Things to know about the NBA season: Lots of money, lots of talent, lots of stats

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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry warms up before an NBA preseason basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in San Francisco, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

NBA teams currently have about $4.8 billion in salary committed to players for this season, meaning the average per team is around $160 million.

Just three seasons ago, only two teams spent more than $160 million.

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The total NBA payroll — for now, pending changes based on whatever happens during the season that starts on Tuesday night — is up about 7% over last year, and has risen by 26% over what teams were paying just three years ago.

The teams with the six biggest payrolls going into this season, in order: Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Miami.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry will have the largest salary for the seventh consecutive season, checking in at just under $52 million. It’ll be the first time an NBA salary tops $50 million (and get used to that, because it’s going to happen a lot more often in the coming years).

Next season, those expected to join Curry in the $50 million a year club are Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Phoenix’s Bradley Beal — and the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, who is on pace to become the first player to break the $500 million mark in lifetime on-court earnings during the 2024-25 campaign (though James is also widely considered a billionaire already when factoring in his vast off-court empire).

KD RISING

Phoenix’s Kevin Durant enters the season 13th on the all-time scoring list. He could make the top 10 with ease, given that his total of 26,892 points is only 54 away from No. 12 Hakeem Olajuwon, 421 back of No. 11 Elvin Hayes (27,313) and 517 away from No. 10 Moses Malone (27,409).

From there, he’s 1,397 back of No. 9 Carmelo Anthony (28,289) and 1,704 behind No. 8 Shaquille O’Neal (28,596).

Durant is the only player likely to climb into the top 10 this season, and he might be the last for a little while. Philadelphia’s James Harden and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Russell Westbrook are about 3,000 points shy of that club as of now. Golden State’s Stephen Curry could get into the top 10 in about three seasons. Portland’s Damian Lillard will likely need at least five more seasons if he’s getting to the top 10, and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is probably at least six seasons away from having a chance.

TONS OF TALENT

— There are 63 players on season-opening rosters who have been in at least one All-Star Game.

— There are 41 players on season-opening rosters who have been picked to at least one All-NBA team.

— There were 25 instances of a player scoring at least 50 points in a game during the 2022-23 regular season. The NBA hadn't seen that many 50-point games since 1962-63, when there were 34 — four by Elgin Baylor, the other 30 by Wilt Chamberlain.

— There are 37 players in the league right now with at least one 50-point game on their resume.

ROOKIE WATCH

There have been 235 rookies in NBA history to score at least 1,000 points in their first season — never more than eight doing it in any one season. There were eight 1,000-point rookies in 1970-71, 1981-82 and 1992-93.

With San Antonio’s Victor Wembanyama, Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren (who counts as a rookie since he missed all of last year), Portland’s Scoot Henderson and Charlotte’s Brandon Miller likely to lead the way, it’s not outside the realm that there could be more than eight rookies to reach that scoring milestone this season.

Rookies combined to average 7.4 points per game last season. That was the highest overall rookie scoring average since 2009-10, when first-year players averaged 7.6 points per game.

BUSY DAYS

Expect a lot to be decided in the final eight days of the regular season — simply because there’s going to be a whole lot of games in that span.

There are 11 dates this season (as of now, some December games aren’t scheduled yet because of the in-season tournament) with at least 13 games on the schedule — and four of those slates come in the season’s final eight days.

There are 13 games on April 7, 14 on April 9, and 15 on both April 12 and April 14 — that one being the last day of the regular season.

November has a pair of 14-game dates: the 8th and the 22nd. Each either precedes or follows a day off, since there are no games in the NBA on Nov. 7 (Election Day) or Nov. 23 (Thanksgiving).

There are eight dates with just two games, the first of those being Tuesday’s opening-night slate.

A pair of Sundays — Dec. 3 and Dec. 10 — are also expected to be off days as well, given how the new in-season tournament is being scheduled. (There is a slight chance of a game on at least one of those days.) Other off days besides Election Day and Thanksgiving: Dec. 24 for Christmas Eve, April 8 for the NCAA men’s Division I basketball championship game and April 13, which the next-to-last day of the regular season.

DON’T BE LATE

If the game starts at 7:30, you might want to be watching at 7:30. If this season is like last season, the winner might be pretty clear not long after tip-off.

Teams with leads after one quarter went on to win 68.1% of the time during the 2022-23 regular season. That’s the best success rate since after-one-quarter leaders won at a 68.8% clip in 2013-14.

The teams with the best records when leading after one quarter during this past regular season: probably no surprise that it was Boston (39-8, .830), Milwaukee (42-9, .824), Denver (37-9, .804) and Sacramento 28-8 (.778).

Only one team had a losing record when leading after the first 12 minutes: Detroit went 7-12 (.368) in those situations.

Fans in Miami are notorious for not being in their seats at tip-off and settling into their chairs later in games, so maybe that explains this stat: The Heat had a league-best 15 wins last season when trailing after three quarters – and five more (another league high) in the play-in tournament and postseason.

PLAYER MILESTONES

— Russell Westbrook is two triple-doubles away from 200 in his regular-season career.

— Damian Lillard is 624 points shy of 20,000, and if he plays most of the year he should climb two spots to No. 4 on the all-time 3-pointers made list. He’s 63 back of No. 5 Kyle Korver and 173 back of No. 4 Reggie Miller.

— LeBron James has appeared in 1,421 regular-season games. That’s ninth-most in NBA history, three shy of No. 8 Kevin Willis, 41 shy of No. 7 Kevin Garnett and 55 shy of No. 6 Karl Malone. James should also pass Malone for No. 2 in minutes played; he’s at 54,094, while Malone played 54,852. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the record of 57,446.

— Chicago’s Andre Drummond needs 37 rebounds for 10,000.

TEAM MILESTONES

— Boston needs 30 wins for 3,600 all-time. The Celtics enter this season as the No. 1 team on the all-time wins list, 67 ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers (3,503). They have virtually the same all-time winning percentage entering this season; Boston’s is .5918, the Lakers’ is at .5915.

— Cleveland needs 16 wins for 2,000.

— Memphis needs 29 wins for 1,000.

COACHING MILESTONES

— Indiana’s Rick Carlisle enters the season with 896 wins and has a shot to move up the all-time list this season. He’s currently 14th — 39 behind No. 13 Dick Motta, 42 behind No. 12 Red Auerbach and 48 behind No. 11 Bill Fitch.

— Miami’s Erik Spoelstra has 704 wins, three back of John MacLeod for 19th all-time.

— New York’s Tom Thibodeau and Golden State’s Steve Kerr should get to the 500-win mark; Thibodeau needs 23 victories, Kerr needs 27. They would be the 36th and 37th coaches to win that many. Kerr would become the 14th coach to win 500 with a single team; Phil Jackson (with Chicago and the Los Angeles Lakers) did it twice, with Gregg Popovich (San Antonio), Jerry Sloan (Utah), Auerbach (Boston), Spoelstra, Red Holzman (New York), John MacLeod (Phoenix), Al Attles (Golden State), Carlisle (Dallas), Don Nelson (Milwaukee), Pat Riley (Lakers), Gene Shue (Washington) and Rudy Tomjanovich (Houston) the others to win 500 with one franchise.

REF MILESTONES

Some NBA referees are in line to reach some milestones this season as well.

Among them: John Goble is seven games away from 1,000 in his regular-season career, Brian Forte is 44 shy of 1,000, Scott Foster is 25 away from 1,700 and Tony Brothers is 10 games shy of that 1,700-game mark.

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