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NBA PM: What NBA Rule Should Be Changed?

In our weekly Thursday group conversation, we asked our guys what rules should the NBA consider changing.

Basketball Insiders

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Some Rules Need Changing

In what is a weekly Thursday feature, we ask three of our Basketball Insiders to weigh in on a common question. This week, we asked: What NBA Rule Needs To Be Changed?

Jump Shot Fouls

Kudos to the NBA introducing some innovative rule changes this summer that should speed up the pace of play and result in quicker games next season. While other leagues talk about improving their product and making it more fan-friendly, Adam Silver and the folks in the NBA’s New York offices actually step up and make it happen.

However, that doesn’t mean that the league shouldn’t continue to fine-tune and figure out other ways to improve their product.

One glaring issue that the NBA needs to address is the number of fouls called on players attempting jump shots. In particular, players who get awarded three free throws when they initiate contact and draw a foul while attempting three-pointers.

James Harden is far and away the biggest benefactor when it comes to exploiting the NBA’s outdated rules on what actions are deemed foul-worthy while in the act of shooting. During the 2016-17 regular season, according to Basketball-Reference, Harden drew a foul on a three-point attempt 124 times. That is a mind-boggling number. Harden had drawn 27 such fouls in 2014-15, and that number increased 46 in 2015-16. It’s not an issue limited solely to Harden in Houston; three-point fouls were up across the league last year. With Harden and others having now mastered this “skill,” it’s time for the NBA to make changes.

The problem is that defenders frequently get whistled for fouling a 3-point shooter, despite the fact they are actually playing solid defense. Harden, for instance, often initiates contact by latching onto a defenders hand or wrist as he begins his shot. In real time, the referee is often unable to determine who the guilty party is. Yet, because Harden’s ability to make the shot is diminished, and he has learned to sell the foul so well, he gets the benefit of the doubt. As a result, the defensive player is found guilty of committing a foul, despite being in perfectly sound defensive position. As if guarding the incredibly skilled Harden wasn’t difficult enough, defenders are essentially forced to keep their hands as far away from Harden as possible. This makes contesting shots extremely difficult.

The other way Harden and others, including Lou Williams, Kyle Lowry and Damian Lillard (to name just a few) often draw fouls from behind the arc is stopping short as defenders fight over a screen. Again, the defense is at a disadvantage despite exerting great effort to follow their coach’s orders to constantly pressure the ball handler.

Due to the current interpretation of the rules, offensive players have a huge advantage. It’s time for the NBA to crack down on some of these inequities, and give defenders a fair chance.

– Tommy Beer

Shortening The Post-Rebound Shot Clock

Beginning this season, the NBA has implemented new rules to improve the flow of games. Specifically, the NBA is looking at improving end of game situations when teams have previously opted to use multiple timeouts and commit intentional fouls in certain situations.

Some of the changes that were made included lowering the total number of timeouts a team may use to seven. In addition, “full” timeouts and “20-second” timeouts have been replaced by a standard 75-second team timeout. Teams will also be limited to how many timeouts they may use at the end of games.

As the league continues to look at speeding up the length of games, one rule they should consider looking at is shortening the shot clock following an offensive rebound. Currently, if a team records an offensive rebound or otherwise maintains possession of the ball after a missed shot, the shot clock resets to 24 seconds.

One suggestion that has been made to speed up possessions is to lower the shot clock to 14 seconds in these situations. Several basketball organizations across the globe have adopted this philosophy, including FIBA, the Euroleague and Eurocup. The WNBA followed the course and adopted this rule prior to the 2016 season.

In fact, this change was used last season in the G League. The NBA has used its development league for several years now to try out some different rule changes. With this shot clock suggestion, it could be a rule the NBA continues to try out in the G League with the idea of adding it to the NBA in the future.

Shortening the shot clock following offensive rebounds figures to add additional possessions to games and create more scoring opportunities. The NCAA has looked at this idea as well in an attempt to increase higher-scoring games. A change like this could even create more excitement during the final minutes of games when teams are attempting to mount a comeback.

While the league would certainly be motivated to implement this change to speed up games, some players are indifferent to the idea. One NBA player told Basketball Insiders he doesn’t think it would make that much of a difference, and he feels most shots following an offensive rebound are made within 10 seconds anyway.

Another player said he agrees with a possible change and that games would be much quicker, and feels as though the product on the floor would be better. He said a change like this would make positions more important, especially for good offensive teams. Players would be more inclined to box out and rebound better as well.

A third player from an overseas club told Basketball Insiders that he loves the rule and said it creates better pace during games. He joked that grabbing an offensive rebound with this rule gives him the best opportunity to shoot a quick three-pointer given the shorter shot clock.

As the league continues to look at ways to improve the game, this rule could be one that comes to life. A potential change like this one may not be implemented until the league conducts more research on the topic, but don’t be surprised to see this one sooner than later.

– Cody Taylor

Goaltending

There isn’t a whole lot to think about when it comes to changing current rules set in place in the NBA, but there is one tweak they could make down the road—goaltending.

When a player is looking for a chance to give his team life after a missed shot, that usually comes with a putback. It’s an exciting play that energizes the crowd and shifts momentum to the team that capitalizes on the second chance opportunity.

There is a bit of hesitation sometimes, though, because the league mandates the “invisible cylinder.” Putting it simply: Once the ball hits the rim, it must ricochet completely off the iron before any player can touch it. Because of this, players are often hit with the dreaded offensive interference call that results in a turnover. That’s a killer to the team who is punished.

So how do you fix this issue? Simple—adopt the International Basketball Federation’s way of doing things.

FIBA’s goaltending protocol is the exact same as the NBA’s regarding blocking a ball on a downward path, but aside from that, it’s basically a free-for-all. As soon as the ball touches the rim, it’s fair game. That means both players can do what they please with it—back taps, put backs, swats, you name it.

The adjustment would be noticeable, but not terribly difficult. International players can be found on nearly all 30 teams in the league, and the new ones coming in would have an even smoother transition than their predecessors.

Team USA dominated FIBA tournaments and the Olympics under these regulations. Big men would most definitely welcome the change because it would make their job less tactical and more active.

Just like it was in the years before the three-point wave came along, having a towering center or athletic power forward manning the paint could play a more crucial role than those outside threats on the perimeter.

The decisions referees make in a split second are difficult, especially having to make a judgment call with a non-existent barrier. By altering the rule, it makes their life easier as well. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.

If the NBA were to implement a new goaltending guideline, it would take some getting used to. It wouldn’t be a ridiculously drastic change, but it’d be something that could benefit teams in the long term.

– Spencer Davies

Every Thursday we’ll ask three of our guys to chime in on a common subject. If there is something you would like to see us address. Drop it to us on Twitter at @BBallInsiders using the hashtag #ConversationThursday.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @CodyTaylorNBA, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 11/17/17

Spencer Davies updates the list of names to keep an eye on and who’s in contention for DPOY.

Spencer Davies

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We’re exactly one month into the season now, as the NBA standings have started to take shape headed into winter.

A couple of weeks ago, Basketball Insiders released its first Defensive Player of the Year Watch article to go in-depth on players that could compete for the prestigious award. Since then, there have been injuries keeping most of the household names out of the picture.

Guys like Rudy Gobert (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (ankle) have been or will be sidelined for weeks. Kawhi Leonard has yet to make his season debut recovering from a bothersome right quad.

While that isn’t the best news for fans and the league at the moment, it’s likely that those players will be just fine and return with the same impact they’ve always made. In the meantime, there are opportunities for others to throw their names in the hat as elite defenders. With new names and mainstays, here’s a look at six healthy candidates.

6) Joel Embiid

Trusting the Process in Philadelphia was worth the wait. As polished as the seven-footer is with the ball in his hands on offense, he might be even more dangerous as an interior defensive presence.

One of ten players in the NBA averaging at least a block and a steal per game, Embiid makes a world of a difference for in limiting opponents. Through 14 games, the Philadelphia 76ers are allowing just 96.4 points per 100 possessions with him playing. Furthering that, he’s the only one on the floor who dips the team’s defensive rating below 100 and has the second-highest Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating (3.03) in the NBA.

5) Kristaps Porzingis

Like Embiid, it’s been an incredible season for the one called The Unicorn. Before the season started, Porzingis stated it was a goal of his to accomplish three things—an All-Star game appearance, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of the Year.

So far, he’s on the right track. Outside of being the league’s third-highest scorer (28.9 points per game), the Latvian big man is hounding and deterring shot attempts nearly every time inside. According to SportVU data, Porzingis is allowing his opponents to only convert 35.1 percent of their attempts at the rim, which is the lowest by far among his peers seeing at least four tries per game. Oh, and when he’s off the floor, the Knicks have a 112.4 defensive rating, which is 9.3 more points per 100 possessions than with him on.

4) Nikola Jokic

At the beginning of the season, it looked like the same old story with the Denver Nuggets defense, but their intensity has stepped up on that end of the floor for the past couple of weeks. Playing next to new running mate Paul Millsap has taken some getting used to, but it seems like the two frontcourt partners have started to mesh well.

Though it might not have been the case a season ago, the Denver Nuggets are a net -12.4 per 100 possessions defensively without Jokic on the court as opposed to a team-best 100.1 defensive rating with him on. A huge knock on the Serbian sensation last year and before then was his inability to defend. He’s still got things to work on as a rim protector with his timing, but the progress is coming. He’s seventh in the league in total contested shots (168) and has been forcing turnovers like a madman. Averaging 1.6 steals per game, Jokic has recorded at least one takeaway in all but two games.

3) Draymond Green

In the first DPOY watch article, the Golden State Warriors had been better off defensively with Green sitting. That right there should tell you how much we can really put into data in small sample sizes. It’s changed dramatically since that point in time.

Without Green playing, the Golden State Warriors have a defensive rating of 105.4 as opposed to 98.4 on the same scale with him on the floor. His matchups are starting to grow weary of driving on him again, as he’s seen less than four attempts at the basket. Currently, in DRPM, he ranks eighth with a 2.60 rating.

2) Al Horford

The Boston Celtics are still the number one team in the NBA in defensive rating. Horford is still the straw that stirs the drink for Brad Stevens. If you didn’t see that watching that knockdown, drag-it-out game against the Warriors on Thursday, go back and watch it.

He has the highest net rating on the team among starters and is leading the team by altering shots and grabbing rebounds with aggressiveness we haven’t seen since he played for the Atlanta Hawks. Ranking fourth in Defensive Box Plus-Minus and in DRPM, Horford is continuing to make his presence felt.

1) DeMarcus Cousins

Dominance is the word to describe Cousins’ game. With a month-long absence of Gobert, he has a real chance to show fans and voters that his defensive side of him is no façade.

Next to his partner Anthony Davis, Boogie has kept up the physicality and technique of locking up assignments. The third and final member of this list averaging at least a block and steal per game, Cousins is at the top of the mountain in DRPM with a 3.13 rating.

The New Orleans Pelicans significantly benefit with him on the hardwood (102.3 DRTG) as opposed to him on the bench (112.7 DTRG). He’s one of six players in the league seeing more than six attempts at the rim, and he’s allowed the lowest success percentage among that group. He’s also contested 193 shots, which is the second-most in the NBA.

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NBA

Gregg Popovich Continues To Be The Gold Standard For Leadership

There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and Gregg Popovich.

Moke Hamilton

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There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and the San Antonio Spurs.

Okay, let’s be honest, it’s probably not the first time that you’ve heard that one, but it also won’t be the last.

Behind the genius of Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have qualified for the NBA Playoffs 20 consecutive years. In hindsight, they appear to have been the only team to legitimately frighten the Golden State Warriors during their 16-1 playoff run last year, and this season, well, they’ve been the same old Spurs.

That’s been especially amazing considering the fact that the team has been without Kawhi Leonard. Although Popovich recently said that Leonard would return “sooner rather than later,” he himself admitted to not being certain as to what that meant.

Best guess from here is that Leonard will return within the next few weeks, but at this point, it’s entirely fair to wonder whether or not it even matters.

Of course, the Spurs don’t stand much of a chance to win the Western Conference without Leonard thriving at or near 100 percent, but even without him, the Spurs look every bit like a playoff team, and in the Western Conference, that’s fairly remarkable.

“A team just has to play in a sense like he doesn’t exist,” Popovich was quoted as saying by Tom Osborn of the San Antonio Express-News.

“Nobody cares if you lost a good player, right? Everybody wants to whip you. So it doesn’t do much good to do the poor me thing or to keep wondering when he is going to be back or what are we going to do. We have to play now, and other people have to take up those minutes and we have to figure out who to go to when in a different way, and you just move on.”

In a nutshell, that’s Popovich.

What most people don’t understand about Popovich is what makes him a truly great coach is his humility. He is never afraid to second-guess himself and reconsider the way that he’s accustomed to doing things. Since he’s been the head coach of the Spurs, he’s built and rebuilt offenses around not only different players, but also different philosophies.

From the inside-out attack that was his bread and butter with David Robinson and Tim Duncan to the motion and movement system that he built around Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the latest incarnation of Popovich’s genius isn’t only the fact that he has survived without Kawhi Leonard, it’s what could fairly be considered the major catalyst of it.

There are many head coaches around the league that take their roles as authority figures quite seriously, and that’s why a fair number would have been threatened by one of their star players requesting that things be rebuilt in a way to maximize his potential.

So when LaMarcus Aldridge proactively sat down with his coach to discuss the ways that he felt he was being misused in the team’s schemes, it wouldn’t have come as a shock for Popovich to meet him with resistance.

Instead, he did the opposite.

“We have talked about what we can do to make him more comfortable, and to make our team better,” Popovich acknowledged during Spurs training camp.

“But having said that, I think we are mostly talking about offense. Defense, he was fantastic for us. Now, we have got to help him a little bit more so that he is comfortable in his own space offensively, and I haven’t done a very good job of that.”

Just 11 days after those comments were printed, the Spurs announced that they had signed Aldridge to a three-year, $72 million extension.

Considering that Aldridge’s first two years as a member of the Spurs yielded some poor efforts and relatively low output, the extension seemed curious and was met with ridicule.

Yet, one month later and 15 games into the season, the Spurs sit at 9-6. They’ve survived the absence of Kawhi Leonard and the loss of Jonathon Simmons.

Behind an offensive system tweaked to take advantage of his gifts, in the early goings, Aldridge is averaging 22 points per game, a far cry above the 17.7 points per game he averaged during his first two years in San Antonio.

Coincidence?

I think not.

Death, taxes and the Spurs.

So long as Gregg Popovich is at the helm, exhibiting strong leadership while remaining amazingly humble, the Spurs will be the Spurs.

Sure, Kawhi Leonard will be back—at some point.

But until then, the Spurs will be just fine.

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NBA

NBA AM: Atlanta’s Dewayne Dedmon Is Letting Shots — And Jokes — Fly

Dewayne Dedmon’s emergence has been an unexpected positive for the rebuilding Atlanta Hawks.

Buddy Grizzard

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It’s been a brutal season for the Atlanta Hawks, currently 3-12 with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

Wednesday’s franchise-record 46-point win over the visiting Sacramento Kings was a rare chance for Atlanta to have a laugh in the postgame locker room and reflect on things that have gone well, including hot shooting for the team and a potential breakout season for center Dewayne Dedmon.

The Hawks trail only the Golden State Warriors in three-point shooting at just over 40 percent. Prior to joining the Hawks, Dedmon had attempted only one three-pointer in 224 career games. As a Hawk, though, Dedmon is shooting 42 percent on 19 attempts. Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer explained after Wednesday’s game how his staff decided to encourage Dedmon to extend his range.

“You do your research and you talk to friends around the league, you talk to people who have worked with him and you watch him during warmups,” said Budenholzer. “We had a belief, an idea, that he could shoot, he could make shots. We’re kind of always pushing that envelope with the three-point line. He’s embraced it.”

Dedmon is currently averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, blocks and minutes, and set season-highs in points (20), rebounds (14) and assists (five) against the Kings. He’s also brought an offbeat sense of humor that has helped keep the locker room loose despite the struggles. It became apparent early on that Dedmon was a different type of dude.

At Media Day, when nobody approached Dedmon’s table and reporters instead flocked to interview rookie John Collins at the next table, Dedmon joined the scrum, holding his phone out as if to capture a few quotes.

“This guy’s going to be a character,” said a passing Hawks staffer.

Those words proved prophetic, as Coach Bud confirmed after Wednesday’s win.

“He brings a lot of personality to our team, really from almost the day he got here,” said Budenholzer. “I think he’s getting more and more comfortable and can help the young guys and help everybody.”

Dedmon took an unconventional path to the NBA. Growing up, his mother — a Jehovah’s Witness — forbade him to play organized sports. Once he turned 18, Dedmon began making his own decisions. He walked on to the team at Antelope Valley College, a two-year school in Lancaster, Ca., before transferring to USC and eventually making it to the league.

His personality, which formed while Dedmon forged his own path, shone through in the locker room after the Sacramento win. Asked about conversations he’s had with Budenholzer about shot selection, Dedmon turned to teammate Kent Bazemore at the adjacent locker.

“What’s the phrase, Baze? LTMF?”

“Yep,” Bazemore replied.

“Yeah, LTMF,” Dedmon continued. “Let it fly. So he told me to shoot … let it go. I’m not going to say what the M means.”

Amidst laughter from the assembled media, he explained that ‘LTMF’ is Budenholzer’s philosophy for the whole team, not just part of an effort to expand Dedmon’s game.

“Everybody has the same freedom,” said Dedmon. “So it definitely gives everybody confidence to shoot their shots when they’re open and just play basketball.”

With the injury bug thus far robbing Atlanta of its stated ambition to overachieve this season, Dedmon’s career year and team success from three-point range are two big positives.

Rebuilding or retooling can be a painful process. But with a unique personality like Dedmon helping keep things light in the locker room, Atlanta should make it through.

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