Indiana Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton might be the biggest breakout player in the NBA this season. He is also currently demonstrating the pitfalls of the NBA’s new load management rules.
The facts are these:
Add all that up and what does it spell?
One of the NBA’s burgeoning superstars could lose out on more than $40 million because he sustained an injury that caused him to miss a few weeks in January and was subsequently deemed ineligible due to rules designed to stop, say, Kyrie Irving from sitting out half of a back-to-back.
With 13 games missed and another short of the 20-minute requirement, Haliburton can only miss three games and must play at least 20 minutes in every other one in order to qualify for All-NBA. If he sustains an injury that causes him to miss even a week, his award campaign is probably done.
As the NBA’s current leader in assists per game and a 20-point-per-game scorer, he would have a strong case if he played in only 60 games, but the NBA’s stipulations have taken the flexibility out of the situation.
So it’s understandable Haliburton isn’t particularly happy with the NBA right now, as he told The Athletic’s James Boyd:
“I think it’s a stupid rule, like plenty of the guys in the league, but this is what the owners want, so as players, we gotta do our job and play in 65 games if we’re able to,” Haliburton said after practice Monday. “So, that’s what I gotta do, take care of my body to be able to play in those games, and I think you’re seeing other players in the league kind of face the same thing. As long as the owners are happy.”
To be clear, you can only feel so sorry for Haliburton when he’s already guaranteed $200 million, but the point Haliburton is making is that money will just be going to the NBA’s owners, who need it even less.
It’s especially ironic that Haliburton is the one being adversely impacted here given that his breakout played a huge role in making the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament a success. In fact, Haliburton is having the exact kind of season that the $40 million trigger, the “higher max criteria,” is designed to award.
This isn’t the only developing situation with the 65-game threshold either, as it could very well decide the MVP race. Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid is currently one of the favorites alongside Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, but Embiid is now six absences away from missing the threshold.
Missing over 17 games should definitely hurt a player’s MVP and All-NBA cases, but Embiid is currently leading the league with 36 points per game. He might be good enough on a game-by-game basis to be more valuable than Jokic (who has missed only one game this season).
That would be an interesting question for an MVP voter to ponder, but the NBA has decided to remove the debate. It could be shaping up to be a fairly loud talking point when the players next show up to the bargaining table.