Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James all took a little less money in order to join forces in the summer of 2010. Because of that, none of the Miami Heat's Big Three own one of the NBA's 10 biggest salaries this season. Neither do All-NBA first-teamers Kevin Durant and Chris Paul nor 2011 MVP Derrick Rose. Keep that in mind when you see who's cashing – but in several cases, not earning – the biggest checks.
Elton Brand, $18,160,354
Under the amnesty clause of the league's latest collective bargaining agreement, teams were allowed to waive one player so his salary wouldn't count against their cap. The Philadelphia 76ers exercised the option on Brand, who then signed with the Dallas Mavericks. But Philly will still be paying Brand most of the money he's owed this season. NBA contracts, after all, are fully guaranteed.
Pau Gasol, $19,000,000
Gasol helped the Lakers win two titles following his trade from Memphis in 2008. He remains one of the most skilled big men in the league and will make another $19.3 million next season. But for now, he's just the third highest-paid Laker.
Dwight Howard, $19,261,200
Howard strangely opted into the final year of his contract late last season rather than becoming a free agent, limiting his options. He still strong-armed his way out of Orlando and could become the Lakers' next superstar center. But whether or not he decides to stay in LA, he won't get his next max contract until next summer.
Carmelo Anthony, $19,450,000
The Knicks traded half their team for Anthony in February 2011, then signed him to a max deal that will pay him nearly $65 million over the next three years. 'Melo is one of the elite scorers in the NBA, but he must do more of the little things in order to justify the big money.
Joe Johnson, $19,752,645
The Atlanta Hawks were eager to shed Johnson's ridiculous contract, which has four years and about $89 million left on it. Brooklyn Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov has a ridiculous amount of money and is willing to spend it. So the trade this summer made everyone happy. Johnson and Deron Williams (five years, $98M) make up an expensive, excellent backcourt.
Amar'e Stoudemire, $19,948,799
Stoudemire signed a five-year, $100M deal with New York in the summer of 2010 and immediately returned the Knicks to relevance. His stats dipped and his star dimmed once the team acquired Carmelo Anthony, but maybe he can take solace in cashing a slightly larger check than his ballhog teammate.
Gilbert Arenas, $20,807,922
No one wants Agent Zero on their team any more, thanks mainly to his bum knees, but someone still has to pay him. That will be the Orlando Magic, who amnestied Arenas but still owe him more than $45M for the next two years. He hooked on with the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of last season but is currently not on an NBA roster.
Dirk Nowitzki, $20,907,128
Nowitzki has spent his entire NBA career with the Mavericks and quietly signed a four-year, $80M deal with Dallas in the summer of 2010. That contract had an immediate payoff as Dirk led the Mavs to the 2011 championship. So even if he's a little overpaid now, no one should begrudge Nowitzki's hefty salary in the final years of a Hall of Fame career.
Brandon Roy, $21,459,805
With no cartilage left in his knees, Roy couldn't live up to the five-year, $82M contract he signed with Portland in 2010. The Blazers used the amnesty clause on Roy, who then retired before signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who will pay $5.1M of the money Roy is owed this season.
Kobe Bryant, $27,849,000
Yes, he's by far the highest-paid player in the league. He'll make over $10M more this season than LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the NBA's two best players. But hey, Kobe has been worth every penny for the Lakers over the past 16 years, plus the guy can still play. He nearly won his second scoring title last season and will go after his sixth ring this season. Either way, Bryant will top this list again next year, when he'll make over $30M.