LeBron James and Kevin Love are smiling all the way to the bank, as two of the highest-paid players in the NBA this season. The NBA boasts the highest average salary of any team sport in the world, at $4.7 million. Here are the top 20 earners in the league, ranked in ascending order (source: basketball-reference.com). **Note: Anthony Davis, who is not yet in the top 20, has the largest guaranteed contract at $126.6 million for six years.
No. 20: Kawhi Leonard, $16.5 million – Leonard was named MVP of the 2014 finals for the San Antonio Spurs when he was tasked with guarding LeBron James, while averaging 17.8 points on 11-19 3-point shooting. Still only 24, Leonard will anchor the Spurs long after the "Big Three" of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have retired.
No. 19: Russell Westbrook, $16.7 million – Without injured running mate Kevin Durant, Westbrook was only a game away from single-handedly willing Oklahoma City to the 2014-15 playoffs after a stellar season featuring 11 triple-doubles. A leading MVP candidate for 2016, Westbrook's contract escalates to $17.8 million next season, his last under contract. Look for him to benefit from a new collective bargaining agreement in 2017.
No. 18: Paul George, $17.1 million – The versatile Indiana Pacers small forward (#24) was a budding superstar until breaking his leg before last season. He came back to play six games but it was too early to tell whether George will live up to the $55 million the Pacers guaranteed him after his breakout 2014 campaign (21.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
No. 17: Blake Griffin, $18.9 million – For all his skills and physical prowess, Griffin shies away from the big shot in the fourth quarter, which is partially what doomed the Clippers in the playoffs last year. But as long as he is a Clipper, a spectacular dunk is just a moment away, keeping the Hollywood glitterati packing the Staples Center.
No. 16: Paul Millsap, $19 million – Without averaging more than 18 points or nine rebounds in any season, Millsap (#4 of the Atlanta Hawks) is the least-known player in the top 20. But he was a leader for the 60-win Hawks, who were intent on keeping the team intact; hence, the $60 million, three-year deal for the 30-year-old power