Earlier this week, it was announced that the NBA and the National Basketball Players' Association reached a tentative agreement on a new seven-year collective bargaining agreement. Before it is official, the deal will need to be ratified by players and league governors, though that is widely expected to go through without issue.
Highlights of the deal include some provisions to try to cut down on spending from some of the league's biggest luxury tax violators, a mid-season tournament, and an increase in two-way contract slots. The two sides also agreed to raise the upper limits on possible extensions from 120% more than the current deal to a 140% increase.
Also, players may be able to invest in teams. Details on that end are scarce, but could we see a player-owner situation anytime soon? Cough, *LeBron James owning a Las Vegas expansion team*, cough, cough.
Another new wrinkle for next season will be a games-played threshold for a player to be considered for postseason awards. In order to win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, or be named to an All-NBA team, a player will need to play in at least 65 games.
The Load Management Debate
Load management has become an increasingly contentious issue in recent seasons, particularly in the span of time between Christmas and the trade deadline when the basketball media has nothing better to talk about. There was the video of a kid holding a sign saying he'd traveled all the way from Argentina just to see Jimmy Butler play, finding out that Jimmy Butler was not, in fact, playing that night, and reacting like he'd found out his puppy had been sold. Or any number of players from the '90s talking about how modern players are "soft" because they're not willing to play every night, modern science be damned.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. It is a huge bummer to show up to a game and find out one of the marquis players is sitting out. Say you live in Detroit and you're a massive Steph Curry fan. The Warriors only come to town once per season, and those tickets are way more expensive than, say, Hornets tickets. But Steph is your guy so you shell out the extra bucks for the chance to see him play. To find out 45 minutes before the game that actually he's not playing because the Warriors are on the second night of a back-to-back and so Curry is resting for preventative reasons is a total gut punch.
But it's also totally unfair and asinine to say the players don't want to play. Of course they want to play. They also want and need to be available for their team's respective playoff pushes. Leading a team on a championship run cements a player's legacy and more importantly is a huge boost to their earning potential, whether it be via their next contract or via endorsements. So sitting out the middle game of a five-game road trip in January is a pretty prudent decision when you're thinking about games in May and June.
The real solution is probably to cut back on the amount of games in the regular season. Maybe go from 82 to 76 or 72. Just enough to avoid any back-to-back nights and cut out all three-games-in-four-nights scenarios. Unfortunately, that's a non-starter for the league's governors. The TV deals are too juicy to cut out a handful of games.
A New Solution?
And so, with this most recent CBA, the idea is that instituting a minimum of 65 games played in order to be considered for postseason awards will incentivize players to play more games.
This likely won't impact MVP, Defensive Player of the Year or Rookie of the Year all that much. Bill Walton is the only player to have earned league MVP honors in a full 82-game season while playing fewer than 65 games. Generally speaking, voters already consider the amount of games played when casting their votes for these individual awards. The best ability is availability.
The real difference could come in All-NBA selections. The NBA hands out first-, second- and third-team All-NBA honors. Just last season, Steph Curry, Ja Morant and Kevin Durant were all named to the All-NBA second team, despite playing fewer than 65 games apiece. LeBron James was named to the All-NBA third team with just 56 games played. Under the new CBA, all four of those superstars would be deemed ineligible. All of those players had legitimate injuries last season where they were forced to miss several weeks at a time. Truthfully, the only reason they all weren't considered for first-team All-NBA is because of their lack of games played.
The consequences for making All-NBA can be huge for a player's earning potential. Players who make All-NBA teams qualify for "supermax" extensions. It's not out of the realm of possibility that a player like LeBron or Steph Curry will fail to qualify for All-NBA honors next season, even though they would likely rank among most voters' top 15 players in the league. With anyone who's played fewer than 65 games ineligible, this opens up opportunities for the next guys down the line to make an All-NBA team and then sign a supermax extension.
Draymond Green: Owners Will Complain About Giving a "Bum" an Extension
Draymond Green sort of weighed in on this possibility, in the most Draymond way possible. Speaking on his podcast, Green said, "I think owners are going to end up complaining when they find a bum that they have to give an extension to that made the All-NBA team." Saying some of your colleagues are "bums" is a strong choice, but there may be some truth in Draymond's words. If voters are not allowed to pick the 15 best players in the league, but really just the 15 best players who played at least 65 games, we may end up with some interesting snapshots of the league on a year-to-year basis.
"I can appreciate this and everyone will appreciate this until you got bums on the All-NBA team winning awards."
Draymond Green on the new 65-game minimum for league awards ?
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 5, 2023
The CBA does try to guard against random guys winding up on All-NBA teams by taking out positional requirements. Currently, each All-NBA team has two guards, two forwards, and one center. That's how you end up with Joel Embiid, last year's runner-up for MVP, making second team All-NBA.
Under the new guidelines, voters do not have to take positions into account when deciding who to name to first-, second- or third-team All-NBA. So in a season where there may not be a third center who would rate in the top 15 players in the league, we will see a guard or a forward take that spot. And perhaps if a few marquis players are deemed ineligible for the All-NBA teams, this position-less switch will give voters more flexibility in filling out their ballots so that they don't have to award 'bums.'
Will this make a real difference in how players approach load management? Unlikely, but that remains to be seen. Players know their contracts, and know what they have to achieve to unlock a better deal. They also have a good understanding of how much punishment their bodies can handle while still holding up for a playoff run. It's a difficult balance, but one that the best players seem to figure out every season
MORE: For the Philadelphia 76ers and These NBA Teams, It's Put Up or Shut Up in the Playoffs
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