The NBA is a league of superstar players and super salaries. As one of the great franchises in league history, located in one of the country’s major cities, the Los Angeles Lakers have both.
LeBron James has been the Lakers’ leading star while pulling down the top salary in recent seasons, but that may not hold up on either count for the 2021-22 season.
Russell Westbrook gives the Los Angeles Lakers a new look
Between the late-season struggles, the postseason meltdown, and the effects of free agency, the Lakers were ready for a roster makeover this summer. Once the trade window opened in the new league year, LA didn’t waste any time making a big move. In fact, it was record-setting big.
The Lakers, Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs wheeled and dealed in a complicated swap of players and draft picks. Once the Aug. 6 transaction concluded, the Lakers landed Russell Westbrook and three second-round draft picks from the Washington Wizards. The net cost was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell to the Wizards, and Isaiah Jackson to the Pacers.
Westbrook gives the Lakers the final piece of a “Big Three” alongside Anthony Davis and James. The 6-foot-3 guard, a 13-year NBA veteran, has already rolled up 21,857 points and 8,061 assists.
Westbrook has done just about everything, but he still has not won a championship ring. There’s no doubt that James will remain the leader in the locker room and a major presence on the court, but Westbrook is the kind of talent who could take command of the starting five once the games begin.
If it results in another championship, James is unlikely to worry.
Who are the highest-paid Los Angeles Lakers players?
A “Big Three” array of stars does not come without big salaries, and the Lakers will be carrying three contracts on their books that are proportionate to their stars’ resumes.
Westbrook has two seasons left on a five-year contract he signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He will make $44,211,146 this season, according to Spotrac.com. His 2022-23 salary will be $47,063,478.
James is also signed through the 2022-23 season. He’ll make $41,180,544 this season and then $44,474,988.
Davis has the biggest overall deal remaining – four seasons left on his five-year, $189,903,600 agreement. His salary for the upcoming season will be $35,361,360. The deal will top out at $43,219,440 in the 2024-25 NBA season.
Some big-name players have accepted small contracts
With Westbrook, James, and Davis on the books for more than $120 million this year, it’s easy to forget that the NBA actually has a salary cap. The league announced it has set the cap at $112,414,000 and the tax level at $136,606,000. Of course, there are workarounds such as three mid-level exceptions ranging from $4,910,000 to $9,536,000.
The Lakers don’t intend to play opponents three-on-five for 82 games, so they have begun to fill out the remainder of their roster. Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard have agreed to come over to the Lakers for the veteran minimum of $2,641,691.
Both are examples of players who’ve made their fortunes as younger men and are remaining in the sport in pursuit of championships. Anthony’s salaries over the past six seasons add up to $24,005,565. He made more than that ($26,243,760) while with Oklahoma City in the 2017-18 season.
Howard has gone down a similar path, earning less over the past four seasons combined than he made in any single season the previous 11 years.
Back in their primes, either would have been part of their own Big Three. Now, they’re the potential pieces in the Lakers’ next championship season.