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Are players underpaid when they participate in the NBA playoffs?

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Another possible issue to come up in the next collective bargaining agreement is how much players will be paid for participating in the lucrative NBA playoffs.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

NBA max players have little incentive to participate in the playoffs, except for pride, since "the NBA's salary cap restricts teams from providing significant bonuses to players for post-season performances," according to Investopedia. Gradually over the years, money has become the focus of NBA players, rather than team glory as the money involved has dramatically increased.

A max player who has a $20 million guaranteed contract, gets $250,000 per game for 80 games during a season. Figures for 2013 post-season play show the average pay for a player was:

  • $7,761 for the first round or $1,300 per game (6 games)
  • $9,234 for second round or $1,500 per game (6 games)
  • $15,259 for third round or $2,500 per game (6 games)
  • $61,020 Finals loser or $10,000 per game (6 games)
  • $92,080 Finals winner or $15,300 per (6 games)

For a max player the total pay for the entire 2013 post-season play didn't even add up what he received for one game during the season. While teams, the media and merchandisers reaped generous profits, the players themselves gained very little financially for their work in the playoffs. This is an issue that might be addressed in the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

The NBA Finals have decent money for players, but the first, second, and third round players of the playoffs really stick out as being underpaid. The ones who get eliminated early are the most easily swayed that playoff paydays are too meager to matter. Elimination doesn't leave a good taste in their mouth on taking pay cuts "for the good of the team."

What's lacking is a bonus for team excellence, as measured by participating in the playoffs per the current CBA. Players compete between each other for their share of the team's cap space. What one player gains, another team member loses. Especially next season the stakes will become very high in figuring how much money is left on the table for another player to take.

Is it worth to spend the $20 million or more extra in salary to build a championship-contending team and lose prized lottery picks? That's something an owner has to decide. The negotiations this season have more to do with how much Miami Heat owner Micky Arison is willing to pay his players, than what Dwyane Wade is asking.

Is Arison willing to pay penance for amnestying Mike Miller, to show the players he sees their services as more than numbers in an accounting ledger? What Arison does now to build a NBA Finals contender, regardless of a painful personal cost to himself, would have him take a leadership role in paving the way for a less acrimonious CBA discussion, where hopefully owners and players would be on the same page.

Who knows, LeBron James might even warm up to Arison when he sees Arison is doing right by his buddy Dwayne Wade.