What Does DNP Mean in Basketball?

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Being a basketball enthusiast may entail a detailed understanding of various terminology and acronyms. Most of the time, it can’t be helped. You try to scour a box score or stat sheet for the first time, and it feels like it’s speaking a different language. However, once you know what that acronym means, you’ll probably remember it for the rest of your fandom. Such is the case with the abbreviation DNP. What does DNP mean in basketball?

What Does DNP Stand for in BasketballWhat Does DNP Stand for in Basketball?

In basketball, “DNP” stands for “Did Not Play.” This acronym appears on the box score next to a player’s name who did not participate in the game. A box score is where all basketball statistics appear in a particular game.

A basketball player may not play a game for various reasons, including minor injuries or disciplinary measures. It may also be for “load management,” a term we will elaborate on later. More often than not, the 10th to 12th man on an active roster does not play because of the coach’s decision (DNP-CD).

Who Decides for a DNP in BasketballWho Decides for a DNP in Basketball?

Those directly involved with the players may have an input on who will play, but the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the coach. For instance, if the training staff says Nikola Jokic could play after lightly spraining his ankle, the coach may or may not follow the suggestion based on different factors, perhaps if the game has seeding implications. 

When a player does not enter the game for even a single second of playing time, he is marked as a “DNP” in the box scores, which stands for Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision.

A player ruled out due to a severe injury or other reason is deemed OUT and must dress in street clothes. They may sit with the team but may not enter the game unless he is activated on the roster before the game and suits up in a team uniform.

Thus, a DNP pertains to players dressed to play (and could play) but did not enter the game because the coach decided not to put them in. It does not include injured players who are not dressed for the game. Otherwise, the players who are shelved with common basketball injuries may be marked “OUT” or “Inactive.”

3 Things That Make a Player Have DNPs in their Stats3 Things That Make a Player Have DNPs in their Stats

1. Coach’s Decision

One of the responsibilities of a coach is to shuffle the deck, so to speak, to give the team its best chance to win. That means he has complete autonomy to select a starting five and a second or third unit. It’s up to him to sit some players who he thought were terrible matchups or those who aren’t ready to play. 

In reality, there simply isn’t much playing time to distribute among 12 players. The starters alone typically average over 30 minutes, while the first and second men off the bench may get anywhere from 15 minutes to the mid-20s. The eighth to tenth players who get playing time may just substitute to prevent the starters from committing fouls and other situational circumstances.

As a basketball player, it’s hard for your ego to not play, but the benchwarmers still play a significant role in the grand scheme of things. They are called upon when other players in the upper hierarchy go down because they know the team’s system better than anybody in free agency. They are also tasked to give it their all in practice, so the rotation guys get to see proper repetitions in scrimmages.

2. Minor Basketball Injuries

It was mentioned that only a player dressed for the game is eligible for a DNP. If a player is in street clothes, he will be deemed “OUT” instead of “Did Not Play.” 

However, there are instances when a player sustains a minor injury, dresses for the game, but ends up not playing. Again, this is ultimately a coach’s decision, and the fact that he dressed up means he is healthy enough to play if needed. It could be that they felt good enough during the warmup and informed the coach that they could play when called upon.

3. Load Management

The term “load management” is relatively new. Basketball fans in the 80s and 90s probably haven’t heard that designation before. In short, “load management” is just “rest.” In the NBA, only superstars are load managed to keep them fresh in the long haul. After all, the NBA is a superstar’s league, and you need to get the most out of your stars, especially if they have a lengthy injury history.

Load management nights are typically scheduled between back-to-back games. That means a player may still be in uniform for the second game of a back-to-back but isn’t checked in by the coach. That is still technically a DNP, although sometimes, a load-managed player ends up being “OUT” instead.

Load management has been a polarizing topic among fans and even inside the NBA. The league wants the superstars to play every night because people pay exorbitant amounts of money to see them showcase their hoops talent. On top of that, TV networks did not pay the NBA billions just for LeBron James or Kyrie Irving to sit on the sidelines.

On the other hand, regular season games are generally “meaningless.” The real battles begin in the playoffs, where there are no back-to-back games. With these two schools of thought clashing, it’s pretty understandable that teams and the league will try to outsmart each other regarding that issue.

In 2020, the “cold war” began. The league attempted to limit load management via a rule requiring healthy players to play in a nationally-televised match. However, teams bypass this rule by allowing the load-managed players to dress up and giving them a DNP afterward. It’s a clever move, but the TV networks and the NBA do not like that at all.

Wrapping Things Up: What Does DNP Mean in Basketball?

Imagine this scenario: You have just scoured the box score of a recent NBA game and saw several players with empty stats and an acronym across their names that reads DNP. If you have just become a fan, you probably wondered what the DNP meaning in NBA basketball means. 

So, what does DNP mean in basketball? It stands for “Did Not Play.” Players who got the DNP tag are in uniform but did not get a second of playing time. This may be due to various reasons, such as a coach’s decision, common basketball injuries, and load management.

The coach ultimately decides to play his best rotation of players and leaves out a couple of benchwarmers. This usually happens in a close game, especially in the playoffs. NBA coaches often play a tight eight or nine-man rotation to maximize the lineups on the floor. Other players only get a chance to check in during garbage time or blowout games.

A player may also receive a DNP because of a minor injury. The training staff or the player may have tested his injury before the game and felt good enough to play. However, the coach decided to hold him out and did not let him enter the game at any point. That results in a DNP under the player’s name.

Another reason for a DNP is “rest” or “load management.” A load-managed player is held out, possibly in the second game of a back-to-back, to help him avoid an injury. Sometimes, the team could list him as “OUT,” but since the NBA does not allow healthy players to sit out nationally-televised games, teams got smart and circumvented this rule through a DNP. They would allow the player to suit up, but then the coach never inserts him in the game. Technically, even though the load-managed player is active, he “rests” for that game by receiving a DNP.

By reading this article, there should be no more doubts about the question, “What does DNP mean in basketball?” It is somewhat basic for long-time NBA fans, but for the sake of the newer ones, this article hopefully answered that question satisfactorily.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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