Lakers starters walk onto the court after a timeout during their loss to the Dallas Mavericks in their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles

Lakers had the highest luxury tax bill last season, followed by these five teams


It is theoretically possible to buy the talent necessary to win a championship in the NBA, but especially since the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement went into effect, it would come at a very substantial cost.

We’ll get to that in a moment.

For now, let’s look at the teams who were served with the biggest luxury tax bills for their respective 2012-13 payrolls.

From Marc Stein of

Your NBA luxury-tax champions from the 2012-13 season? Lakers informed tonight that they were officially charged $29,259,739 in ’12-13 tax

Rest of NBA’s 2012-13 tax bills: 2. MIA ($13,346,242), 3. BKN ($12,883,647), 4. NYK ($9,962,406), 5. CHI ($3,932,336), 6. BOS ($1,181,640)

As has been well-chronicled, the roster of the Lakers failed due mainly to a rash of injuries over the course of the season to key players, but also because of an inability from Dwight Howard to ever truly buy in to the team concept.

L.A. tried to assemble top talent to compete for a title, and paid for it handsomely. The team right behind them on the list of taxpayers was the Miami Heat, who won a second straight championship while paying less than 50 percent of the tax that the Lakers did in the process of getting swept in the first round of the playoffs.

The Nets will seemingly always be taxpayers while their billionaire owner is in charge, and it gets worse for them next season when the new tax penalties kick in — as Stein also reported.

Wanna know how new NBA world works? With essentially same payroll as Lakers last season, Nets will owe $70+ mil in tax after 2013-14 season

You read right, my friends. Nets projected, at this early juncture, to owe somewhere between $72M and $77M in taxes after coming season

The Knicks are another large market that can afford the penalties, and so are the Bulls, who went as far as New York in the playoffs despite their injury-ravaged roster.

What is never mentioned in payroll considerations is the TV deals in certain markets that are conveniently kept separated from these discussions. The Lakers, Nets, and Knicks have substantial, long-term television contracts that can more than offset much of these costs. Other teams, however, are not so fortunate.

The list will be very different next season, as teams like the Lakers and Celtics who seemingly will have no shot to compte for a title will fall off, while the overall bills will decrease due to the increased tax penalties levied by the new collective bargaining agreement.

There will always be teams that may be willing to try to pay for a title, but despite those best efforts, we learned that nothing is guaranteed. You need to look no further than the way that the previous season unfolded with the Lakers in Los Angeles to come to that realization.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.