Only Three of the 20 Highest Paid NBA Players Reached the Conference Finals

The NBA's 12 highest-paid players failed to reach the conference finals.
May 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates with Dallas
May 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates with Dallas / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently, money isn't everything in the NBA.

The league's conference finals are set after a slate of thrilling games to finish the second round. The Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves are still alive. While there are several stars dotting the rosters of the teams remaining, in a strange twist only three of the 20 highest-paid NBA stars are still alive at this stage.

A quick look at the largest salaries for the 2023-24 NBA season reveals that the 12 highest-paid players have all been eliminated. Guys like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard are out.

As a consequence, the only players in the top 20 still playing are Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, who is 13th, making $41 million this season, Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic, who is 16th at $40.1 million and Pacers forward Pascal Siakam, who is tied for 20th at $37.9 million.

A few guys still playing just missed the cut. Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving is 22nd ($37 million), Celtics guard Jrue Holiday is 23rd ($36.9 million), Minnesota big man Karl-Anthony Towns is 25th ($36 million) and Boston center Kristaps Porzingis is 26th ($36 million). Oddly, Celtics star Jayson Tatum is 39th at $32 million, while Jaylen Brown is 41st at $31.8 million. It's worth noting, Brown signed the biggest contract extension in NBA history last summer but it won't kick in until next season.

It's also worth noting that looking ahead to the 2024-25 season, players with the top eight salaries have been eliminated, as have all but four of the top 20.

This could just be a quirk of the season and the way matchups have played out in the postseason, but in some ways it does feel like a changing of the guard in the NBA. The Timberwolves and Pacers are rising, while the Celtics have established themselves as a perennial contender. In Dallas, it finally feels like the Doncic-Irving partnership has broken through and neither player has a cap-shattering contract.

Money isn't everything in the NBA. There's a lot to be said for the youth movement and salary flexibility currently populating the teams rising to the top of the league. It's too early to tell if it's a trend, but it's worth monitoring.

Ryan Phillips


Ryan Phillips is a Senior Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. Ryan has worked in digital media since 2009, spending eight years at The Big Lead before joining the SI team in 2024. He also co-hosts The Assembly Call Podcast about Indiana Hoosiers basketball and previously worked at Bleacher Report. Ryan is a proud San Diego native and a graduate of Indiana University’s journalism school.