I’ve always hugely appreciated the symbolic meaning of earning a lot of money. Money shows your worth to the world, how much people value you and your skillset. Life is competitive, you have to go out and show that you’re better than your fellow man, and if you do then money is the reward you get.
The NBA is no different. It’s one of the most popular sports leagues in the world making around $4.8 billion in 2015/16 making it the 4th most largest sports league in the world by revenue. There is a big pie to be eaten, and players work and work to get themselves a slice.
With the new TV deal signed with ESPN and Turner Sports in 2014, the amount of money from broadcasting nearly tripled, and per the collective bargaining agreement, this meant that the salary cap rose from $70 million in 2016 to $94 million in 2017. Max contracts are usually around 35% of the salary cap meaning some seriously big contracts are about to be signed by the best free agents this offseason.
Here are my top five.
5. Kyle Lowry
The league has turned into money-making madness over the past season or so. Not five years ago earning $15 million meant you were a superstar and one of the best players in the league. Now role-players like Ryan Anderson are getting $20 million a year as the new TV licensing deal means teams can splash their cash to get their players.
One player set to capitalize is the pit bull in Toronto, Kyle Lowry.
Last season Lowry averaged 22.4 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds for a guy who only stands 6 foot tall. Plus he shot 41.2% from three on nearly 8 attempts a game. He’s a terrific leader and an underrated defender whose defensive rating (109) was only 1 worse than notable stalwart Patrick Beverly.
At 30 years old people may be deterred, but Lowry’s game is dependent on his decision making and shooting, which only get better with age. He can sign a $205 million deal over 5 years with Toronto should he choose to stay, or a mere $152 million deal over 4 years should he choose to go.
4. Gordon Hayward
Since the turn of the decade, the assumption is that the NBA has become a point-guard dominated league, and to be fair there’s a lot of evidence for that. The past three winners of the regular season MVP awards have been PGs. They have the ball in their hands a lot, so they are in control of what happens on the court.
That assumption is wrong.
The NBA isn’t a point guard league, it’s a small forward league. Don’t believe me? The winners of the past 6 Finals MVP awards have been small forwards. Versatile wing players have become the most valuable assets to have if you want to win a championship.
Gordon Hayward is such a small forward.
At 26 years old having averaged 22 points a game last year on 47% from the field and 40% from three Hayward looks set to massively cash in on his value. He’s a good defender, he hits free-throws and can rebound and make plays for his teammates.
I hope he stays in Utah to help grow that team but don’t be surprised to see him in Boston next year. Hayward could sign a $177.5 million deal with his team. That’s some serious dollar.
3. Blake Griffin
Lob City is over.
Chris Paul is no longer a Clipper.
The days of endless jaw-dropping alley-oops are at an end as Paul is now teaming up with James Harden in a power move designed solely to rattle the Golden-State cage. With the main man in LA gone, the attention is now on the other star and what his fate will be.
Blake Griffin is a stud. How else would you describe someone who at age 27 has career averages of 21.5 points and 9.4 rebounds a game? He’s also a great passer having averaged nearly five assists a game last year. He’s devastating on the pick and roll and is great at the elbow as well.
The entire basketball world is just begging him to join OKC with Westbrook just to keep the highlights going, but I think Blake has had enough of people thinking he’s just an entertainer. My money’s on Boston to team up with Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley where he can earn a tidy $130 million over 4 years.
2. Russell Westbrook
What do you get if you mix one of the best athletes sports has ever seen with a tenacity and relentlessness that is unmatched in the NBA and then add the feelings of betrayal and anger caused by the departure of a key teammate?
We saw what concoction last season; the West Beast was unleashed. Not only did Russ manage to somehow average a triple double FOR AN ENTIRE SEASON but he also won the scoring title, lead his team to the playoffs and won the MVP.
He’s on course to sign the largest contract in basketball history, and boy earns it. Russ can sign a 5 year, $217 million deal with OKC easily making him the best-paid athlete in the NBA and showing a clear sign to every player and a potential player that if you play your heart out then you will get rewarded.
1. Steph Curry
The biggest bargain in the NBA for the last three years was Steph Curry. For only $12 million a year he won 2 MVPs, 2 titles and has become the greatest shooter who ever lived. He’s the engine that makes Golden State so dangerous. The pace at which he plays at combined with his style make him a nightmare for opposing guards as they have to pick him up at half court.
The ankle problems that plagued his career early on are gone and he’s set to sign a 5 year, $207 million contract that will keep him in Golden State and ensure that the Warriors keep on winning.