The NBA just implemented a constraint to all awards, flirted with the idea of a frivolous mid-season tournament, and even initiated a rule change to combat flopping.
The newly introduced 65-game benchmark will determine a player’s eligibility to win end-of-season awards like the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and more. Players who do not play at least 65 games will be ineligible to make any of the three All-NBA teams.
As with all changes, this one has its pros and cons.
If the new changes were applied to last season’s All-NBA teams, players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, and Jimmy Butler, all of whom made one of the three All-NBA teams, would have been disqualified from the voting process for playing less than 65 games.
Does that seem right?
Is it justified to deny Giannis Antetokounmpo, a finalist for league MVP and member of the 2023 All-NBA first team, an All-NBA spot for playing 63 instead of 65 games?
To the same idea, Joel Embiid, the 2023 MVP and All-NBA first team player, and Luka Doncic, a 2023 All-NBA first team player, both played 66 games last season. So, in the event that a minor injury sidelined Embiid or Doncic for an additional two games, the All-NBA first team would look completely different.
In fact, Nikola Jokic would likely be a 3x MVP at the moment.
In its new collective bargaining agreement, the NBA also introduced the concept of positionless All-NBA voting.
In the past, teams consisted of five players with two guards, two forwards, and one center. For example, last year’s All-NBA first team included Luka Doncic (G), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (G), Giannis Antetokounmpo (F), Jayson Tatum (G), and Joel Embiid (C).
Nikola Jokic, the MVP runner-up, did not make the All-NBA first team.
In an offseason full of questionable changes to the league format, this will be the silver lining.
The All-NBA teams will finally consist of the 15 best players in the league, rather than the 6 best guards, 6 best forwards, and top 3 centers… so long as players meet the 65-game prerequisite.
Despite the dense aspects of the 65-game constraint, however, I would be remiss to ignore the fact that the NBA finally addressed its load management issue through the application of this new change.
Players like Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and Paul George head a list of modern day superstars who often miss a handful of road games due to “load management.”
In a day and age where players have access to top of the line trainers and nutritionists, superstars miss more games than ever.
When he won the MVP in 1996 and 1998, Michael Jordan played all 82 games. Kobe Bryant did the same in 2008, making him the last player to win MVP and play all 82 games.
Russell Westbrook was the last person who neared that achievement when he played 81 games in his 2016 MVP season.
Since Westbrook’s historic MVP season in 2016, however, only Nikola Jokic (74 games in 2022) has come close to playing all 82.
Players have begun to play the long game, resting throughout the season to preserve their energy for the playoffs, and the NBA decided that enough is enough. Players may rest if they choose, but they will not be recognized for their achievements if they miss more than 17 games.
Lastly, the NBA will implement a penalty for flopping by way of the technical foul. The opposing team will shoot one free throw and retain possession of the ball, but the player who flopped will not receive a personal foul.
All in all, the NBA and NBPA settled on a wide variety of changes this offseason, and it will be interesting to see how each one plays out in its own right.