the Warriors juggernaut. This was in spite of the fact that — shield your eyes, Curry fans — he was the best player on those Golden State teams. Now Durant is with the Nets…or at least he will be once his Achilles heals. His Brooklyn deal is worth $164 million over four years.

 
Russell Westbrook
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

Hey, another of Durant’s former teammates! Westbrook was the last man standing in Oklahoma City, and he averaged a triple-double for three seasons in a row, something previously unthinkable. He’s now with the Rockets, trying to help James Harden get over the hump. Sure, Westbrook can’t shoot threes, but he knows how to get buckets and earn his base salary of $38.5 million.

 
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John Wall

John Wall
Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports

This is a deal that we imagine the team that signed it, the Wizards, regrets. It felt a little iffy when Wall was signed to a contract worth an average of almost $43 million per year. He’s tied for the second-largest contract in the NBA. Wall was a great player in his prime, but he’s suffered a brutal, cruel run of injury. During the 2018-19 season it was a season-ending heel injury, and then he tore his Achilles tendon at home while recovering from that injury. Wall has not returned to the court since December 2018, but he’s still getting paid a ton of cash, $38 million.

 
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James Harden

James Harden
Thomas Shea/USA TODAY Sports

You may not like the way the Beard plays, but you can’t argue with results. He’s led the league in points per game the last two seasons, including averaging a staggering 36.1 points per game last year. When all is said and dude, he will lead the league again in points this year and is going to average comfortably over 30 points...again. Harden’s basketball philosophy melds perfectly with Houston’s. It’s a perfect match, and he is on a four-year, $171 million deal.

 
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Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard
Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports

We now arrive at the highest-paid player in the NBA. The Blazer is making an average of $49 million per season. He just signed a brand-new extension with a team that owned his Bird rights, which means Portland could pay him more money than any team could pay a player previously. Lillard is deserving of it. He’s an elite shooter and scorer who has made four All-NBA teams already. Now he has the richest deal in the league.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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