Grading Every NBA Team's 3 Highest-Paid Players
How an NBA team spends its money is often crucial to the franchises' overall success, as bloated contracts can fill up the cap sheet and leave little room for premier talent.
For this exercise we're looking at the top-three highest paid players on every NBA team and examining how each is performing this season. Grades will be based on players' production vs. their salary, so someone averaging 15 points per game and making $15 million will naturally be scored higher than someone chipping in the same amount of points yet making far more, for example.
Players on the team's top-three highest-paid list but have yet to play this season because of injury or are expected to miss the entire season (Jonathan Isaac, Chet Holmgren etc.) were omitted here. Players who are still on a team's payroll because of a buyout but are now with another franchise (John Wall with the Houston Rockets, Kemba Walker with the Oklahoma City Thunder, etc.) will not be counted either.
Here's how all of the top money-makers are performing thus far this season.
All stats and salary figures are via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted and are accurate as of December 12.
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Trae Young ($37.1 million), John Collins ($23.5 million), Clint Capela ($18.7 million)
Young continues to put up big numbers on offense (27.1 points and 9.6 assists) even with Dejounte Murray on board, although his efficiency has taken a dive.
Among the 168 times in NBA history where a player has attempted at least 7.2 three-pointers or more in a game, Young's mark of 28.7 percent ranks dead last overall. He's struggled to connect from anywhere, with his 46.7 percent mark on twos also a career-low. For a player now on a max deal, the Hawks need a more efficient Young, especially given his defensive deficiencies.
Collins has perhaps suffered more offensively than any other Hawk with Murray in town, as he's been forced into more of a floor-spacer role than lob threat. His 12.3 points are the lowest since Collins' rookie season, and a 21.9 percent mark from three has been a steep drop for the former 40.1 percent marksman. Don't be surprised if he's traded before the deadline.
Capela has been rock-solid as the team's starting center once again, leading the NBA in rebound percentage (23.7 percent) while averaging a double-double for the sixth straight year.
Grades: Young (B), Collins (C-), Capela (A-)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Jayson Tatum ($30.4 million), Jaylen Brown ($28.7 million), Al Horford ($26.5 million)
Tatum has continued to take his game to the next level and is averaging career highs in points (29.7) and rebounds (8.2) while playing good defense.
He's been asked to spend more time at power forward this year as the Celtics have gone smaller with Robert Williams III out and Tatum getting to the free-throw line (8.0 attempts per game) more than ever. With Boston off to a 21-7 start, Tatum is at the top of the MVP conversation.
Brown clearly didn't let the offseason trade noise bother him, as he's also putting up personal bests in points (26.6), rebounds (7.0) and field goal percentage (50.4 percent).
Given the Celtics' record, he'll almost certainly return to the All-Star game after a one-year absence.
Playing the 36-year-old Horford 31.6 minutes a night hasn't been ideal, but the ageless wonder deciding to become one of the league's top three-point shooters this season has been a nice surprise. A career-high 46.6 percent mark from three to go along with his 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists has helped push Boston's offense to No. 1 in the NBA.
Grades: Tatum (A), Brown (A), Horford (A-)
2022-23 Top Salaries: Kevin Durant ($44.1 million), Kyrie Irving ($36.9 million), Ben Simmons ($35.4 million)
Even at age 34, Durant is still one of the best offensive weapons in the NBA. His 30.0 points per game is good for sixth overall and would be the most he's averaged since taking home MVP honors in 2014.
A slip in efficiency from deep (34.6 percent) is really the only blemish on his season, and more time in the paint on defense has led to an uptick in blocks (1.7, seventh-highest in the NBA).
The fourth-highest paid player in the league, Durant is still more than earning his money.
There's no denying Irving's talents when he's on the court, although an eight-game suspension has once again affected his availability to the Nets.
A slow shooting start to the season seems to be fading, however, and Irving is up to 25.3 points on 50.0 percent overall and 37.8 percent from three over his last 10 contests.
Still one of the best offensive talents at the guard position in the league today, Irving's early-season suspension and the controversy surrounding it is the only thing keeping him from getting an A.
It's been a rocky return to the court for Simmons, who still hasn't found a consistent role in Brooklyn while being moved in and out of the starting lineup.
While no one is asking him to outscore Durant or Irving, Simmons is down to just 8.3 points per game, which ranks seventh overall on the Nets. He still refuses to shoot threes (just one attempt all year) and has a career-high 25.9 percent turnover rate.
The Nets shouldn't be panicking yet, but it's been an ugly start for the former All-Star.
Grades: Durant (A), Irving (B+), Simmons (D)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Gordon Hayward ($30.1 million), Terry Rozier ($21.5 million), Kelly Oubre Jr. ($12.6 million)
Hayward's time in Charlotte has been a big disappointment, as the veteran wing simply can't stay healthy and is now out with a fractured shoulder. While he's produced when on the floor this season (16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists) his hefty contract (which still has another year left at $31.5 million) is going to be difficult to move.
Rozier is leading the Hornets in scoring at 22.2 points and is second on the team in assists (5.7 per game), although his efficiency has been shaky. Of the 31 players matching or exceeding his scoring average this season, Rozier ranks dead last with a 40.7 shooting percentage overall.
Oubre has been thrust into a bigger role with Hayward's injuries, and is responding with a career-high 20.8 points per game and 1.7 steals. Like with Rozier, however, these shots aren't falling at a high level (43.7 percent overall). With LaMelo Ball playing just three games the entire season due to ankle injuries, his table setting is sorely needed.
Grades: Hayward (C+), Rozier (B), Oubre (B)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Zach LaVine ($37.1 million), DeMar DeRozan ($27.3 million), Nikola Vucevic ($22.0 million)
After undergoing knee surgery in the offseason, LaVine just doesn't look quite the same thus far this year.
His 21.8 points, two-point (49.3 percent) and three-point marks (35.8 percent) are the lowest since the 2017-18 season, and the Bulls are averaging 3.6 points per 100 possessions less with LaVine on the floor. While he's never been a plus defender, these early returns from LaVine should be slightly concerning.
DeRozan, on the other hand, continues to play at an All-Star level and is putting up 26.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and shooting 50.7 percent overall. The only other players matching or exceeding these numbers this season are Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic, with DeRozan ranking as the lowest-paid member of the group.
Vucevic is playing for a new contract and is once again putting up strong offensive numbers overall (16.2 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 36.8 percent from three) yet is still showing no signs of being even an average rim protector. Opponents are making 69.7 percent of their attempts at the basket against him.
Grades: LaVine (C+), DeRozan (A), Vucevic (B)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Donovan Mitchell ($30.4 million), Kevin Love ($28.9 million), Jarrett Allen ($20 million)
Mitchell ended Love's reign as the highest-paid Cavalier following his trade from the Utah Jazz, and has given Cleveland a ton of value this season even while playing on a max contract.
Mitchell's 29.0 points per game are a career-high and rank seventh overall in the NBA. He's also putting up personal bests in two-point (55.6 percent) and three-point (41.9 percent) efficiency while playing the best defense we've seen in years.
Love has become a valuable first big off the bench for Cleveland the past two years, although his salary still looks like it should be attached to an All-Star. Now in the final season of a four-year, $120 million contract extension, Love's production will better match his money next year.
Allen is a force at the rim on both ends, is averaging another double-double (14.2 points and 10.5 rebounds) and helps the Cavs hold opponents to 5.8 fewer points per 100 possessions when he's in the game. While he's limited offensively, playing on a five-year, $100 million contract feels just right.
Grades: Mitchell (A), Love (C-), Allen (A-)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Luka Dončić ($37.1 million), Spencer Dinwiddie ($20.2 million), Tim Hardaway Jr. ($19.6 million)
Despite playing on a max contract for the first time, Dončić is still a steal for the Mavs.
According to ProFitX.com, Dončić's real-time contract is valued at $47.1 million, given that he's leading the NBA in scoring (33.1 points per game) and is fourth in assists (8.8 per night). Dallas' offense improves by a whopping 14.4 points per 100 possessions with Dončić on the floor, ranking in the 99th percentile in the NBA per Cleaning the Glass.
Whatever magic potion that turned Dinwiddie into a light's out shooter once he got to Dallas is still working, as the veteran guard is nailing 41.4 percent of his threes while averaging 16.8 points and 5.3 assists. While the Washington Wizards were eager to dump his contract last deadline, Dinwiddie is more than earning his money now.
Following a horrid start to the season, a move to the starting lineup has breathed new life into Hardaway. He's putting up 18.7 points on 45.7 percent from three in nine starts compared to just 10.5 points on 29.2 percent from deep in 17 games off the bench. His numbers aren't great overall, but certainly trending upward.
Grades: Dončić (A+), Dinwiddie (A-), Hardaway (B-)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Nikola Jokic ($33.1 million), Jamal Murray ($31.6 million), Michael Porter Jr. ($30.9 million)
While his scoring and rebounding numbers have slightly dipped from last season now that Denver is back to full strength, Jokic is arguably better than ever.
His 9.1 assists per game are a career-high and rank third in the NBA this season, even ahead of premier point guards like Luka Doncic, Darius Garland and Ja Morant. Jokic's swing rating is also up to a personal best of plus-25.8(!!!), which naturally ranks in the 100th percentile overall.
Murray keeps getting better as the season goes along in his return from an ACL tear, and is up to 22.3 points, 5.8 assists and 37.0 percent from three over his last eight games.
Porter got off to a solid start before suffering a heel injury, with averages of 16.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and a 42.7 percent mark from deep. He's got a long way to go to earn his max contract, however.
Grades: Jokic (A+), Murray (B+), Porter (C+)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Bojan Bogdanovic ($19.5 million), Marvin Bagley III ($12.5 million), Cade Cunningham ($10.5 million)
Detroit's highest-paid player may not be on the team for long, as Bogdanovic will be one of the hottest names on the trade market from now until the deadline.
At age 33, Bogdanovic is posting career-highs in points (21.0), assists (2.4) and three-point shooting (43.7 percent), breathing some life into a Pistons offense that ranks just 24th overall.
Bagley's contract looked bad for Detroit the moment he signed it, with the 23-year-old putting up 11.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists and shooting just 31.8 percent from three. The Pistons have been 7.2 points per 100 possessions worse with Bagley in the game this season.
Cunningham's season unfortunately lasted just 12 games with the recent news he'll be out until 2023-24 following shin surgery. His raw numbers were better in Year 2 (19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists) although Cunningham needs to improve his shot efficiency from all over the floor.
Grades: Bogdanovic (A), Bagley (C), Cunningham (B)
Golden State Warriors
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Stephen Curry ($48.1 million), Klay Thompson ($40.6 million), Andrew Wiggins ($33.6 million)
No team is more expensive than these Warriors, who project to face a $170.2 million luxury tax bill alone this season.
Curry is the NBA's highest-paid player, although no one would dare call him overpaid. The 34-year-old is still playing at an MVP level with averages of 30.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.0 steals and a 43.6 percent mark from three. The only player to make more than his 5.1 three-pointers per game in NBA history is Curry himself, done in 2020-21.
We're starting to see the old Thompson, as the 32-year-old has shook off a slow start to average 23.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists and shoot 45.4 percent from three over his past nine games. While he's probably not giving Golden State $40 million worth of production yet (ProFitX.com has his real-time contract value at $24.9 million) it's good to see Thompson headed in the right direction.
This is the most efficient version of Wiggins we've ever seen, with the 27-year-old posting a true shooting percentage of 62.1 percent, easily a career high. A 45.0 percent mark from three is 10 percent higher than his career average coming into the season, and Wiggins is once again playing high-level defense.
Grades: Curry (A+), Thompson (B), Wiggins (A-)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Eric Gordon ($19.6 million), Jalen Green ($9.4 million), Jabari Smith Jr. ($8.9 million)
Two of the Rockets' top-three highest-paid players actually won't play a minute for them this season, as John Wall ($40.9 million) and Derrick Favors ($10.2 million) both received buyouts or were waived before the year started.
This leaves Gordon as the only player to reach eight figures, as the veteran wing continues to play solid basketball on both ends. He's putting up 12.2 points, 2.5 assists and shooting 34.7 percent from deep and is a prime candidate to switch teams before the trade deadline.
Green is already up to 21.6 points per game in Year 2, getting to the free-throw line at a higher rate this year. His assist rate has also jumped from 13.1 percent as a rookie to 18.8 percent now. Green's shooting marks are actually down a bit, however, and his defense leaves something to be desired.
Smith got off to a rough start offensively but has been much better as of late, with the No. 3 overall pick averaging 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds over his past 11 games, including a red-hot 41.4 percent mark from deep.
Grades: Gordon (C), Green (A-), Smith (B)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Buddy Hield ($21.2 million), Myles Turner ($18.0 million), T.J. McConnell ($8.1 million)
After looking rather overpaid with the Sacramento Kings, Hield has been a solid value since his trade to Indiana.
Averages of 17.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals and a 38.4 percent mark from deep are starter-worthy, and Hield is settling for fewer long twos than ever before. His swing rating of plus-5.8 is the highest of any Pacers rotation member, too.
Turner is having the best season of his career, which is convenient given his impending free agency. He's putting up personal bests in points (17.5), rebounds (8.0) and three-point shooting (42.4 percent) all while swatting away 2.4 shots per game.
If he had enough minutes to qualify, McConnell would rank tied for third in the NBA in steal percentage (3.2 percent) and would be 12th in assist percentage as well (32.5 percent). He's a solid backup point guard limited by a lack of three-point shooting but still worth his salary.
Grades: Hield (B+), Turner (A-), McConnell (B)
Los Angeles Clippers
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Kawhi Leonard ($42.5 million), Paul George ($42.5 million), Norman Powell ($16.8 million)
Leonard has once again dealt with injuries this season, suiting up in just nine of the team's first 29 games.
He has played in four of the past five, however, and averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists. Leonard's overall numbers are understandably down after returning from ACL surgery, but his 21.9 percent mark from three on the season is pretty rough. For the eighth-highest-paid player in the NBA, the Clippers simply need more.
George has done his best to keep Los Angeles afloat with Leonard missing time, averaging 23.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.5 steals. The Clippers are 15.7 points per 100 possessions better with George in the game, good for the 97th percentile overall according to Cleaning the Glass.
Powell hasn't played yet in December with a groin injury and has been mostly utilized as a key reserve this year. With Leonard in and out of the lineup, Powell has been the Clippers' second-leading scorer, dropping 14.8 points per game with a 37.9 shooting percentage from three.
Grades: Leonard (D+), George (A-), Powell (B-)
Los Angeles Lakers
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Russell Westbrook ($47.1 million), LeBron James ($44.5 million), Anthony Davis ($37.9 million)
Like with Kevin Love in Cleveland, Westbrook has transitioned to a terrific, yet still highly overpaid, sixth man.
His averages of 15.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 8.0 assists as a reserve should get him some Sixth Man of the Year love, especially if the Lakers can climb back into the play-in tournament. Still, for the second-highest-paid player in the NBA, Westbrook is playing far below his contract.
James is about to turn 38 yet is still just one of two players (along with Luka Dončić) in the league putting up at least 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists per game. His shooting efficiency is noticeably down, however, with a true shooting mark of 54.9 percent ranking as the worst since James' rookie season.
Davis has been the best Laker this season, leading the team in scoring (27.7 points) while his 12.4 rebounds per game rank first in the NBA. Davis' 2.2 blocks per night are third overall in the league, and cutting down on his midrange jumpers has taken his field-goal percentage up to a career-best 59.6 percent.
Grades: Westbrook (C-), James (A-), Davis (A+)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Jaren Jackson Jr. ($28.9 million), Steven Adams ($17.9 million), Tyus Jones ($15.0 million)
How dominant has Jackson been defensively since returning from foot surgery? His 40 blocks in just 11 games are a higher total than those recorded overall by Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid, Mitchell Robinson and Evan Mobley, with opponents shooting just 41.2 percent against Jackson at the rim. That's the stingiest mark in the league among all 30 players facing more than five attempts per game.
Adams is eighth in the NBA in rebounds per game (10.5) while continuing to serve as a defensive presence, screen setter and better-than-expected passer. He doesn't need to have the ball to be effective and is a perfect fit for this Grizzlies team.
Jones re-upped with Memphis this past offseason and has played an even larger role this season with De'Anthony Melton gone. His 10.6 points and 4.9 assists per game are both career highs, and just 1.1 turnovers per night help the Grizzlies offense to run smoothly when Ja Morant needs a breather. He's an expensive backup point guard, but one that plays his role beautifully.
Grades: Jackson (A), Adams (B), Jones (B+)
2022-2023 Salaries: Jimmy Butler ($37.7 million), Bam Adebayo ($30.4 million), Kyle Lowry ($28.3 million)
Butler has been limited to just 18 games thus far but has been outstanding when he's actually taken the floor.
His 52.4 percent shooting mark overall is a career high, with a raw stat line of 21.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.7 steals. No other player in the NBA is matching these numbers.
Adebayo is posting the best swing rating of his career (plus-11.2) and is once again excelling as a defender, rebounder, passer and scorer from the mid-range in. If Miami can improve on its 13-15 start, Adebayo should be in the All-Star conversation once again.
Lowry has been asked to do way too much with injuries wreaking havoc on Miami's roster. While he's performed as well as one could ask from a 36-year-old point guard, Lowry's shooting has dipped below 40.0 percent for the second time since his rookie season. His play no longer matches a contract that pushes $30 million annually.
Grades: Butler (A-), Adebayo (A-), Lowry (C+)
2022-2023 Salaries: Giannis Antetokounmpo ($42.5 million), Khris Middleton ($37.9 million), Jrue Holiday ($33.7 million)
While he's been a premier scorer for years now, Antetokounmpo is now up to a career-best 31.1 points per game, good for third in the NBA behind Luka Dončić and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
He remains an elite rebounder and talented passer who could win a third MVP trophy in five years should the Bucks finish with a top record in the NBA. No player has been tasked with a larger workload this season than Antetokounmpo, whose 38.3 percent usage rate ranks first overall.
Middleton has played just five games thus far after returning from wrist surgery and is still extremely rusty. He's averaging just 11.0 points on 34.6 percent shooting, so early grades aren't going to be good. We fully expect him to return to All-Star form in a few weeks, however.
Holiday has needed to take on a larger offensive role with Middleton missing most of the season, as his 19.1 points and 7.4 assists are his highest marks since joining the Bucks. Still an elite defender, teams are scoring 4.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with Holiday on the floor.
Grades: Antetokoumpo (A+), Middleton (D), Holiday (A)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Rudy Gobert ($38.2 million), Karl-Anthony Towns ($33.8 million), D'Angelo Russell ($31.7 million)
Minnesota is paying big money to its two big men, a figure that will top $100 million by the 2025-26 season.
What's been a rocky start simply has to turn around, as Gobert is registering the first negative net rating of his career (minus-1.2) and is allowing opponents to make 60.4 percent of their shots at the rim. That's a huge increase from his stingy 49.3 percent mark a year ago, while Gobert's blocks (1.2 per game, down from 2.1) have decreased significantly as well.
Despite proclaiming himself as "the greatest big-man shooter of all time," Towns is making just 32.5 percent of his threes this season, and his 20.8 points per game are the lowest since his rookie year. It's clear this new two-big experiment will need more time.
Russell's raw numbers have gone down, although his shooting efficiency has bounced back from last year. His 55.9 shooting percentage from inside the arc is a career high, although the Wolves are getting beat by 9.6 points per 100 possessions with Russell on the floor this year.
Grades: Gobert (C-), Towns (B+), Russell (C-)
New Orleans Pelicans
2022-2023 Top Salaries: CJ McCollum ($33.3 million), Brandon Ingram ($31.7 million), Jonas Valančiūnas ($14.7 million)
The Pelicans own the NBA's fifth-best offense despite McCollum shooting a career-low 40.5 percent this season, which should be terrifying for the rest of the league.
So much of the 31-year-old's value won't show up in the box score, although 17.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game looks pretty good on top of his leadership.
Ingram has missed nearly half the season due to injury, yet has become a lights' out three-point shooter when on the floor. His 46.7 percent mark from three is easily a career high, and this marks the fourth straight season Ingram is averaging at least 20 points and four assists for New Orleans.
If Valančiūnas is your fourth option on offense, odds are you have a pretty potent attack. The veteran center is putting up 13.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and shooting 36.6 percent from three. He's still not a great defender, however, and has blocked just eight total shots in 26 games, allowing opponents to make 69.8 percent of their shots at the rim.
Grades: McCollum (B+), Ingram (A-), Valanciunas (B-)
New York Knicks
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Jalen Brunson ($27.7 million), Julius Randle ($23.8 million), Evan Fournier ($18.0 million)
Brunson has been a godsend for this Knicks offense, as the team is scoring 7.1 more points per 100 possessions with him in the game this season (87th percentile). While his three-point shooting needs to come up from 32.4 percent, New York fans should be pleased with Brunson's early play overall.
Randle's performance lands somewhere between his breakout 2020-21 campaign and the stinker of a season he went through in 2021-22. Averages of 22.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists are good, especially considering he's giving up a lot of playmaking responsibility to Brunson. Asking Randle to improve both defensively and as an outside shooter is fair, however, especially for someone who's inked a $100 million contract.
Fournier's deal looked bad last season and has only gotten worse as he's fallen out of the rotation. Averages of 6.9 points on 34.4 percent shooting are horrendous and only made worse by his poor defense. The two sides need to part ways as soon as possible.
Grades: Brunson (A-), Randle (B), Fournier (F)
Oklahoma City Thunder
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($30.9 million), Lu Dort ($15.3 million), Josh Giddey ($6.3 million)
Three of OKC's five highest-paid players won't actually play for them this season, as Kemba Walker ($27.4 million), Chet Holmgren ($9.9 million) and JaMychal Green ($8.2 million) have either been bought out, will miss the season due to injury or were waived.
Gilgeous-Alexander is in the first season of a five-year max and still looks underpaid. He's rocketed up to second in the NBA in scoring (31.2 points) and recently landed at No. 1 overall on our biggest player leaps rankings. He's a surefire first-time All-Star who's kept OKC in the play-in conversation this season.
Dort is in the first year of his new deal as well, with his 13.8 points per game coming in third on the team. Signed to be a defensive stopper as well as a complementary scorer, the Thunder have actually allowed fewer points per 100 possessions with Dort on the bench. His three-point shooting (30.7 percent) has regressed as well.
Giddey's shooting efficiency was his biggest question coming into the season, and he's shown growth from three (32.0 percent up from 26.3 percent). The 6'8" guard needs to improve defensively as well, although he's still giving the Thunder terrific value while playing on a rookie contract.
Grades: Gilgeous-Alexander (A+), Dort (C+), Giddey (A-)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Markelle Fultz ($16.5 million), Wendell Carter Jr. ($14.2 million), Gary Harris ($13.0 million)
Fultz recently made his return to the court and has been a starter ever since, averaging 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in his 24.9 minutes. A career 26.2 percent shooter from three, Fultz has connected on five of his first 11 attempts (45.5 percent), a good sign in the early going.
Carter has been limited by injury as of late but was off to a hot start to begin the season. His averages of 16.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 51.5 percent shooting have only been matched or exceeded by Nikola Jokić, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Bam Adebayo and Domantas Sabonis, with Carter being the lowest-paid of the bunch.
Harris has suited up just six times this season, putting up averages of 10.3 points, 2.0 assists and shooting 43.5 percent from three. If he can continue at this pace while playing solid defense, that's a good value for his current contract.
Grades: Fultz (B-), Carter (A), Harris (B-)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Tobias Harris ($37.6 million), Joel Embiid ($33.6 million), James Harden ($33.0 million)
Harris being the highest-paid player on a team that features Embiid, Harden and Tyrese Maxey is both hilarious and a testament to his dad/agent Torrel Harris, who orchestrated the original five-year, $180 million deal.
Now fourth on the offensive pecking order, however, averages of 16.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game just aren't going to match his massive salary. Harris is a good starting NBA player, yet he is making more than guys like Luka Dončić, Trae Young, Nikola Jokić and Jayson Tatum this season.
Embiid, had he played more than 18 games this season, would be considered the NBA's leading scorer with his 33.4 points per game. This would mean back-to-back scoring titles for the 28-year-old, who could climb back into the MVP conversation if Philly can return to elite status in the East.
Harden took a significant pay cut down to $33.0 million but has a real-time contract value of $41.8 million, per ProFitX.com. He's averaging 22.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists, and 1.2 steals in a whopping 37.9 minutes per night.
Grades: Harris (C+), Embiid (A+), Harden (A-)
2022-2023 Salaries: Devin Booker ($33.8 million), Deandre Ayton ($30.9 million), Chris Paul ($28.4 million)
Always a talented scorer, Booker is averaging a career-high 27.4 points while being asked to do more with Paul starting to slow down offensively. His 72.1 percent shooting mark within three feet is also a personal best, with the Suns offense improving by 16.3 points per 100 possessions with Booker in the game (99th percentile).
Ayton hasn't been the most consistent player, but he is averaging 21.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 blocks and shot 70.2 percent over his last 10 games. The 24-year-old is knocking on the door of All-Star status.
Paul is still an elite playmaker at age 37, although the rest of his game has gone downhill quickly. His 9.9 points per game and 37.7 field-goal percentage are both career worsts, and teams are picking on him defensively more than ever. Insert Ninja Turtles meme here.
Grades: Booker (A), Ayton (A-), Paul (C+)
Portland Trail Blazers
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Damian Lillard ($42.5 million), Anfernee Simons ($22.3 million), Jerami Grant ($20.9 million)
Seeing Lillard return to All-NBA status has been a pleasure, as the 32-year-old is averaging 28.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 7.1 assists and shooting 39.2 percent from three. Portland is 10-5 when he plays this season, compared to just 5-7 when he sits.
Perhaps the only good to come from Lillard's recent injury issues has been the emergence of Simons, who is already outplaying his new four-year, $100 million contract. He's up to 23.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game and shooting 38.8 percent from three, giving Lillard a reliable second-scorer to replace CJ McCollum.
The trade for Grant was one of the NBA's best offseason moves, as the 28-year-old is dropping a career-high 22.6 points per game while playing good defense and knocking down 45.3 percent of his threes.
Overall, Portland has received excellent value from all of its top-paid players.
Grades: Lillard (A), Simons (A), Grant (A)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: De'Aaron Fox ($30.4 million), Domantas Sabonis ($18.5 million), Harrison Barnes ($18.4 million)
Fox has picked up where he left off last season, excelling as a No. 1 option on a Kings team that's climbed to sixth overall in offensive rating. While he's still shooting too many midrange jumpers, Fox is making 36.6 percent of his threes and 74.2 percent from inside three feet.
How unique of a year is Sabonis having? The only player in NBA history to match or exceed his 17.2 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists while shooting 60 percent or better overall is Wilt Chamberlain in the 1966-67 season. His 37.9 percent mark from three is a big increase from his 31.9 percent career average coming into the season as well.
Barnes has needed to take a step back offensively (13.8 points per game) with all the new talent and is shooting a career-low 31.1 percent from three. A free agent next summer, his tenure in Sacramento could be coming to an end.
Grades: Fox (A-), Sabonis (A), Barnes (C)
San Antonio Spurs
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Doug McDermott ($13.8 million), Josh Richardson ($12.2 million), Jakob Poeltl ($9.4 million)
The Spurs have the lowest payroll of any NBA team, with McDermott's modest sub-$14 million salary topping their list.
After spending last season in the starting lineup, the veteran sharpshooter is now coming off the bench to provide an offensive spark. Averages of 10.3 points on 41.7 percent from three in 20.8 minutes are decent value for a player who could be moved before the deadline.
Richardson is in a similar situation as one of the few veterans on the roster who's also been primarily reduced to a reserve role. He's chipping in 10.7 points and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 37.6 percent from deep and seems primed to join a contender at some point.
Poeltl is woefully underpaid given his defensive effort, passing ability and improved overall game. His real-time contract value is nearly three times as high ($27.6 million, per ProFitX.com) given his averages of 12.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 blocks per game.
Grades: McDermott (B-), Richardson (B), Poeltl (A)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Pascal Siakam ($35.5 million), Fred VanVleet ($21.3 million), Gary Trent Jr. ($17.5 million)
Siakam is leading the Raptors in points (24.9), rebounds (8.8) and assists (7.1) this season, numbers that should get him back into the All-Star game. All three figures are career highs and better than most players around his salary range are contributing.
VanVleet's season hasn't gone quite as smoothly, as the veteran guard ranks dead last in field-goal percentage (36.0 percent) among the 191 players with at least 150 attempts this season. While he's still been an effective table-setter and is near the top of the league in steals, VanVleet's poor shooting efficiency is troubling.
Trent has bounced in and out of the starting lineup for Toronto as head coach Nick Nurse tries to find the right formula. His 17.2 points per game are good for third on the team, yet the Raptors are 7.0 points per 100 possessions worse with Trent in the game this season.
Grades: Siakam (A), VanVleet (C+), Trent (C)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Mike Conley Jr. ($22.7 million), Collin Sexton ($16.5 million), Lauri Markkanen ($16.5 million)
Conley is still one of the best setup men in the league, even at age 35; he rarely coughs the ball up (7.8 assists to 1.5 turnovers) and can knock down open threes. His 10.6 points per game is the lowest mark since Conley's rookie season, however.
Sexton has been better since being promoted to the starting lineup, giving Utah 16.9 points and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 54.1 percent overall in nine games. As he returns to full strength following knee surgery, this could look like one of the better contracts in the NBA, especially if veterans like Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley are moved to give Sexton a larger role.
Markkanen has been one of the biggest breakout players this year with expanded offensive responsibilities. He's leading the Jazz in scoring (22.2 points) and rebounding (8.5) while nailing 41.3 percent of his threes. What looked like a questionable contract at first is now a bargain for Utah.
Grades: Conley (B), Sexton (B+), Markkanen (A)
2022-2023 Top Salaries: Bradley Beal ($43.3 million), Kristaps Porzingis ($33.8 million), Will Barton ($14.4 million)
Now nose-diving after a solid start to the season, the Wizards should probably be concerned that the team has been slightly better without Beal than with him (4-6, 40.0 win percentage to 7-11, 38.9 win percentage). For a player who just inked a $250 million contract with a no-trade clause, one would expect there to be more of a difference.
Beal has been quite good in his 17 full games (24.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 52.2 percent shooting), but not quite at the level of others in his salary range (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo).
Porzingis' contract looked awful as he struggled through injury-plagued seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, yet the veteran big man has been mostly healthy this year while putting up 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 blocks per night.
Barton was supposed to be a key rotation piece following a trade from the Denver Nuggets, yet he ranks just eighth on the team in scoring and has been outplayed by two-way guard Jordan Goodwin.
Grades: Beal (B), Porzingis (B+), Barton (D+)