At $5,828,090 million, James is the top earner among former first-round picks operating under the rookie scale. This group includes players whose maximum contract extensions kick in next season (James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh) and those who are on track to break the bank down the line (Dwight Howard and Chris Paul).
2 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
Monta Ellis, Warriors
Golden State's second-leading scorer and No. 1 bargain ($664,209) has emerged as a Most Improved Player Award candidate, leading a pack of draft-day steals making six-figure salaries. Among the others: Boston's Ryan Gomes, Cleveland's Anderson Varejao and Utah rookie Paul Millsap.
3 of 10John Biever/SI
DeShawn Stevenson, Wizards
It's not easy to secure a serviceable starter for less than $1 million (the Lakers' Smush Parker and Clippers' Quinton Ross come to mind as well). Stevenson reportedly rejected a three-year, $10 million deal from Orlando in the offseason and ended up taking the league minimum for a player with six years of service.
4 of 10John W. McDonough/SI
Luke Walton, Lakers
The 32nd pick in the 2003 draft quietly has blossomed in his fourth season, his first as a regular starter. Walton ranks among the league leaders in field-goal and three-point percentage, and he's averaging four assists per game from the small-forward position.
5 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
Bruce Bowen, Spurs
He may be limited offensively and Shaq-like at the foul line, but Bowen is one of the game's best perimeter defenders and spot-up three-point shooters. The two-time NBA champion earns his paycheck -- which, incidentally, is about $1.5 million below the league average -- as he hasn't missed a game since 2002, making him the league's current iron man.
6 of 10Bob Rosato/SI
Andres Nocioni, Bulls
The fan favorite does a bit of everything, from taking charges and defending much bigger players at power forward to making hustle plays and hitting three-pointers. The 27-year-old Argentine figures to command a hefty raise as a free agent next offseason.
7 of 10John W. McDonough/SI
Chauncey Billups, Pistons
The steady, clutch floor leader almost certainly will opt out of the last year of his contract after the season and seek a deal commensurate with his status as an elite point guard.
8 of 10Tim Heitman/Getty Images
Ron Artest, Kings
You may have heard that he can be a handful, but one of the NBA's top all-around talents is the third-highest-paid player on his own team, and he's under contract for $7.4 million both next season and in 2008-09.
9 of 10John W. McDonough/SI
Steve Nash, Suns
The back-to-back MVP winner ranks as only the NBA's 44th highest-paid player. The real question, of course, is whether Nash and his troublesome back will hold up on the tail end of his contract, which runs through 2009-10. Nash, who turns 33 in February, is on pace to average a career high in minutes in his 11th season.
10 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
Yao Ming, Rockets
Yes, the No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft has yet to win a postseason series. And yes, technically he can't make any more than he already does, since his contract is maxed out through the 2010-11 season. Still, he's a relative bargain considering 32 players make more than the league's premier center. Yao is giving Houston about 26 points (on 53 percent shooting), nine rebounds and two blocks a game.
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