NBA Owners Pay Billions in 18 Hours for 5 Players Who Haven’t Sniffed a Finals

The Phoenix Suns also gave Devin Booker, who at least made the NBA Finals last season but lost to the Bucks, a four-year, $224 million supermax extension

Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans stands on the court.
Zion Williamson is a rich, rich man despite missing all of last season.
Sean Gardner/Getty

While the biggest news of NBA free agency happened before it kicked off at 6 p.m. Thursday evening when word broke that Kevin Durant had requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, there was plenty of action once the NBA offseason officially tipped off.

In addition to loads of lesser-known names like Ricky Rubio (Cavs), Mithcell Robinson (Knicks) and reigning NBA champs Gary Payton II (Blazers) and Otto Porter Jr. (Raptors) getting fairly large paydays, some of The Association’s biggest stars also got massive deals that are worth in excess of $1 billion in total.

Reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic agreed to a supermax extension to remain with the Denver Nuggets that will guarantee him at least $264 million over five seasons starting with the 2023-24 campaign. In Washington, Bradley Beal agreed to a deal worth a quarter-billion dollars to return to the Wizards on a five-year contract. Minnesota inked Karl-Anthony Towns to a four-year, $224 million supermax extension while Memphis and Ja Morant came to terms on a four-year designated rookie extension likely worth $226 million. Zion Williamson, who missed all of last season and has played just 85 games over his three-year pro career, secured a rookie max contract extension worth up to $231 million with the Pelicans that will keep the former Duke star in New Orleans through the 2027-28 season.

That’s a staggering amount of cash and it’s not even factoring in what Zach LaVine got to stay with the Bulls ($215.2 million) for five years, what Jalen Brunson ($104 million) received to head to the Knicks for four years or what Anfernee Simons secured ($100 million) to make a four-year commitment to the Blazers.

Besides now being rich beyond their wildest dreams, all of those players have something else in common: they have won exactly jack squat in the NBA. Russell Westbrook, who exercised his $47.1 million player option to return to the Lakers for the 2022-23 season prior to free agency, and John Wall, who was slated to make $47.4 million after exercising his player option with the Houston Rockets but reached a buyout with the team and will join the LA Clippers, are also part of that group.

That’s not quite the case with Devin Booker (four-year, $224 million supermax extension with the Phoenix Suns), who at least made the NBA Finals last season before losing to the Bucks, but add him to the list of championship-less players who cashed in big. (To be fair to Westbrook, he made the Finals with the Thunder but that was a decade ago.)

On the whole, it’s a gigantic amount of money to spend on a collection of players who have zero NBA titles between them, but it’s just further proof that it’s impossible to buy championships. Unless you’re the Warriors.

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