The average NBA player earned $7,455,059 in the 2020-21 season, but the best players in the league can get paid much more handsomely than that. In the NBA, teams are more than willing to splurge on players in hopes that they keep or sign a player who will lead them to title contention.
But who exactly are the highest-paid players in the NBA, and what does it take for someone to become one of the highest-paid players in the league?

Based on projected salaries for the 2021-22 season, let’s take a look at who the highest-paid player in the NBA is, and also look at other top paid players to see what factors are put into consideration for teams to offer immense amounts of money for a player.

5) Kevin Durant // $42,018,900

At 32 years old, Kevin Durant has made his case as one of the greatest scorers of all time and is surely bound for the Hall of Fame. For much of the previous decade, Durant has been the biggest threat to LeBron James’ title as the best player in the NBA, and despite suffering from injuries in recent years, Durant has wasted no time returning to All-Star form.

Durant was phenomenal in the Brooklyn Nets’ postseason run, but the injury-ridden Nets team were unfortunately eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks. Nonetheless, Durant has shown that he still is one of the best players in the league, and the Nets’ Big Three is undeniably one of the most feared big threes in the NBA.

To ensure that Brooklyn remains title contenders for the foreseeable future, Durant just recently signed a four-year extension with the Nets worth $198 million.

4) Russell Westbrook // $44,211,146

Photo: Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Russell Westbrook is unlike any point guard we’ve seen in the NBA’s recent history. Sitting with 184 triple-doubles, Westbrook has already surpassed the legendary Oscar Robertson to hold the most ever triple-doubles in NBA history.

After Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder, Westbrook was the undisputed leader of OKC, and despite not being able to lead the Thunder to a deep playoff run, the 2017 MVP’s stats with the Thunder went off the charts. In 2017, Westbrook signed a five-year extension with the Thunder worth $205 million.

Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out for Westbrook and OKC, and he was sent to the Houston Rockets and then to the Washington Wizards in the past few seasons. This offseason, Westbrook was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he will form a new big three in the West with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

3) John Wall // $44,211,146

Before injuries hit, John Wall was one of the top point guards in the NBA. Few, if any, could match Wall’s speed on the court, and his tenacity on defense made him one of the best two-way guards in the league.

Together with Bradley Beal, John Wall gave the Washington Wizards one of the best backcourts in the NBA in the 2010s, and at the time, Wall was undeniably Washington’s franchise player. The Wizards signed Wall to a four-year, $170 million extension in 2017.

Wall has, however, suffered from injuries in recent years, and the Wizards were unable to realize their potential. He has since been traded to the Houston Rockets, though Wall is yet to return to All-Star form, which makes him one of the most overpaid players in the NBA today.

2) James Harden // $44,310,840

Throughout the later years of his run with the Rockets, James Harden was a top 5 player in the NBA, winning the MVP award in 2018. Harden’s Rockets were a powerhouse in the West, but they, unfortunately, were unable to go all the way.

In 2017, to secure the Rockets’ franchise player, Harden was signed to a $228 million extension that will run through the 2022-23 season. Harden, however, was unhappy with the Rockets and was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2021.

Harden is now as close as he’s ever been to a championship, with the Nets being regarded by many as the best team in the NBA today.

1) Stephen Curry // $45,780,966

Finding a superstar who flourished with the team that drafted him is a rarity in today’s NBA, and Stephen Curry is as good as these stories come. Drafted by the Golden State Warriors seventh overall in 2009, Curry wasn’t an immediate superstar, but the Warriors’ patience paid off.

After making his first All-Star appearance in 2014, Curry and the Warriors proceeded to take over the NBA. Curry emerged as the best point guard and three-point shooter in the league and won back-to-back MVPs in 2015 and 2016.

Curry led the Warriors to its first championship after a 40-year drought when Golden State defeated LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015. Curry was also the centerpiece of the historic 2015-16 Warriors squad that had the best regular season in NBA history by finishing with a 73-9 record.

The Warriors likewise dominated the following years after signing Kevin Durant, but there was no question that Golden State was Stephen Curry’s team. Golden State was able to build its dynasty because of Curry’s brilliance on the floor, and Curry is poised to lead Golden State back to contention once Klay Thompson returns from injury. Curry is under a $215 million, four-year extension with the Warriors.

Featured Image: Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images
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