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Who’s getting paid this year and why aren’t Bigs?

Interestingly enough, Bigs just aren’t getting paid in this NBA. Will that change?

Cleveland Cavaliers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The list of players who will make top 5 salaries next year in the NBA is interesting. Obviously, we don’t know how much players will make in the upcoming free agency period, but for now, this list can tell us a few things. The Top 5 salaries are Steph Curry at $40 million, Chris Paul at $38.5, John Wall, James Harden and Russell Westbrook tie at $38 million, LeBron at $37, and Blake Griffin at $34. Five guards and two forwards. NO centers. Curious, no?

If we take the top 10 salaries for next year overall, then the 6th is Kyle Lowry at $33 million (remember when his deal was going to be an albatross?), and then Paul George ($33), Gordon Hayward ($32), Mike Conley ($32), and Kevin Durant (he has a player option for $31.5 million, but he’ll most likely decline it). More guards and forwards, still no centers.

Player salaries are all about timing (just ask Carmelo and the Heat), but I find it verrrrrry telling that there isn’t a Top 10 salary committed to a traditional Big right now (I mean, LeBron and Blake can play at the 5, and KD is 7 feet tall, but they’re not Centers).

Al Horford and Kevin Love are both currently in the top 15 salaries for next year, but KLove doesn’t play like a traditional Center, and Horford’s more of a Ninja Unicorn (but, he’s definitely worth all of his contract). Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis are all in the 16-20 range right now; they’ll be pushed even further down once new contracts are signed, ditto Love and Horford. Damn, I guess it’s possible that there won’t be a single traditional Center in the top 20 salaries next season.

As the NBA transitions into “position-less basketball” (which, I think just means that everyone can now dribble, pass, and shoot, which is, y’know, also just being able to play basketball), will we see the end of Bigs getting top dollar? Or, is this all just a function of timing? Joker, Big KAT, Embiid, and the Brow are all young, and they’ll obviously get more contracts, and they’ll probably be bigger contracts. But, at the same time, other young wings and guards will ALSO be getting new contracts, and those too will be for more money.

The future of the NBA is always murky at best: players surprise us, trends become ubiquitous and then countered, and super-teams coalesce and then decohere. It’s tough to make predictions, especially about who will get paid (see: Ian Mahinmi). But, as the Tyson Chandler addition to the Lakers just made plain, and as Pat Riley’s famous maxim states: no rebounds, no rings. Bigs get boards, and Bigs box out. Those two skills are still hella valuable, and Tyson Chandler just reminded us of that. We’ll see if NBA salaries reflect the value of Bigs in the coming years.

As for today, here’s the list of players making at least $19 million this NBA season (the salary cap is about $102 million this year). For some, their salary will increase next year, for others decrease. Some will be free agents, like Kevin Durant (perhaps you’ve heard?). But, for now, this is who’s getting paid:

  • Atlanta Hawks - ZERO (shocker, I know)
  • Boston Celtics - Kyrie Irving ($20 million), Al Horford, the Ninja Unicorn ($29), and Gordon Hayward ($31)
  • Brooklyn Nets - NYET, ZERO
  • Chicago Bulls - The Dentist, Zach LaVine ($19.5), and Jabari Parker ($20)
  • Charlotte Hornets - Nic Batum ($24) (...really?)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers - George “Uhhh, what?” Hill ($19), and KLove ($24)
  • Dallas “Great Culture” Mavericks - Deandre Jordan ($23), and Harrison “Oh yeah, him” Barnes ($24)
  • Denver Nuggets - The Joker ($24.6), and Paul Millsap ($29.7, daaaaamn)
  • Detroit Pistons - The Drum ($25), and Blake “That Trade Ain’t So Funny Now, IS IT!” Griffin ($32)
  • Golden State Warriors - Durant ($30), and Steph ($37.5) (Technically, Klay makes $18,988,725, which I just find hysterical.)
  • Houston Rockets - James Harden ($30), and CP3 ($35.6)
  • Indiana Pacers - Dipo ($21) (HELLO, THIS IS NICE)
  • LA Clippers - Danilo Cincinnatus Gallinari ($21.5, which is NOTHING compared to what he makes as a hand model)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (2nd funniest team name in the NBA) - LeBron ($35.6)
  • Memphis Grizzlies - Chandler Parsons ($24)(!), Big Spain Marc Gasol (Oh my God! Chandler Parsons makes $24 million A YEAR!)(As does Gasol), and Mike Conley ($30.5) [ALERT ALERT ALERT, CHANDLER PARSONS MAKES MORE MONEY THAN KYRIE IRVING, ALERT ALERT ALERT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES]
  • Miami Heat - Tyler “Who?” Johnson ($19)(Who is Tyler Johnson and why is he making Dentist money?) and Hassan Whiteside ($25)
  • Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis ($24)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves - Jeff Teague ($19) (?) (Por que?), Jimmy “Stoic” Butler ($20), Andrew “I wonder if Butler’s bothered that I make more than him?” Wiggins ($25) (Big KAT’s money gets big next season - $27 million American.)
  • New Orleans Pelicans - Anthony Davis ($25), and Jrue Holiday ($26)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder - Steven Adams ($24), Paul George ($30.5), and the Sarge ($35.6)
  • Orlando “Magic” LOLs - Aaron Gordon ($21.5) (Bad AND cheap: the Florida Way!)
  • Philadelphia 76ers - Joel Embiid ($25.5)
  • Phoenix Suns - Ryan Anderson ($20)
  • Portland Trail Blazers - CJ McCollum ($26), and Dame ($28)
  • Sacramento “Kings” - None. Shocking. I’m surprised they don’t have The Chandler Parsons contract, which is TWENTY-FOUR MILLION AMERICAN DOLLARS.
  • San Antonio Spurs - LMA ($22), and DeMar “I’m Working Out REALLY Well Here” DeChozan ($28)
  • Toronto Raptors - Serge Ibaka ($21.6), Kawhi “hhHHhaaEiaAAAhehhhhHA.HA.HA. -hehhhhhhhhhhh!-hhHHHhhaaAAAaaehhhh” Leonard ($23), Kyle Lowry ($31)
  • Utah Jazz (funniest team name in the NBA) - Rudy “You’re GODDAMN Right!” Gobert ($23)
  • Washington Wizards - Dr. John Wall ($19), Bradley Kind of a Big Beal ($25), and shy Otto Porter, Jr. ($26)

So, to repeat: Chandler MFing Parsons makes as much money as Giannis, Jokic, and Kevin Love. The NBA: Where WTF Happens.

That’s 49 guys getting paid $19+ million per year, and it’s a full on 50 if you count Klay. With the salary cap going up, we should expect more players to make twenty million-ish per year going forward. The fact that George Hill, Nic Batum, Harrison Barnes, Tyler “SMH” Johnson, and Andrew “WHAT!” Wiggins are making the same amount of money as top 15 players is, how you say, ridic+cray+WHAT!+nuh uh+yup!=tell me one thing that isn’t nuts about money, anyway. Some of the more, um, standout-ey contracts are more about timing than anything else, but still, man: some of these just ain’t good decisions, whether they were made in a vacuum made out of other vacuums on a vacuum planet, or if they were the contextiest contextual context that ever contexted.


  • 4 teams have zero players who make $19 million. I am proud of these misfit teams for not being as stupid as they perhaps usually are. Neither Brooklyn nor New York has a max player. Who says Wall Street doesn’t attract talent.
  • 6 teams have THREE players who make at least $19 million: Boston (sure), Memphis (Chandler! Parsons!), Minnesota (just trade Wiggins and KAT, lol, see what happens), OKC (fine), Toronto (yup), and, uh, Washington (I mean...I guess...those guys are worth that money, yeah, fer sher). Only two of those six teams are locks for the playoffs, no?
  • Golden State basically has three, and I hope everyone stays so they can have four, eventually.
  • Kevin Durant isn’t in the top 10 of salaries. Think that’ll last past this year?

I think around 13 teams have enough space and salaries to make fairly significant trades this year, whether it be as salary dumps or real upgrades. The last time there was a bunch of money, though, things got a little crazy in free agency, and we got deals like the OHMYGODCHANDLERPARSONS deal. There will be teams who make outlandish offers to sub-max players this coming summer. Maybe things won’t be nearly as ridiculous as they usually are (we keep getting told how smart NBA front offices are now, except the Kings and Bulls and TimberBulls exist), but someone’s going to feel like they missed out on the Durant sweepstakes and then go wild trying to satisfy their fan base by giving a big contract to a player who isn’t nearly as good. The fact that the Knicks haven’t done anything disturbingly inept in five minutes makes me uneasy...oh no, wait, they waived Joakim Noah before they needed to, nevermind, they’re still making dumb decisions. Phew! I feel better.