NBA’s Load Management Policy Reduced Missed Games by Stars

The introduction of the NBA’s Player Participation Policy (PPP) in September led to a step in the right direction when it comes to stars playing more games.

One intention of the policy was to reduce “load management,” or players resting for minor injuries despite being capable of playing. Between the 2017-18 and 2022-23 seasons, the number of instances in which a star player played one game of a back-to-back but not the other (excluding multi-game injuries and Game 82) nearly doubled (from 47 to 88).

More from

This season, that number came down to 77, a more than 10% reduction.

At the Board of Governors Press Conference on April 10, commissioner Adam Silver said that overall games missed by star players were down roughly 15% from last year’s regular season. “We talked a fair amount about the new Player Participation Policy this year, which has been discussed a lot throughout the year, the 65-game threshold for being eligible for certain awards. I think the view in the room was that it’s working,” Silver said.

The new guidelines were effective not only in limiting rest but also in altering when and where that rest occurred. The policy states that “teams must maintain a balance between the number of absences for a star player in road games and home games, with a preference for home games.”

In 2022-23, 77% of instances of star players resting occurred in away arenas. This season, the home/road split for such absences was nearly 50-50, with just one additional instance of rest on the road versus at home. That dramatic shift helps the league ensure that as many fanbases as possible get a chance to see every superstar play in their hometown at least once.

Teams generally complied without the NBA having to get involved. The league announced just one PPP-related fine, when the Brooklyn Nets were penalized $100,000 for benching four rotation players at home against the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 27. A review by an independent physician determined that the players could have played under the league’s medical standard.

The NBA's crackdown on load management wasn't without controversy, though. A point of contention was the section in the league’s collective bargaining agreement stating that players must play more than 20 minutes in at least 65 regular-season games to be eligible for MVP, All-NBA teams, Defensive Player of the Year or All-Defensive teams.

It wasn’t that a bunch of deserving All-NBA candidates ended up ineligible, since players such as Donovan Mitchell (55 games) and Jimmy Butler (60 games) probably wouldn’t be chosen even if they were eligible. Criticism for the rule mounted when Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton returned quickly from a hamstring injury to avoid falling below the 65-game threshold. Given the terms of his contract extension, Haliburton stands to gain about $40 million if he makes an All-NBA team this year.

Haliburton’s level of play severely declined upon his return. He averaged 23.6 points and 12.5 assists per game before the injury but just 16.8 points and 9.3 assists per game afterwards. Haliburton still has a strong chance to earn an All-NBA nod and get the bag because of his early-season performance, but potentially at a cost to his team and his own body.

Another example: Despite playing 75 games at a high level, New York Knicks’ center Isaiah Hartenstein is ineligible for All-Defense because he began the season playing less than 20 minutes a night as a reserve before being thrust into a starting role in December. These two cases may lead to the league reviewing and possibly tweaking the 65-game limit to deal with edge situations like these.

But at the end of the day, the NBA’s new policies fulfilled their primary goal, which was to get players to play more. Case in point: Kawhi Leonard played at least 65 games for the first time since 2016-17.

Best of