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Does the NBA Need Games Played Award Rules?

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With awards season on its way for the NBA, the talk of winners has only increased. At the same time, the talks of how much games played matter have never been louder. Recent rumors from around the league have suggested the league and NBA Players Association have agreed that there should be a minimum number of games played to be in consideration for awards, something that could be a part of the next collective bargaining agreement. Some have argued for the minimum games limit while some have argued against it. With the MVP award being the most important award in the game, there are many reasons why there should and shouldn’t be games played minimum limit for awards. 

 

In the last 20 seasons, all of the MVP award winners have played at least 75% of their team’s games. The least number of games played by an MVP award winner was by LeBron James in the 2011-12 season, playing 62 (nearly 76%) of his team’s 82 games. In the last 20 seasons, there have only been four seasons where the winner has played all their team’s games. In the last 20 seasons, only eight seasons have seen the winner player 80 or more games, with the last being Russell Westbrook in the 2016-17 season. The majority of winners over the last two decades have played at least 70, or 85% of their team’s games. 

 

Limiting the number of games played to win the MVP award would not affect many players, but there are a few that could be impacted. Players like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, and Zion Williamson could all be affected by games played minimum. These players have all missed significant time this season or in prior seasons. For a player like Joel Embiid, games played have impacted his race to the MVP award. Last season, Embiid played 68 games compared to Nikola Jokic’s 74. In the 2020-21 season, Embiid played 51 of 72 games while Jokic played all 72 games. 

 

The goal of creating minimum games played limits for awards is to reduce the amount of load management happening in the league. Even with a lot of back-to-back games and three games in four-night stretches having been removed from the schedule, there is still a significant amount of load management taking place. Stars sitting games when healthy to put more focus on the playoffs has affected the NBA in multiple ways. While only a small handful of superstars sit out due to load management often, the trend has only grown in years. 

 

While there are plenty of reasons to put a limit on games played for awards, it can be argued that many of the players in contention for awards typically play most of their team’s games. There are only a small number of players who could be in contention for awards who don’t play enough games. Looking at this season’s MVP award race, the three main contenders in Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo have all played 75% or more of their team’s games without a limit being set. Other than trying to tackle the issue of load management, setting limits for award contention. With the NBA and NBAPA agreeing there should be a minimum limit of games played for award attention, we will not know for sure if one will be added or not until the next CBA is agreed upon.  

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