During the first part of the 2020-21 NBA season, it was popular to take cracks at Blake Griffin. More specifically, it was pretty much open season on Griffin’s lack of in-game dunking.
Griffin, once revered as one of the best athletes in the league and one of its most accomplished dunkers, went a year-and-a-half between in-game dunks. Between December 2019 and March 2021, Griffin didn’t throw one down, and plenty of people were eager to point that out.
Griffin admitted that the narrative bothered him, in part because he didn’t have the chance to dunk while he wasn’t even playing.
“It bothered me a little bit. Because the stat was, ‘He hasn’t dunked in 400-something days.’ Sure,” Griffin said on JJ Redick’s “The Old Man & the Three” podcast. “I had surgery in January. I played my last game for the Pistons before the pandemic hit December 28, 2019. And then we didn’t go to the bubble. So I didn’t play again until December 24, 2020. Everybody’s like, ‘He hasn’t dunked in over a year.’ I’m like, ‘I haven’t played in over a year.’ Yeah, I played those 19 games with the Pistons and didn’t dunk.
“But that just p-ssed me off because you guys know the stat, you’re just choosing to be like, ‘Let’s do days instead of games.’ Because games is still like, ‘Oh, he hasn’t dunked in 19 games.’ ‘Or… Hear me out… We can just do just straight days!’”
Griffin’s manager had a somewhat similar explanation to why he wasn’t dunking with Detroit. Once Griffin got to Brooklyn, he proved pretty quickly that he may not be in his prime anymore, but he can still throw it down when he gets the chance. The jokes started to fade pretty quickly after that.
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Related slideshow: The 25 highest-paid NBA players (Provided by Yardbarker)
The highest-paid NBA players
Every NBA regular is well paid, but some guys are bringing home the bacon big time. These are the most lucrative NBA contracts based on average annual value. Figures are via Spotrac and include extensions that have not yet kicked in.
Why is this list 26 players? Because four players all have the exact same contract. They all happen to be guys who just signed max deals off of their rookie deals. Each of the next four names, Tatum included, have signed five year contracts worth a little over $163 million, or about $32.6 million in annual cash.
Fox is known for his speed, and the Kings will be hoping the speed stays with him as he gets older. Hey, he’s only 22, so he’ll still be in his prime when this deal is over. While the Kings haven’t won much with Fox as their starting point guard, he just averaged over 20 points per game for the first time in his career. Fox isn’t the issue in Sacramento.
Mitchell just made his first All-Star team in 2020, and it likely won’t be his last. He’s a dynamic scorer who has averaged over 20 points per contest in all four seasons of his career. The Louisville product is athlete and can attack the basket with gusto. He and Rudy Gobert complement each other well for the Jazz.
The Heat know how to find a gem in the NBA Draft. In his third season in the league, the man known as Bam turned himself into a point forward, averaging a double-double on points and rebounds while also contributing five assists per game. Some thought the Heat would wait to sign Adebayo to a deal to save money for going after Giannis Antetokounmpo. Instead, Miami signed their young forward to a deal worth $32.6 million annually.
McCollum is forever playing second fiddle to Damian Lillard, who you will see later on this list. The Lehigh alum has averaged over 20 points per game in each of the last four seasons and is also one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. He will earn around $33 million on average through the rest of his deal.
Kyrie is polarizing, both in his play and in his personality. There is a reason he’s basically been drummed out of two towns, and he hasn’t exactly gotten along great with his teammates in Brooklyn. Still, there will always be somebody to tolerate Irving given his ability. Few people can attack the basket like Kyrie, who makes around $34 million a year.
Nobody would have seen this coming when Siakam was drafted by the Raptors. In fact, in his rookie season he spent time in the G League. However, in his third season he won Most Improved Player, and some thought he could arguably win it again in 2020 based on how he’s turned himself into one of the best players in the NBA. He signed a $137-million contract extension last year.
George is the first player on this last who signed his huge deal with a different team than his current one. PG, who will make $34 million this year, signed his deal with the Thunder but has since been traded to the Clippers (at Kawhi Leonard’s behest). He and Kawhi are a true dynamic duo, as they are both elite players on both sides of the court. Although, people will complain about his performance in the playoffs once again.
Speaking of the Clippers, Griffin signed his hefty contract, worth $171 million, with L.A. However, he has since been traded to the Pistons. His first full season in Detroit went really well, as he averaged 24.5 points per game. Unfortunately, this past season he suffered through injuries and played in only 18 games — and there are still a couple of years left on the deal.
Kawhi has played things pretty perfectly. He forced his way out of San Antonio, went to Toronto and completely salvaged his reputation. Leonard was great, and he helped the Raptors win their first title. Then he took over the offseason by signing with the Clippers and getting Paul George to join him. Plus, he’s normalized “load management” and yet he’s still getting over $34 million per season.
Players as good as Butler rarely move around that much. However, it seems like the 31-year-old may have finally found his home in Miami. So far, Butler has earned his contract on the court, even though his average salary is over $34 million per year. It seems like he’s fitting in for once, and he led Miami to the NBA Finals in the bubble.
Playing in Charlotte, Walker was often overlooked. It’s not like the Hornets are ever on TV. And yet he was an All-Star in his last three seasons with the Hornets and then did it again in his first season with the Celtics, his current team. He will make $35 million this season.
Yes, Simmons can’t shoot. Yes, he’s extremely hesitant to shoot threes. On the other hand, who cares? He’s an elite passer who can defend all five positions. The man is the size of a center with the passing skills of an All-Star point guard. Even if he never learns to shoot, and he’s still young, he’ll still be a great player in this league. He signed a five-year extension last year worth $177 million.
Right now Middleton is the highest-paid player on the Bucks, on a five-year, $177 million deal. Sure, that’s because Giannis is on his rookie deal still, and there are questions if the Bucks will be able to afford to re-sign him. That doesn’t mean Middleton isn’t worth the money. A second-round pick who was once an afterthought in a trade, he’s turned into one of the best players in the league. Maybe it’s a little surprising he’s quite this high up the list, but nobody can quibble with his contract.
People seem to think that it is inevitable that Beal will leave Washington eventually, and he was talked about as a trade target before signing his new deal, worth around $127 million. There’s two years left on that extension, which paying him an average of almost $36 million. Beal is a great player, and maybe pairing with a new teammate in Russell Westbrook will work out better for him.
With all due respect to Harris, a fine player, he’s a perfect example of a guy hitting the market at the right time. He’s never been an All-Star and has averaged 20 points per game only once in his career. However, he was a free agent last summer, and the 76ers knew they couldn’t keep everybody. The did hold on to Harris though, which meant he got a deal worth a whopping $36 million per season.
Thompson has done some crazy stuff in his career. One time he scored 37 points…in one quarter. He’s a great shooter and a perfect foil to Steph Curry. Part of that is his defensive skill. Curry is not a stalwart on that end, but Thompson has made the All-Defense Second Team once. He signed a five-year, $190 million deal a couple years ago, but unfortunately has been hit horrifically by the injury bug. Klay missed all of his first season under his new deal, and will now miss the 2020-2021 season as well with an Achilles injury.
You may quibble with how Davis got himself out of New Orleans, but the results were just what the Brow wanted. AD was dealt to the Lakers where he and LeBron joined forces to win a title. With James now 36, Davis is the future of this franchise. He’s also the owner of a new contract for five years and almost $190 million.
Some people said Paul’s contract is an albatross. After all, he’s 35 and won’t be a free agent until the summer of 2022. On the other hand, he’s still an All-Star-level player, which is why the Suns were willing to trade for him. Yes, he’s lost a step, and he’s likely to lose another before his contract, worth $160 million, is up. It takes money to afford a veteran who is a future Hall of Famer.
Curry is the first player on this list averaging over $40 million a season. That’s what happens when you are maybe the best shooter in NBA history. Steph’s play has helped revolutionize the NBA. He can make a three from anywhere, and that’s how he has won two MVPs and three NBA titles. His first deal he signed was a steal because there were worries about his ankles. In a way, this deal kind of feels like a steal as well.
Durant and Curry were teammates for a minute there, and Durant got a couple of rings. He also caught a lot of flak for gunning for a title by joining the Warriors juggernaut. This was in spite of the fact that — shield your eyes, Curry fans — he was the best player on those Golden State teams. Now Durant is with the Nets…or at least he will be once his Achilles heals. His Brooklyn deal is worth $164 million over four years.
Hey, another of Durant’s former teammates! Westbrook was the last man standing in Oklahoma City, and he averaged a triple-double for three seasons in a row, something previously unthinkable. After a stint with Houston, the mercurial guard has now been moved once again, this time to Washington for the next guy on the list. Sure, Westbrook can’t shoot threes, but he knows how to get buckets and earn his average salary of $41 million.
Honestly, we would have figured Wall had an untradeable contract. Wall was a great player in his prime, but he’s suffered a brutal, cruel run of injury. During the 2018-19 season it was a season-ending heel injury, and then he tore his Achilles tendon at home while recovering from that injury. Wall has not returned to the court since December 2018, but he’s still getting paid a ton of cash, nearly $43 million. And yet, the Rockets were willing to take him on (plus a draft pick) in exchange for Russell Westbrook.
You may not like the way the Beard plays, but you can’t argue with results. He’s led the league in points per game the last three seasons, including averaging a staggering 36.1 points per game last year. When all is said and dude, he will lead the league again in points this year and is going to average comfortably over 30 points…again. Harden’s basketball philosophy melded perfectly with Houston’s, but will that still be true with a new head coach and GM in place? There have been murmurs of Harden’s desire to be traded, but for now he is in Houston on a four-year, $171-million contract.
When LeBron first signed with the Lakers, he was making “only” $38 million because the team didn’t have his Bird Rights or anything. Now he’s won a ring in the purple and gold and has seen his average annual value boosted up to a little under $43 million. That’s a lot of money for a 36-year-old, but LeBron isn’t your average 36-year-old.
We now arrive at the highest-paid player in the NBA. The Blazer is making an average of $44 million per season. He just signed a brand-new extension with a team that owned his Bird rights, which means Portland could pay him more money than any team could pay a player previously. Lillard is deserving of it. He’s an elite shooter and scorer who has made four All-NBA teams already. Now he has the richest deal in the league.Internet Explorer Channel Network