Earlier today we got a request on our Facebook page (that’s right, we have a Facebook page, and we actually have some original conversations over there instead of just syndicating our blog posts to it) for some perspective on an article from SB Nation about flopping in basketball written by professional basketball player Dan Grunfeld. Grunfeld’s piece is titled, Why NBA Players Flop, And What The League Can Do About It. He essentially says that players flop because they’re able to get away with it. As far as what the league can do about it, he provides a number of options ranging from assessing technical fouls to permitting coaches to issue challenges to post game league reviews resulting in fines.
I look at ‘flopping’ somewhat differently. Yes, it’s done in basketball, but I don’t think it’s the pandemic that some make it out to be (I’m looking at you, Jeff Van Gundy). It definitely doesn’t even begin to approach the problem that soccer has with flopping. Those guys are just ridiculous. I feel like about 75% of the time there’s a charging or blocking foul in basketball it’s a legitimate play. Two competitive people getting after it and contact was made where someone fell down. I’m not saying there aren’t flops. There definitely are, but let’s not exaggerate (again, looking at you, Jeff Van Gundy).
Getting back to Grunfeld’s question – why do NBA players flop – I think it’s because they have to. Referees now favor the offensive player so much that the offensive charge is one of the few advantages they have left to play. Think about it. Traveling is so prevalent now that sometimes I feel like over the course of a game players take more steps holding the ball than they do dribbling it. Used to be that refs allowed two steps on a drive to the basket. Now it seems like they allow four or more. Double dribble. Players turn the ball over in their hands every time they dribble the ball now. It’s rarely called, but frequently occurs.
Most important to this particular topic, think about a player driving to the basket. Players are throwing their bodies into the lane and the defenders in their way. Just flailing their bodies, throwing the ball up and counting on getting a blocking foul called. Continuation calls make it even worse. Offensive players do it because they know they get the benefit of the call more often than not. Referees are much more inclined to call a blocking foul than a charge. I’ve seen this so many times this year in the playoffs that I can’t even count that high. Wade, LeBron, Westbrook, Pierce and more. They’re all doing it. So yeah, sometimes a defender will ‘flop’ to try and draw a foul. Why aren’t we criticizing those out of control players the same way we are those that flop? Seems a bit like a double standard to me. Dwyane Wade throwing his body into Brandon Bass and tossing the ball up behind his head is a smart play, but if Shane Battier slides in front of a driving, out of control Paul Pierce people think it’s a dirty or underhanded play? That’s just as smart of a play as Wade’s.
Look at the actual definition of charging and the sentiment behind the rule. It was instituted to keep offensive players in control. The NBA has a breakdown of charging and blocking rules here. You’ll notice there’s no mention of the defender needing to have both feet planted on the ground to draw a charge – a common misconception among fans, players, coaches and media. In this post based on information heard from the NBA’s director of officiating programs and development, it’s stated that referees actually watch a defender’s torso. So a defender actually can be moving when drawing a charge – as long as the torso is in a set defensive position. Before you ask, yes, that is possible.
To eliminate flopping, I think the NBA also needs to crack down on offensive players that are flailing and out of control. Why should someone get rewarded for blindly and wildly charging the lane? Better yet, why should a defender get penalized for attempting to defend that type of poor basketball play? If referees show they won’t allow this abuse of the rules, then defenders won’t feel the need to flop either.
Of course, the NBA would never allow this because it could cut down on the number of tomahawk jam ending drives down the lane. So we’ll have to deal with flailing. And flopping.