INTENTIONALLY FOUL

Give the fans what they don’t want. 

That’s not been the business plan of the NBA, as the league recently struck a new TV deal worth a reported $24 billion.  That’s with a B.

So why doesn’t the NBA discourage intentional fouls?

Mathematically inclined coaches are factoring the offensive expectancy of a 50% free throw shooter versus a high octane offense that averages more than 1 point per possession.

The old Hack-a-Shaq.

They will interrupt a possession in its infancy, find such a player in the ball’s neighboring zip code, and hug him as if to show their gratitude for his ineptness.  (Teams are also starting to intentionally foul in end-of-quarter situations to create a last possession for themselves—assuming the value of that trip on O is > the points the poor shooter’s FTs are likely to yield.)

Is it worth it?  On the surface, yes.  But there are variables beyond the math above:

  • Did the defense already stop an attempt by the offense to score in transition before fouling?  If so, they had already decreased the offense’s expected points..
  • Did the defense secure the rebound of the missed second free throw?  If not, they’ve now increased the offense’s expected points, as it’s easier to defend 5 on 5 in the half court than it is an offensive rebound in the paint. Not to mention, the first FT may have went in.
  • By letting the offense shoot FTs, you’ve allowed them to position their players as they wish, limiting the possibility of scoring in offensive transition against them, and their otherwise backpedaling, non-set defenders.

Is it advantageous to hack-a-Shaq?  Armed with the knowledge that Gregg Popovich does it, I’ll say yes.  But the fact that it may not be *that* advantageous makes it more disturbing that the fans are subjected to it.

And yes, yes, there’s also another case to be made for fixing this:  (ahem) professionals being good at shooting uncontested 15-foot foul shots.

My beef, though, is with the ‘why’.

Why is it allowed?  The NBA Rules, to the best I can find, deal with ‘flagrant’, but not intentional fouls.  The NFHS rule (4-19-3), however, is cut and dried:  An intentional foul includes… (b) Contact away from the ball with an opponent who is clearly not involved with a play.

My best guess as to the ‘why’ is that the NBA wants to protect any prospect of a dramatic ending to a game.  More possessions = more chances for the score to change.

I see you, $24 billion.

One solution beyond adopting the NFHS rule, is giving the offense their choice of two FT shooters:  the guy who was fouled or the guy who has (or was last to have) the ball at the time of the foul.  This allows for more possessions but mitigates the lost integrity when grown men hug at half court.

Another is to borrow from the NFL, and allow the non-offending team to decline the foul.  (You could remove this option in the final minute, etc.)  That’s right, the NFL doesn’t automatically award the offending team.

The team that’s losing the game doesn’t deserve advantages over the team that’s been beating them.

Last night, you even saw the Spurs foul intentionally while leading the game. Why? The Clippers’ offense can’t catch up by scoring threes to your twos if they’re forced to shoot ones.

You like watching Chris Paul operate a pick and roll with Blake Griffin?  Me too.  But we won’t see that while DeAndre Jordan is fist-fighting a free throw attempt.  If a coach thinks the best way to mitigate CP-Blake PNRs is to, umm, not defend them at all, they’re in luck:  the NBA rules accommodate.

Fans want motion, fluidity, speed, skill.  They don’t want to watch a free throw contest between DeAndre and Dwight Howard.

This offseason, the league should give the fans what they want.

There are 24 billion reasons why.

Juuust a bit outside

 

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