Damian Lillard recently signed a two-year, $122 million extension. Nikola Jokic signed a five-year, $270 million extension. This could be just the start of where NBA salaries are headed.
In 2023-24, Golden State’s star Steph Curry will become the first player in NBA history to make $50 million in one season. In 2026-27, Portland All-Star Damian Lillard will cross the $60 million threshold for one season.
Bradley Beal, a three-time All-Star for Washington, just signed a five-year, $251 million contract to remain with the Wizards. A quarter of a billion-dollar deal. It is (for now) the league’s most lucrative contract.
In the past 10 years, the NBA’s salary cap – the amount of money a team can pay players on its roster not including certain exceptions – has more than doubled with annual average cap increases of 8.2%.
As the league generates more revenue and the salary cap rises, especially with a new TV deal on the horizon, by the end of this decade or in the early 2030s, a player – perhaps Memphis’ Ja Morant, New Orleans’ Zion Williamson, Dallas’ Luka Doncic or Atlanta’s Trae Young – will be paid $70 million for a season.
The league has just about doubled the salary cap every decade, starting in 1990 to 2000, and the salary cap could be nearly $200 million in 2029-30 or 2030-31 if those 8% year over year cap increases continue. A player receiving a max 35% of the cap at a $200 million salary cap will start at $70 million for a season.
It’s a long way from the $14.5 million LeBron James made in his first season with the Miami Heat in 2010.
Before anyone starts complaining about out of control salaries, what players are paid is negotiated between the league and the National Basketball Players Association (union) with both sides sharing a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. The players are making that because the league is generating that much revenue.
Here’s a look at some of the massive contracts signed or agreed to this offseason:
With Lillard’s two-year, $121.77 million extension through 2026-27, he is due to earn $258.69 million in the next five seasons with $63.2 million coming in the final season.
The final three seasons of Beal’s deal will each be more than $50 million per season, including $57.1 million in 2026-27.
When the Denver Nuggets’ two-time MVP’s extension kicks in starting in 2023-24, it will surpass Beal’s deal. Jokic’s five-year extension is worth $269.9 million and over the next six seasons, he will make $301.4 million.
Chicago’s Zach LaVine, Doncic and Young all have similar deals that will pay them $215.15 million over the next five seasons.
Morant, Williamson and Cleveland’s Darius Garland agreed to designated max rookie extensions worth at least $193 million and by making one of the All-NBA teams in 2022-23, that amount will grow to $231 million.
Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Phoenix’s Devin Booker agreed to four-year, $224 million extensions that start at $50 million in 2024-25.
The deals don’t have to be in the $200 million range to be impressive.
Jalen Brunson will join New York on a four-year, $104 million deal, and Mitchell Robinson re-signed with Knicks on a four-year, $80 million deal.
Portland’s Anfernee Simons re-signed for four years, $100 million, and teammate Jusuf Nurkic received a four-year, $70 million deal.
Oklahoma City’s Lu Dort came to terms on a four-year, $87 million deal.