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NBA AM: How the Playoff Pool Works

Salary cap guru Eric Pincus breaks down how much money each team gets from the NBA’s playoff pool.



The NBA found itself in an odd situation this past week, suspending Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dahntay Jones one game for striking Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo in the groin.

Jones wasn’t fined, but his suspension cost him 110th of his salary for the season – a measly $80.17.

The complication is Jones’ salary for the season.  Given he signed on the very last day of the regular season on a two-year deal, Jones is earning just $8,819 for the 2015-16 campaign.  He’s also under contract for a non-guaranteed $1.6 million for next season.

“League would have been better off giving Dahntay Jones a fine instead of a suspension. Suspension = 110 of 2015-16 salary,” tweeted The Vertical’s Bobby Marks on Sunday.

But that’s problematic as well. Golden State Warriors forward/center Draymond Green was levied $25,000 for kicking Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams in the groin, avoiding suspension.  The NBA couldn’t very well fine Jones three times his total salary for a penalty on par with Green’s.

The natural follow-up is, how much will Jones make for playing in the postseason?

As far as base salary from Cleveland, Jones and his teammates aren’t compensated directly for postseason play.  They will, however, receive a portion of the NBA’s $15 million playoff pool.

Thus far, Cleveland has already earned $1.3 million for the best record in the Eastern Conference, along with two series wins this postseason.

The winner of the NBA Finals will take home an additional $2.7 million, while the loser pockets $1.8 million.  Of course, the Cavaliers need to get past the Raptors to qualify.

The following table details the playoff pool distribution formula for the 2015-16 postseason:

Accomplishment Team Amount
Top Overall Record Warriors $432,632
Best Record in Conference Warriors/Cavaliers $378,553 ea.
Second-Best Record in Conference Spurs/Raptors $304,263 ea.
Third Best Record in West Thunder $227,132
Third Best Record in East (tie) HEAT/Hawks/Celtics/Hornets $56,783 ea.
Fourth Best Record in West Clippers $178,501
Fourth Best Record in East (tie) HEAT/Hawks/Celtics/Hornets $44,625 ea.
Fifth Best Record in West Blazers $148,738
Fifth Best Record in East (tie) HEAT/Hawks/Celtics/Hornets $37,185 ea.
Sixth Best Record in West (tie) Mavericks/Grizzlies $50,724 ea.
Sixth Best Record in East (tie) HEAT/Hawks/Celtics/Hornets $25,362 ea.
First-Round Teams Warriors/Spurs/Thunder/Clippers
Houston Rockets/Cavaliers/Raptors
Indiana Pacers/Detroit Pistons
$223,864 ea.
Second-Round Teams Warriors/Spurs/Thunder/Blazers
$266,369 ea.
Conference Finals Warriors/Thunder/Cavaliers/Raptors $440,173 ea.
Finals Champion TBD $2,656,422
Finals Runner-Up TBD $1,760,210
Total $15,000,000

Note: Ties are not broken as they are for postseason seeding.  Instead, the shares are split among teams with equal records.

The following table details how much each team has earned, with the NBA Finals opponents yet to be determined:

Team Amount
Warriors $1,741,591
Cavaliers $1,308,959
Raptors $1,234,669
Thunder $1,157,538
Spurs $794,496
Heat $654,188
Hawks $654,188
Blazers $638,971
Clippers $402,365
Celtics $387,819
Hornets $387,819
Mavericks $274,588
Grizzlies $274,588
Pacers $223,864
Pistons $223,864
Rockets $223,864
TBD $4,416,632
Total $15,000,000

Jones will receive a portion of the Cavaliers’ playoff bonus, which can climb as high as $4 million should Cleveland win their first title in franchise history.  A back-to-back trip to the Finals without a win would still up the team’s share to $3.1 million.

How much will go to Jones will be up to the team, as the players on each franchise decide how to split up their share.

If the Cavaliers lose their series to the Raptors, and the players decide to split their pool 16 ways (one share for each player plus the team’s equipment manager), Jones’ share would come out to roughly $82,000. If the team goes on to win the championship, his share could climb to $250,000.

Eric Pincus is a Senior Writer for Basketball Insiders, with a focus on the business side of the game.

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