The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement with the players association includes a provision meant to curb load management, requiring a 65-game minimum to qualify for the league's awards, including All-NBA.
The rules will be installed next season if the CBA is ratified by team owners and players, but if they were set now, five players on Yahoo Sports senior writer Dan Devine's All-NBA ballot — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard — likely would not qualify. (There are three vague exceptions to the 65-game rule, per The Athletic: "One for bad faith on the part of teams, an injury exception and one for unjust circumstances.")
The new CBA also removes positional requirements for All-NBA players, which means voters no longer need to consider two guards, two forwards and one center for each team. It remains to be seen whether the panel will adhere to the tradition of creating five-man units that resemble an actual basketball lineup, but just for fun, here is what the 2023 All-NBA teams might look like if the new requirements were in place:
All-NBA first team
G: Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers (68 games)
G: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder (68 games)
F: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (74 games)
C: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (66 games)
C: Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets (69 games)
All-NBA second team
G: Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks (66 games)
C: Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings (79 games)
All-NBA third team
G: Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks (68 games)
F: Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics (67 games)
Most of those selections seem pretty clear with the possible exception of DeRozan, who could be replaced by Anthony Edwards, Darius Garland, Bam Adebayo, Evan Mobley or any number of fringe candidates.
Not so bad a list. Also not a great representation of this season as a whole for future reference, which is the point of creating these time capsules. Butler and Antetokounmpo, who missed the threshold by one and two games, respectively, might have played a few more games to guarantee themselves a spot, but most notable absentees — mainly Curry, James, Durant and Leonard — missed the mark by nine-plus games.
Would they play through ailments to qualify? Is risking their health good for the game? We shall see.
All in all, 11 of the 24 players originally selected to the All-Star Game did not play 65 games this season. All three injury replacements — Fox, Siakam and Edwards — met the threshold. For reference, 33 players in 34 seasons (roughly one per year) since the league moved to three All-NBA teams received the honor and failed to make that season's All-Star team. Remarkably, everyone but Brunson on the aforementioned list was an All-Star this season. Theoretically, the new rules will increase the number of those selections.
Additionally, Antetokounmpo, a top-three MVP candidate, and Jaren Jackson Jr., the Defensive Player of the Year on both Devine's ballot and colleague Vincent Goodwill's ballot, would not qualify for either award.
Is it worth squeezing a handful more games from these stars to risk rewarding less prestigious candidates? It may well be to the fans who pay to see the stars. It may not be for the NBA. The league might not like the look of next year's All-NBA rosters if the incentive does not have its desired effect, and the first player to miss out on a supermax contract because he fell just short of the 65-game requirement will be more upset.