As years go by, contracts get restructured, free agents sign elsewhere and wealthy people get wealthier, as the NBA continues to form very lucrative partnerships with sponsors and has gone to become one of the most productive markets in world entertainment.
And of course, with more money coming and coming their way and salary caps rising on a yearly basis, it’s pretty safe to expect players to ink their signature on higher paying deals year after year, even though they’re not always worthy of them.
Over the course of history, franchises have overpaid for a lot of guys, either because it’s just the way the market’s moving at the time, or because players come out of breakout seasons and look like they might as well become the brightest star in the Association.
Today, we’re going to let you know about every player that has gotten the most cash out of a franchise, and you may be surprised by a couple of them.
Atlanta Hawks / Charlotte Hornets: Dwight Howard $23.5millions
Believe it or not, Dwight Howard is actually the highest paid player in Hawks history, inking his signature to a 23.5 million dollar deal through the 2016-17 campaign just to be traded to the Charlotte Hornets after that season, also becoming the highest paid player in their history. Over the prior year, DH12 averaged 13.5 points, 12.7 boards and 1.2 blocks per game on 63% from the floor.
Boston Celtics: Gordon Hayward $30 million
Yes, Gordon Hayward hasn’t even made his professional debut for the Boston Celtics, but he’s already the highest paid player in franchise history, something that says a lot about how much faith the team has in him. Hayward is a surging talent and it’s coming off a very solid season with averages of 21.9 points, 5.4 boards and 3.5 assists per game, earning the right to sign a deal worthy of almost 30 million dollars per year.
Brooklyn Nets: Joe Johnson $21.9 million
Joe Johnson’s deal is one that will haunt the Brooklyn Nets’ front office for ages, as even though Johnson’s a very solid player, he was never worthy of half the money the Nets offered him in the first place. Averaging 14.7 points on 43% from the floor over that 4-year stint, Johnson didn’t deserve those 21.9 million dollars he got.
Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan $33.1 million
Well, this one will go down as an actual bargain, and perhaps the most impressive number in this list, considering the year when this deal was made. See, to keep Michael Jordan on board in the 1997-98 campaign, the Bulls had to pay over 33 million dollars. Needless to say, things fared quite good and they definitely got their money’s worth.
Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James $33.3 million
LeBron James really shocked the world when he decided to leave Cleveland and take his talents to South Beach, and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wasn’t willing to let that happen again. So, LeBron is set to enter the last year of his deal worthy of over 33 million dollars this year, and even though he may not extend his stay at the Q, this is a lot of dough, man.
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki $25 million
Shockingly, Dirk has never made as much cash as he could because he often decided to give up some money to lure better players to the Dallas Mavericks. Nonetheless, over the past season, Nowitzki finally got paid big time, earning as much as 25 million dollars on his way to averages of 14.2 points and 6.5 boards.
Denver Nuggets: Paul Millsap $30.7 million
Paul Millsap had two choices entering this free agency: Either get paid big time or try to go to a contender to chase the ring. Obviously, he chose the first one. Of course, the Nuggets are a very interesting project and Millsap is a top-notch player, but considering his age, that 30+ million dollar deal he got this year seems a bit too much for a 32-year-old.
Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond $23.8 million
The Detroit Pistons have been a major train wreck over the last decade or so, but Andre Drummond has actually been pretty solid. Now, as the lone “tradeable” asset they currently own, he’s also the highest paid guy in franchise history, earning almost 24 million dollars per year entering this season.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry $34.7 million
Steph Curry went from being perhaps the biggest bargain in the NBA due to the team’s concerns about his ankles, to being one of the highest paid athletes in history. Earning as much as 34.6 million dollars since signing a monster extension this offseason, the best shooter in the history of the game will finally have what he deserves.
Houston Rockets: James Harden $28.3 million
Not so long after Curry decided to seal his future to stay at the Bay, James Harden did exactly the same and committed to continue as the Houston Rockets’ cornerstone. And boy, the MVP runner up is about to get a lot of cash, signing a 28+ million dollar contract to try and get the Houston Rockets back to the Finals.
Indiana Pacers: Victor Oladipo $21.0 million
If you thought the highest player in Pacers history would be Reggie Miller or Paul George, you’d be terribly mistaken, as is actually a guy that they didn’t draft, but that the Indiana audience knows quite well from his NCAA stint. Entering his first year as a member of the Pacers, the shooting guard will earn as much as 21 million dollars.
Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin $29.5 million
Well, over the course of history, the Los Angeles Clippers haven’t had many players worthy of a huge paycheck, but boy has Blake Griffin earned every penny. Deciding to stay even though Chris Paul was heading towards the door was a very bold and brave move by Blake, and he’ll be rewarded with almost 30 million dollars per year because of that.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant $30.4 million
Kobe Bryant’s name is a synonym for Los Angeles Lakers, and he’ll definitely stay put as the top player in franchise history in so many different ways, including - of course - highest paid player in franchise history. See, through the 2013-14 campaign, the Black Mamba earned as much as 30.4 million dollars, even though he was only able to play in 6 games that season.
Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley $28.5 million
Mike Conley has been extremely underrated for a long time, but if there’s something he’s not, that’s underpaid. After being some of a late bloomer, Conley became the cornerstone of the Grizzlies project alongside Marc Gasol, and that’s why they decided to hand him as much as 28+ million dollars per year starting this season.
Miami Heat: Chris Bosh $25.3 million
After LeBron James and Dwyane Wade left Pat Riley’s team, it was finally Bosh’s time to shine, so the former Raptor decided to commit and stay at South Beach for the long run, signing a deal worthy of 25.2 million dollars to become the team’s franchise player. Sadly for him, after being diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs, he hasn’t been able to even play the game and there are serious doubts about him ever coming back.
Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo $22.4 million
I don’t care how much money you offer Giannis Antetokounmpo, this kid is definitely worth every penny. Coming into the league as a nobody just to flourish as one of the Association’s elite talents and ultimate leaders of the Milwaukee Bucks, that deal worth roughly 22 million dollars per year looks like a huge bargain to me, especially considering he's yet to hit his prime and sky seems to be the limit for the Greek Freak.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett $28.9 million
Regardless of what anyone may tell you, Kevin Garnett earned every single penny of his 28+ million deal through the 2003-04 season as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ go-to-guy. Averaging 23 points and almost 14 boards to go along with 1.6 blocks per game, you just can’t blame the lack of postseason success in one of the most dominant big men this game has ever seen.
New Orleans Pelicans: Jrue Holiday $24.7 million
Jrue Holiday recently signed a deal worthy of almost 25 million dollars per year, something that seems quite risky considering his proneness to get hurt, his injury history and the fact that he’s yet to prove his value despite being a very solid player. Coming off a 15.4 point, 7.3 assists per game season, the clock is ticking for Jrue, so let’s hope he keeps healthy to try and help Anthony Davis contend in the postseason.
New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony $26.2 million
Well, this situation is quite a predicament. See, Carmelo Anthony definitely earned his money, but his non-trade clause and the fact that he’s set to earn as much as 26 million dollars this year on a team that hates his guts, make his future quite uncertain. Still, say what you want about Carmelo, but he’s an elite scorer that can still be quite helpful on a contender.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook $28.3 million
Just when Kevin Durant told the world that he was set to join the World Champions Golden State Warriors, the Brodie Russell Westbrook said it was time to extend his stay at Oklahoma, signing an extension worthy of over 28 million dollars. And for all the doubters that didn’t think Westbrook was worthy of this kind of green, well, just look at his numbers from this prior season.
Orlando Magic: Gilbert Arenas $22.3 million
Gilbert Arenas was one of the most prolific, versatile and talented scorers in the league during his prime, although his dumb personality and lack of ethic really killed his career. Still, his incredible talent was reason enough for the Orlando Magic to hand him a monster 22.3 million dollar contract, but he was only able to play in 49 games and was pretty much horrid.
Philadelphia 76ers: JJ Redick $23.0 million
Yes, the newcomer JJ Redick takes the highest paid player spot in Philadelphia after a very successful stint with the Los Angeles Clippers, where he established himself as one of the league’s elite shooters from beyond the arc. Redick’s veteran presence is definitely going to be a huge boost for the Sixers and their exciting project, and for 23 million dollars a year, he better light it up.
Phoenix Suns: Shaquille O’Neal $20.0 million
Boy, we had even forgotten about Shaq’s stint at the desert as a member of the Phoenix Suns, but they’re definitely never going to let that go. See, back then in the 2008-09 season, a washed out Shaq inked his signature on a 20 million dollar contract, averaging 17.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in his last season with the Suns before embarrassing himself in the Boston Celtics.
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard $26.2 million
For many people out there, Damian Lillard is just an overrated scorer that shouldn’t even be starting. Well, for the Blazers’ front office, he’s the most important asset of their project, and that’s why he’s set to earn 26.1 million dollars this upcoming campaign, and perhaps one of the reasons why he claims to be so in love with the team.
Sacramento Kings: George Hill $20.0 million
Yeah people, that’s right, that’s modern market. For a team that’s seen Jason Williams, Vlade Divac and Chris Webber, the highest paid player in their history is George Hill, who’s set to make 20 million dollars this upcoming season. Of course, Hill is a very solid player, but his signing came as a bit of a surprise considering they were set to have a young and promising backcourt featuring De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield.
San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan $22.2 million
Entering the season as a 33-year-old, Tim Duncan earned as much as 22.1 million dollars to continue as the team���s franchise player and leader on both ends of the court. Averaging 17.9 points, 10.1 boards and 1.5 blocks per game, the leading scorer in Spurs history earned every dime he got of his deal, and he’ll go down as a top 10 player in his position without any kind of doubt.
Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry $28.7 million
Even though this is clearly DeMar DeRozan’s team, Kyle Lowry’s the one making most of the money. Despite all the reports stating that Lowry was tired of losing in the Raptors and was keen to make a move to the Western Conference, the point guard signed an extension worthy of almost 29 million dollars, so let’s hope he doesn’t choke this time come playoff time like he’s done through his entire career.
Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert $21.2 million
With Gordon Hayward out of town, the Utah Jazz is definitely Rudy Gobert’s team, as the elite rim protector is improving his offensive game as well and he’s set to enter this year as one of the early frontrunners to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. Gobert’s the living proof that playing defense can also get you paid big time, and that’s why he’s going to earn over 21.2 million dollars this year.
Washington Wizards: Otto Porter Jr $24.8 million
And last but not least, we get Otto Porter Jr, a surging talent that’s quietly and fastly improving in both ends of the floor, but that’s clearly third or fourth offensive option on the team after John Wall, Bradley Beal and even Marcin Gortat at times. Still, keeping the All-Star prospect for the long run at the price of 24.7 million dollars seems like a bargain considering how much money other guys are getting and how shorthanded the league is at that spot.