Chance Williams | Staff Writer
James Harden. Luka Dončić. Trae Young. All three of these athletes in the National Basketball Association are not only tremendous basketball players, but they also have one other thing in common: a reputation for drawing fouls through unnatural movements.
These unnatural movements include: launching their bodies into defenders, moving off of their path suddenly, blocking the defender’s path and using their unoccupied arm to hook defenders.
Harden, Dončić, and Young aren’t the only players to have resorted to these tactics. Players throughout the NBA use these same movements to draw fouls. For those unfamiliar with basketball, drawing fouls is a tactic that often results in free throws.
How NBA referees officiated games before gave an advantage to players on offense, often leaving defenders helpless and at the ballhandler’s mercy. After a decline in the quality of play and negative feedback from fans, the NBA decided to create new rules and guidelines for how referees officiate games, effective this season.
If the contact during an unnatural movement is considered marginal, there won’t be a foul called on either player, according to sports reporter Shams Charania of The Athletic. If the ballhandler’s movement affects the defender’s quickness, speed, balance or rhythm, offensive fouls may be called, according to Charania.
Throughout the first few weeks of the NBA season, there’s been a noticeable difference in the fluidity of games. Fewer foul calls resulted in “better” defense, which fans have been pleading for, for the past few years.
Better defense shown by teams likely will increase the quality of the NBA’s product.
From an entertainment perspective, all appears to be going well this season. Some of the players, however, see things differently. Athletes and coaches who have gotten used to benefiting from questionable foul calls have responded negatively to how referees have officiated games this season.
James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets has used unnatural body movements in the past to draw fouls. So far this season, officials have made it a point to force Harden to play through contact.
During the first five games of this season, Harden only tallied 15 free-throw attempts, according to Tom Haberstroh, analyst and reporter at Meadowlark Media. This was the first time since 2011 Harden attempted fewer than five free throws in five straight games, according to Haberstroh.
Harden then recorded 22 free-throw attempts over the next two games, according to the league website.
Another situation involving free throws happens when a player on defense will intentionally grab a ballhandler during a fast break to prevent him from scoring. From a player’s perspective, it is an intelligent play. From a fan’s perspective, this action prevents in-game highlights.
The NBA is looking into preventing this in future games.
“The NBA Competition Committee discussed the uptick in transition fouls this season and encouraged the league office to develop a rule change that would eliminate the incentive to utilize the tactic in the future,” Charania reported.
The NBA is committed to improving the quality of play and entertainment value of its games. With how people consume sports constantly changing, the NBA is doing its best to maintain control of its fan demographic.