When free agency starts, money gets thrown all over the place. The crazy amount of zeros that gets added to contracts can be a bit overwhelming for the common fan. With that said, the NBA has made it clear that to win a championship in this league, you need at least two superstar players, if not three.
That can come at a very steep price. However, just because you have the highest-paid NBA duo on the court does not necessarily mean that you will win. It also doesn’t mean that you will even make the playoffs.
Before we get into the specifics, let’s point out that among the highest-paid superstars in the league, Bradley Beal ($34.5 million) and Pascal Siakam ($33.0 million) have high salaries, but not a counterpart that can match high enough to get them into the top-10. We need to also keep in mind that the duo of Paul George ($39.3 million) and Kawhi Leonard would be on this list, but Leonard’s new contract details have not been released yet.
Two duos nearly cut, but sadly their contracts weren’t high enough. Jimmy Butler (36.0 million) and Bam Adebayo ($28.1 million) were just on the outside but could be in the top-10 soon when Butler’s new deal begins. Julius Randle ($19.8 million) nearly made it thanks to the high salary that Kemba Walker ($36.0 million) brings to the table.
Now that is out of the way, let’s take a look at the money. Here are the most expensive duos of the 2021-2022 season.
Nikola Jokic And Jamal Murray - $56.9 MillionF
Just think about this for a moment. Had Leonard’s salary been totaled by now, the reigning MVP wouldn’t even be in the honorable mention of the most expensive duo's list. The combination of Jokic ($31.5 million) and Jamal Murray ($29.4 million) would be sitting on the outside. You can appreciate what Jokic brings to the table from a basketball sense, but also that you are getting a player of his talent for about $20 million less than market value.
The only thing Jokic is missing in comparison to the likes of Steph Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo, both future $50-million per year players, is that elusive championship. If Murray can stay healthy, as well as the surrounding cast, the Nuggets have a chance to make a run this year.
10. Tobias Harris And Ben Simmons - $58.9 Million
Here’s an interesting fact. Joel Embiid, an MVP candidate last season, is the third-highest player on the team in salary. Tobias Harris is the highest paid player at $35.9 million, while Ben Simmons comes in right behind at $33.0 million. Simmons, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, was so horrid offensively that there were rumors he would be traded this offseason.
Instead, it appears that Simmons is looking towards another year in Philly. The 76ers were the No. 1 seed in the East thanks to their big three, but it all depends on the development of Simmons if the team can make the NBA Finals for the first time since 2001.
9. Karl-Anthony Towns And D’Angelo Russell - $60.6 Million
This is embarrassing. Minnesota is paying the eight most money to two players and was 23-49 last season. Neither player has made an appearance in the All-Star Game in the last two years. Both players have battled injuries and personal issues, but regardless, the team still stinks even when they both play.
This should be a true visual of the Timberwolves franchise. The team makes bad decisions each year. You would think that when you pay this kind of money, you would get a return. So far, it’s been a dismal effort for two players making roughly $30 million apiece.
8. Devin Booker And Chris Paul - $62.4 Million
Had Chris Paul accepted his player option for over $42 million, the combination of Paul and Booker would have been higher in the rankings. Instead, Paul declined his option and negotiated a deal that secures him more money for the future. Booker ($31.6 million) and Paul ($30.8 million) will make close to the same annual salary this year.
Paul and Booker are coming off a season where they led the Suns to the NBA Finals. Given the final result, this is a pretty team-friendly deal when you look at what is ahead of them on this list.
7. John Wall And Eric Gordon - $62.5 million
Wall will be the second-highest paid player in the league this year at $44.3 million. With the addition of Gordon’s $18 million salaries, the rebuilding Rockets own one of the most expensive duos in the league. The Rockets fell on hard times last season, watching James Harden leave via trade, and suffer through enough losses to get the No. 2 overall pick. That’s why seeing this combined salary has to hurt even more for fans in Houston.
Wall used to be one of the best, if not the best, point guards in the league. With a couple of major injuries on his resume, he is half the player he once was. As for Gordon, he is the 2017 Sixth Man of the Year but has struggled to stay on the court, playing just 63 combined games the last two seasons.
6. Rudy Gobert And Donovan Mitchell - $62.9 Million
The combination of Gobert and Mitchell led the Jazz to the best record in the NBA last year before falling in the second round of the playoffs. Gobert ($34.8 million) made All-NBA and won Defensive Player of the Year for the third time. As for Mitchell, he made his second straight All-Star appearance and will make $28.1 million.
The two deserve to be a top-10 expensive duo for making the Jazz contenders, but if they want to be paid like top tier superstars, they need to bring Utah to a Conference or NBA Finals. For all the regular-season success the Jazz has had, they have been unable to recreate that in the postseason.
5. Damian Lillard And CJ McCollum - $74.5 Million
Lillard ($43.7 million) and McCollum ($30.8 million) get paid a lot of money for a duo to have just one Conference Finals appearance in the last nine years. Lillard is one of the most electrifying players in the NBA. He finished All-NBA First Team last year and finished with the most clutch points in the league.
However, McCollum had never made an All-Star appearance. For the most part, he has failed in aiding Lillard to bring Portland to new heights. Given that the two combine to make a top-5 appearance on this list, the city of Portland should expect more from McCollum.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo And Khris Middleton - $74.8 Million
Just to prove a point. You don’t have to be the highest-paid duo in the NBA to win a championship. Giannis ($39.3 million) and Middleton ($35.5 million) come in at No. 4 on this list, but could eventually be No. 1 when Giannis makes $50 million for an annual salary down the road. Regardless of his salary, it will be viewed as a reward for bringing the city of Milwaukee their first championship since 1971.
Middleton is a sneaky underrated player in the league, but also a sneaky rich man too. Middleton will have the 14th highest salary in the NBA next season. For a player with just two All-Star appearances, you would not expect that, but helping the Bucks win a title certainly helped his case.
3. Steph Curry And Klay Thompson - $83.6 Million
Curry will eventually make close to $50 million per season, but for now, his salary combined with Klay Thompson gives the Splash Bros the third-highest combined salary in the league. Curry has done everything you could think of and deserves his money. He led the Warriors to a title in 2015, 2017, and 2018. He owns two MVPs and is coming off a season where he led the league in scoring. Curry will be the highest-paid player in the league this year at $45.7 million.
As for Thompson, the jury is out on if he truly deserves his current salary. Thompson hasn’t played the last two seasons due to injuries. With that said, Thompson’s value will always be seen as high, when healthy, based on what he did in the past. Assuming he is healthy this year, it will be time to assess his value during the present.
2. James Harden And Kevin Durant - $85.2 Million
Harden and Durant were incredibly close to being the No. 1 expensive duo in the league. Their combined salary came out to $85,229, 740 with Harden making $44.3 million of it. Harden will be the second-highest paid player in the league this year, which should not come as a surprise as he enters the final year of his last extension.
As for Durant, he will be the seventh-highest paid player but will see a raise when he starts his new contract. Brooklyn isn’t messing around as Kyrie Irving will make over $35 million this season. The Nets are trying to buy a championship this year. Will it work?
1. Russell Westbrook And LeBron James - $85.3 Million
With the addition of Russell Westbrook, the Lakers top the league with the most expensive duo. Westbrook and LeBron will make over $44 million this year with the total coming out at $85,391,690. That is a hefty price to pay for anything less than an NBA title. The Lakers are in a similar boat as the Nets, as Anthony Davis is set to make over $35 million this year.
The Lakers have a two-year window to compete and saw Westbrook as the missing piece. The team traded away much of its depth to acquire Westbrook, who is coming off his fourth season where he averaged a triple-double. Westbrook has yet to win a ring, while LeBron is trying to win his fifth ring. Will the Lakers’ investment be worth it in the end?