The top 10 of highest paid NBA players is always a list that creates a lot of discussion, as opinions differ about those who “deserve” the money, players in their prime like LeBron James and Chris Paul, and those who are getting overpaid, especially when they’re on a steep decline, like Joe Johnson and maybe Kobe Bryant as well.
Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki drop out from last year’s list. They’re replaced by Rudy Gay, Deron Williams and Chris Paul.
Number 10 – Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies), $19.31 Million
Gay was traded early on last season from the Toronto Raptors to the Kings. It worked quite well for the Raptors, despite missing out on 20.1 points per game he averaged in California on a lottery team. This is the last season on Gay’s huge contract, which means it won’t be surprising to see the 8-year veteran giving a bit more than we’re used to seeing from him in order to keep himself as an 8-digit contract type of player.
Number 9 – Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets), $19.75 Million
Unlike Gay, Williams doesn’t have to worry about his next contract, at least not for now. He’s signed through the 2016-2017 NBA season, making $22.3 million that season if he doesn’t opt out. Williams missed 18 games last season for the Nets, averaging 14.3 points and 6.1 assists per game. In order to make the playoffs, the Nets are going to need a lot more from him.
Number 8 – Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers), $20.06 Million
Last season Paul was probably the best player on the Clippers once again, but his meltdown in two playoff games showed a vital flaw which highlighted why the best point guard in the NBA over the last few years still hasn’t made a conference final. He averaged 19.1 points per game while leading the league in assists (10.7) and steals (2.5). He is signed through the 2017-2018 season, when he’ll make $24.2 million. If he’s still this good by then, he might opt out because of the cap changes the league will go through.
Number 7 – LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), $20.64 Million
Returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, James signed a two-year deal worth $42.1 million. But he can opt out after one season. Some might think it’s about leaving if things don’t go too well. It might be about re-signing to make even more money once the NBA gets its new cash injection from television deals. James averaged 27.4 points and 7.1 rebounds last season for the Heat.
Number 6 – Chris Bosh (Miami Heat), $20.64 Million
Bosh tested the free agency waters but decided to stick around with the Miami heat, signing a five-year deal worth $118 million. In 2018-2019, the last on this deal, he’ll make over $26 million a season. Bosh averaged 16.2 points per game last season, his lowest since his rookie year, but without James playing next to him, expect a serious bump.
Number 5 – Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets), $21.43 Million
Howard enters his second season with the Houston Rockets after averaging 18.3 points and 12.2 rebounds last season. Not disappointing, but the Rockets knocked out in the first round of the playoffs once again didn’t exactly make his first season with them a great success. He did go back up to over .500 when shooting from the line after two years below, hitting 54.7% of his shots.
Number 4 – Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks), $22.45 Million
He had offers from teams a lot better and more likely to succeed than the Knicks, but Anthony chose to stay in New York for a number of reasons, the biggest of them being the money they were able to offer him. Anthony’s deal is worth $124 million over the next five seasons, with an ETO after his fourth year which he probably won’t take unless he’s desperate for a title. Anthony averaged 27.4 points and a career high 8.1 rebounds last season.
Number 3 – Joe Johnson (Brooklyn Nets), $23.18 Million
The outrageous $123 million, six-year deal Johnson signed with the Atlanta Hawks still isn’t over. In fact, in the 2015-2016 season Johnson will be paid $24.8 million. Sure, he’s clutch and can get hot over a five-six game period, but for 15.8 points per game, you don’t expect to be paying this much money.
Number 2 – Amar’e Stoudemire (New York Knicks), $23.41 Million
The last season on Amar’e Stoudemire’s contract. It’s hard to say where he’s at right now. Most of last season he was a bench player, with Mike Woodson claiming that his knees can’t take too many minutes. Stoudemire kept saying he feels fine. Last in the season, making a final, failed playoff push, Stoudemire was suddenly in the starting lineup. He didn’t look anything like the Stoudemire of old, but he wasn’t as washed up as we were made to believe. He averaged 11.9 points on only 22.6 minutes a night.
Number 1 – Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), $23.5 Million
The most talked about contract in the world. Bryant played only six games last season, and the Lakers still re-signed him on a two-year deal worth $48.5 million, which makes him eventually the first player in NBA history to spend 20 seasons with the same franchise. The biggest question isn’t whether he’s worth it or not, because he’s getting paid and there’s nothing to do about it. The two big questions are whether or not it’s something that’s hurting, not helping out the Lakers (keeping him on the team for such a fee) and whether or not he has plans to go beyond the next two seasons.