For the first time in the league’s history, all the players in the NBA’s top 10 highest paid player list will make $30 million or more in one season. The 2018-2019 list, which includes superstars like LeBron James, Stephen Curry and James Harden alongside less heralded players such as Mike Conley, features two teams with two players making that much: Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.
10. James Harden, Houston Rockets: $30,431,854
The NBA’s MVP of 2018 begins his first season in the 30-million club, with the extension he signed in 2017 set to take him through 2022-2023, with a player option on the final season. The 29-year old begins his 10th NBA season hoping that this is finally the year he takes the Rockets to the NBA finals, a stage he hasn’t been to since leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder.
9. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies: $30,521,116
Compared to other salaries, the Conley contract everyone ridiculed a few years ago no longer seems out of order, but the Grizzlies saw Conley in action just 12 times last season in a lost year. He hasn’t played more than 73 games in one season since 2012-2013. After this season, Conley has two more years left on his deal worth $66 million, including an ETO for 2020-2021, but it’s unlikely he’ll try to get out of this deal.
8. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder: $30,560,700
One of the surprising offseason moves in the NBA was Paul George re-signing with the Thunder for $137 million and four years of action, with the 2021-2022 a player option year. The 5-time All-Star had a good first year in OKC but couldn’t get past the first round of the playoffs. George, entering his 9th NBA season, hasn’t played in a conference semifinal since 2014.
7. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors: $31,200,000
Now without his partner in crime DeMar DeRozan, Lowry will try to show that the steep decline of last season (fell to 16.2 points per game, a 6.2-point drop) is reversible. He has one more year after this one on his deal worth $33.2 million, with his 33rd birthday fast approaching. It’ll be interesting to see how the Raptors handle his 2020 free agency if his production continues to drop.
6. Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics: $31,214,295
Hayward managed 5 minutes of basketball on his debut for the Celtics last season before fracturing his tibia and dislocating his ankle, ending his season. He and the Celtics obviously hope for a more fruitful campaign, which includes finally winning the East. Hayward has two more seasons after this one left on his deal, including a player option for 2020-2021.
5. Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons: $32,088,932
Griffin signed a 5-year, $173 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers in July, 2017. A few months later he was traded to the Pistons, where he put up nice numbers (although they dipped compared to his Clippers output) and failed to carry the team into the playoffs. Now, with a new head coach and the same high expectations, he’ll try to make the postseason for the first time in his career without Chris Paul by his side.
2 (tied). LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers: $35,654,150
It’s hard to decide what it is that motivates James at this point, because from a “chances to win a championship right now” POV, joining the Lakers wasn’t smart. But from a long term perspective and especially when looking at his off-the-court business, it makes perfect sense. James signed a 3+1 contract with the Lakers, which in his final (player option) season will net him $41 million.
2 (tied). Chris Paul, Houston Rockets: $35,654,150
Remember we talked about surprising moves when we mentioned Paul George? Now, the Rockets didn’t surprise anyone by re-signing Chris Paul, but giving him $160 million over 4 years was something of an eyebrow raiser. Why? Injuries. Paul did help the Rockets almost knock off the Warriors, but he missed 24 games last season and 21 the year before, not to mention his postseason injuries. Did we mention he’ll be 34 in May?
2 (tied). Russell Westbrook, OKC: $35,654,150
The 2017 MVP is coming off his second consecutive triple-double averaging season, although his scoring, naturally considering his teammates last year, fell back to the 25’ish. Westbrook remains the same double edged sword he’s always been, only more expensive, sealed through the 2022-2023 season (player option), making $40 million per year two seasons from now.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: $37,457,154
For the second straight season, Curry will be the highest paid player in the NBA. The 2-time MVP and 3-time NBA champion is entering his 10th NBA season, seemingly primed to add at least one more title to the collection before his supergroup disbands. His supermax contract ends in 2022, and will earn him $201 million through its 5-year run.