The NBA’s top spenders are sparing no expense in their quest to win a championship. Ten teams start the 2021-2022 season with payrolls above both the salary cap and luxury tax threshold.
The Golden State Warriors lead the way on 2021 Opening Night with a $174.1 million payroll, according to Spotrac. The NBA has a $112.4 million salary cap, and teams with a payroll north of $136.6 million face a luxury tax bill.
The Brooklyn Nets are second in the NBA with a $171.9 million payroll. A $169.8 million payroll puts the Los Angeles Clippers third among the league’s 30 teams. The Los Angeles Lakers rank fourth, spending $156.9 million on player salaries.
The Milwaukee Bucks start their championship defense with a $155.5 million payroll. The Utah Jazz are sixth at $153 million, one season after posting the NBA’s best regular-season record.
Golden State is set to pay $159.9 million in luxury tax penalties, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, because of their lofty payroll. The top four luxury taxed teams are based in California or New York.
The luxury tax teams and current penalty
1. GSW- $159.9M
2. BKN- $110.4M
3. LAC- $93.9M
4. LAL- $46.3M
5. MIL- $41.5M
6. UTH- $33.4M
7. PHI- $7.6M
8. BOS- $6.8M
10. TOR- $1.6M
Tax distribution for the 20 teams below= $12.7M— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42)
Warriors star Stephen Curry is the NBA’s highest-paid player with a $45.7 million salary. Klay Thompson is entering the third season of a five-year, $190 million contract. Thompson has missed the last two full seasons with injuries.
Since making the NBA Finals each year from 2015-2019 and winning three championships, Golden State has missed the playoffs in two straight seasons.
Brooklyn has two of the league’s seven highest-paid players in Kevin Durant and James Harden. The Nets are viewed as the prohibitive favorites to win the 2022 NBA Finals.
The Lakers are the only team with three of the NBA’s 15 highest-paid players. LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis make $120.7 million in combined salaries for the 2021-2022 season. Adding Westbrook to a team that won the title just 12 months ago, the Lakers are the favorites in the Western Conference.
The betting odds suggest that the Warriors are the Lakers’ biggest threat in the West. The Clippers probably would’ve held that distinction if a torn ACL wasn’t set to keep Kawhi Leonard out for most, if not all, of this season. Leonard has a salary of $39.3 million.
Reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo owns the league’s largest contract, worth $228 million. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee’s second-highest scorer, is the NBA’s 14th highest-paid player.
The Philadelphia 76ers ($142.9 million), Boston Celtics ($141.2 million), Portland Trail Blazers ($139.6 million) and Toronto Raptors ($137.6 million) have top-10 payrolls.