Kevin Durant has played at an MVP level this season but has only gotten in 47 games due to injury. Kawhi Leonard is at 50 games. LeBron James 53. Anthony Davis 54. Damian Lillard is at 58. Giannis Antetokounmpo is at 63.
Every one of them is in the mix for All-NBA and other honors this season — and every one would not qualify under the new NBA CBA that kicks in next season and will set a minimum bar of playing in 65 games to be eligible for postseason awards. Kevin Durant took a shot at that number on Twitter Friday.
Don’t count. Didn’t play 65 games https://t.co/slaYSpBrpj
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) April 7, 2023
Durant isn’t the only player who is not a fan of the 65-game limit, Draymond Green said this on his podcast (Green has played in 71 games this season).
"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"
—@Money23Green sounds off on the new 65 game requirement for major league awards pic.twitter.com/cilfWbvfxm
— The Volume (@TheVolumeSports) April 5, 2023
The NBA’s goal with the game’s played bar is to discourage load management and encourage their biggest stars to get on the court more, something that has been a real issue for the league this season. Except its not that simple. Durant is at 47 games because guys keep falling into his knee, and other players are dealing with legitimate injuries. Beyond that, a lot of the load management calls are made by team medical/training staffs, not the players themselves. Teams want to preserve players either for the playoffs or to help them avoid injuries because the wearable trackers guys have on in practice (or other team analytics) show muscle fatigue (which is when injuries are more likely).
The bottom line is teams are not going to change, load management is here to stay, and Green is right, there are going to be some iffy names on All-NBA if the bar is 65. (The league moving All-NBA to positionless, just the 15 best players, helps.)
With media postseason award ballots due Monday, there are voters struggling this season with the games played issue, and I am one of them. To use third-team All-NBA center as an example, Anthony Davis has been the third-best center in the league this season but has played in 54 games, while Domantas Sabonis has been an offensive force helping spark the Kings’ amazing run and has played 78 games. If they were close in games played, Davis would easily get my third-team vote, but what should be the line for All-NBA? In my mind, the bar for games played for All-NBA — a snapshot of the best players in the league at the time — is lower than an award such as MVP or Defensive Player of the Year (where being on the court matters to adding value).
Next season the NBA sets the bar for all awards at 65, which I think is way too high. What about 2/3 of the season (58 games)? Maybe 60% of the season for All-NBA (50 games). Or, perhaps just trust the voters to make the call?
Next year’s vote with the higher bar will see deserving players miss out.