The current NBA playoffs are already producing some surprising results. The Eastern Conference’s top team the Milwaukee Bucks have already been eliminated in the first round by the eighth seed Miami Heat.
The Western Conference’s second seed Memphis Grizzlies have also been eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers. This is the first season any play-in teams have advanced past the first round. LA won its first play-in game to finish seventh, while the Heat had to win their second to finish eighth.
But while attention is now locked on the playoffs, both players and owners will soon be focused on talks for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). These talks will decide the league’s future direction the next few years, and some key questions must be resolved.
Perhaps the most important is the issue of load management, the tendency of teams to rest key players throughout the 82 game season.
Fewer players are making it through the entire season without injury, and even less attempt to play every game.
Both the Commissioner and owners have repeatedly sought to put some type of minimum game requirement provision into contracts, a move the union has repeatedly opposed.
Players rightly argue the playoffs are the most critical games. But owners maintain that fans want to see stars when they attend games, and sitting out top players robs them of that opportunity.
It has been suggested that a 65-game minimum be imposed for players to win MVP honors or make one of the three all-NBA teams, another provision that the union doesn’t embrace. How this is eventually decided should prove instructive.
A related issue also concerns the season and how it plays out. Commissioner Adam Silver has proposed a mid-season tournament, but there seems little interest in that. There’s been some talk about cutting the season more into halves, with first and second half champions, but that’s also not exactly been endorsed by either players or owners.
The league is also talking about establishing its own streaming service similar to the deal MLS has with Apple+ or the NFL with YouTube.
Once the talks begin in earnest though, the load management issue is expected to dominate the agenda..
How that gets worked out will be a huge factor moving forward in how the league seasons evolve and unfold over the next few years.