The small forward position is home to some of the best players in the NBA. It has been proven that you need a good small forward to excel in this league. That might explain why there are some overpayments on this list for aging stars. You also need to take into account that some players play the position that are officially listed as a different position. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lebron James, and Jayson Tatum are all wings who have transitioned to a power forward role. Let's look at the 10 highest-paid small forwards for the 2023-24 NBA season.
10 highest-paid small forwards for the 2023-24 NBA season
10. Cameron Johnson – $25,679,348
Cameron Johnson started the 2022-23 season strong with the Phoenix Suns. A 29-point game against the Minnesota Timberwolves made people believe that he was the wing sidekick that Devin Booker needed. Johnson then tore his meniscus and had to sit out for 10 weeks, slowing the momentum he was gaining. He was then included with Mikal Bridges in the trade to the Brooklyn Nets that saw Kevin Durant come the other way. After coming over from the Suns, Johnson averaged 16.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.4 steals while shooting 46.8 percent from the field. The Nets rewarded him with a four-year, $94.5 million contract extension.
Going into the 2023-24 season, Johnson is recovering from a hamstring injury he sustained in training. He is likely to have to miss most of the preseason but should be able to return before the start of the season. The Nets hope that Ben Simmons will find his form this season and form a competitive lineup with Johnson and Bridges.
9. DeMar DeRozan – $28,600,000
DeMar DeRozan had a second straight efficient season in the Bulls offense. His scoring dropped by 3.4 points per game as Zach Lavine shouldered more of the load, but he averaged 24.5 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game. DeRozan could be a trade candidate this season, as he is on an expiring deal, and the Bulls aren't projected to be a contender in the East. The aging star is past his ceiling of All-NBA teams but can still contribute to a contending team. An NBA championship still eludes him since the Toronto Raptors won the season after they traded him. DeRozan's next contract isn't likely to keep him in the top-10 salaries amongst small forwards, but at the expiration of his deal, he will have $257 million in career earnings.
8. Khris Middleton – $29,320,988
When the Milwaukee Bucks traded Jrue Holiday to acquire Damian Lillard, many questioned getting rid of a big piece of their NBA championship run. Khris Middleton was another factor in that championship win and will be coming into this season more healthy than the last. Middleton had knee issues last season, limiting him to only 33 games. He had surgery in the offseason and should be available for the regular season despite not starting the year in camp. “I feel great. I don't have the pain that I had last year. But it was a decision that was made halfway through the season, I would say, where I was just going to have to get it fixed. It wasn't a hard decision at all,” Middleton said.
With the duo of Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo and a healthy Middleton, the Bucks arguably have their best chance at winning another title.
7. Gordon Hayward – $31,500,000
The Hornets will be hoping for a healthy Gordon Hayward in 2022-23 as injuries have submarined his Charlotte career. He hasn't been able to play more than 50 games yet and now finds himself on the outside looking in of the rotation. In his first seven games of 2022-23, Hayward averaged 18.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. The Hornets thought they were finally getting the Hayward that they were paying $31.5 million per year for, but injuries took over again. Shoulder, hamstring, and thumb injuries limited his playing time. However, he will be 100% healthy to start this season.
The Hornets drafted Brandon Miller in the offseason, and Miles Bridges will return. Hayward will need quite a turnaround this season to get back into starter's minutes, so until then, Hayward will be an expensive bench player.
6. Jaylen Brown – $31,830,357
Jaylen Brown's deal is currently the richest contract in NBA history, but that's likely to change as the salary cap increases. Brown's deal was a five-year, $306 million contract. The deal has a full guarantee, includes a trade kicker, and doesn't contain a player option for any season. Brown's struggles in the playoffs against Miami were a hot topic, but that doesn't change the fact that he is vital to the future success of the Celtics. He has at least 20.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in four consecutive campaigns and posted career highs in points, rebounds, and assists per game in 2022-23.
Brown's ballhandling duties will increase now that Marcus Smart has gone to Memphis. The team has acquired Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis, but the offense will likely start with Brown. He averaged 3.3 turnovers per game in the playoffs, so he will need to clean up that area of his game to earn his contract.
5. Michael Porter Jr. – $33,386,850
Michael Porter Jr. was the Nuggets' sixth man on their championship run in 2022. After playing just nine games in 2021-22, many were shocked when Denver gave Porter the five-year, $179 million contract. However, the team's gamble paid off when he averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1 assist per game in 29 minutes. The Nuggets plan to put Porter Jr. into the starting lineup this season, but they may have hit a snag when Porter sprained his left ankle in a training camp practice. He was seen in a walking boot, but the injury isn't considered serious.
If Porter Jr. can hold on to the starter's minutes, his 21.6 points per 36 last season should translate into career highs. A starting five of Porter Jr., Jamaal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sets the Nuggets up for back-to-back championships. However, Porter Jr. will have to progress to be worthy of being the fifth-highest-paid small forward in the league.
4. Brandon Ingram – $33,833,400
Brandon Ingram's points per game has climbed every season since he entered the league, culminating in 24.7 last season. Ingram has always been an elite scorer but also put up a career-high 5.8 assists per game last season. He also had a career-high usage rate last season, but the numbers will skew this season with the return of Zion Williamson.
The 26-year-old forward is eligible for a contract extension, but any deal would be capped at about $160 million for three years. By waiting until next summer, Ingram would instead be eligible for an extension worth up to about $220 million for four years or $330 million for five seasons if he should get named to an All-NBA Team in 2023-24. Ingram has plenty to gain by delaying extension talks and balling out this season.
3. Jimmy Butler – $45,183,960
Jimmy Butler thought he would have Damian Lillard as a running mate this season, but he went to Milwaukee. Then he thought Jrue Holiday may get flipped to Miami, but he went to Boston. Butler has now seen his two most challenging competitors improve while the Heat stay the same. He was in his usual trolling mood when Butler came to training camp, taking attention away from the rest of the news surrounding the team.
Butler has been a clutch competitor in the playoffs these past two seasons. He is averaging over 26.9 points per game in the last two runs. He has made a name for himself by beating the better competition and upset the Bucks, Knicks, and the Celtics last season. The run came up short in the finals against the Nuggets, but Butler has cemented a legacy in Miami regardless. It may be tough to repeat his performance this season, but one person not to rule out is Butler.
2. Kawhi Leonard – $45,640,084
Kawhi Leonard underwent a clean-up procedure in June and will have a full recovery by training camp. He will be healthy to begin the season, but will he be able to keep it up all season? It's an encouraging sign to see the oft-injured superstar meeting his rehab timelines after numerous absences in recent years. Leonard was starting to look like himself before tearing his meniscus in the Clippers' playoff opener last season. Leonard did well in his 35 regular-season games last season. He had 27.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.6 steals in 36.1 minutes per game. If he can perform at that level for Los Angeles in 2023-24, the Clippers could find their way back into NBA championship contention.
The high-profile signings of Leonard and Paul George have been a bust so far for the Clippers. They have two more years if each takes their player options next offseason. If both stay healthy and Russell Westbrook contributes enough, the Clippers can make a run. The problem is all of these “ifs” are big question marks, and it would be surprising if they all came true.
1. Kevin Durant – $47,649,433
Durant hasn't been able to stay healthy, and his big three with Kyrie Irving and James Harden didn't work out in Brooklyn. The Phoenix Suns acquired him to play alongside Devin Booker and Chris Paul. They made it to the Western Conference Semifinals but fell in six games to the Denver Nuggets. Durant was brought in to carry the Suns to a title, but his 29.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game in the postseason couldn't get it done.
So what would Kevin Durant do to help his chances at winning an NBA title? You're correct if you guessed that he would form a big three. The Suns acquired Bradley Beal to play alongside Durant and Booker. It should be an intriguing dynamic for three elite scorers to be on the floor concurrently, but Durant knows how to make it work after his time as a small forward with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.