Officiating changes in the NBA this season are being made to eliminate instances of players going out of their way to warp the game beyond the way it normally is played, according to Monty McCutchen, who oversees the on-court performance of the league’s referees. “We want basketball to be played, not manipulated,” McCutchen, NBA senior vice president, head of referee development and training, said in a Zoom call with reporters Thursday afternoon.
McCutchen was quick to point out — and had several examples to back it up — that the NBA does not want to eliminate players from pump-faking a defender into the air and drawing a foul. If an offensive player gets a defender in the air and would be fouled in a normal shooting motion, that will remain a defensive foul. “We want there to be equal opportunities to compete with passion and skill,” McCutchen said. “And we want flow in the game, and we want the game of basketball to be played as the game of basketball — not individual 1-on-1-offs in an attempt to get the most efficiency.”
The officiating from Game 6, won 106-102 by the Lakers in Los Angeles, still inspires eye rolls, profanity and conspiracy theories. The Lakers only made five field goals in the fourth quarter but made 21 of 27 free throws. The Kings shot nine free throws in the fourth, 25 for the game. The disparity was so bad that fans were ready for Vince McMahon to come out and explain how he’d screwed the Kings. Game 7 was at home in Sacramento. But the Kings missed 14 of 30 free throws and lost in overtime. The Lakers went on to beat the Nets for their third consecutive title. “It really hurt because you’ve really got to look at it like this,” Webber said. “I’d come to win a championship, we get as close as we can get, still should have won Game 1, got hosed Game 6, still should have won Game 7. But we didn’t do enough to do it. Didn’t hit free throws, didn’t hit shots.”
So while 3s make up around 40 percent of all shot attempts, they represent only about five percent of all shooting fouls. This is an important point to keep in mind when wondering why your favorite player doesn’t get as many whistles as his peers. If they don’t get to the rim often, then they probably won’t get fouled often. In general, the more shots at the rim a player takes, the more shooting fouls they will be able to draw.
The chart below shows the distribution of shooting fouls drawn by distance from the hoop. I’ve limited the chart to the players that drew at least 100 shooting fouls last season. The players are ordered on the chart by the median distance on all the shooting fouls they drew, meaning the further up a player is on the chart, the larger their proportion of shooting fouls that came from jump shots. At the top of the list is Trae Young. No player has exemplified the need for a change in officiating more than Young. His foul baiting has drawn the ire of opposing coaches and national media alike. More than half of all the shooting fouls Young drew last season came from further than ten feet from the hoop. That’s the highest proportion out of anyone who drew at least 100 shooting fouls last season.