Ten Ways To Make X Better: Basketball Comment Count

Brian July 14th, 2016 at 12:21 PM

Previously: hockey, soccer.


[Patrick Barron]

10. Use advantage calls on fast breaks.

Dunks are the best. On this we can all agree. Cynical fouls to prevent dunks are the worst, and there's a model out there for preventing them. Soccer refs will let fouls go if the team fouled seems to have an advantageous position. Basketball should adopt this for situations where there is about to be a breakaway dunk.

9. Eliminate hack-a-blank.

Allow teams to take the ball out of bounds with a reset shot clock instead of shooting free throws on a non-shooting foul. Like the previous bullet this is an attempt to reduce the number of situations where someone is intentionally violating the rules to their advantage. Don't @ me about how players who can't shoot free throws shouldn't be protected. Rules exist to make the flow of a game more pleasant to watch, and when they fail that they should be changed.

8. Get rid of the three-second call.

Nobody calls it. Its purpose has always been mysterious. The rationale is nonsensical: "open up the offense by restricting what offensive players can do." Clogging the lane is the least of modern basketball's concerns.

7. For the love of God please figure out how to call a charge.

Nobody knows what a charge is. I don't know, and you don't know, and refs don't know, and players don't know. The NCAA made things infinitely worse a couple years back with a change that made things even more confusing; one year of that was enough.

Charges get a bad rap. They're very dramatic. There's a dude on the ground fist-pumping; Teddy Valentine has recruited a crew of Busby Berkeley dancers, all of whom are pointing to the other end of the floor theatrically; the offender is grasping the basketball disdainfully and trying to murder the entire arena with his eyes. Duke ruined them for everybody, but now that there's a restricted circle their preferred tactic is no longer valid.

My suggestion on charges is to make the rule as simple as possible. If a player is moving parallel to the basket, outside of the circle, and gets plowed in the chest by an opponent who still has the ball, it's a charge. Glancing contact is a block. Taking a charge-type substance when the player in question has already released the ball is a no-call. Maybe it would need some tweaks, but the current regime is as close to completely random as possible.

6. No timeouts on out-of-bounds plays.

The final proposal here is the best plan I have to stop the scourge of timeouts, but if people continue to insist on having a break for tea and scones every ten seconds in the waning moments of a close game there are still some improvements that can be made. Number one is eliminating timeouts that come one nanosecond before a five-second call on inbounds plays. In all cases these timeouts reduce the drama of a game, because they prevent the team that's pressing from their shot at a critical turnover. Infuriatingly, they almost always come in the immediate aftermath of another timeout.

Say no to timeouts, in all their forms. But especially this one.

5. Adopt a draft and follow system.

This is discussed in more detail in a previous post. The upshot is that the NBA should move to a style of drafting closer to the NHL model, where everyone is automatically eligible for the draft. This allows drafted players to retain NCAA eligibility and prevents a lot of the consequences of bad draft entry decisions. I also suggest that NBA teams should have to offer longer contracts when they want to sign younger prospects—five year right out of high school, four after one year of college, etc.—and that drafted college players should be able to participate in NBA summer league.

4. Promotion and relegation for the NBA.

People keep talking about this in MLS, where it is dubiously viable and could lead to teams folding. The NBA's situation is vastly different, with an enormous new TV contract and the ability to support teams in Sacramento, Oklahoma City, and the like. The NBA also has an enormous tanking problem. Way too many NBA games are functionally exhibitions. Promotion and relegation fixes that.

Existing team owners looking to protect their franchise value could be a hurdle, but adding, say, ten expansion franchises and gradually splitting into two leagues of 20 teams would bring in enormous expansion fees, enough to offset the possibility of ending up in NBA 2.

3. Okay if you don't want to do that, something else to fix tanking.

First picks in the draft go to the winners of a post-season competition between teams that missed the playoffs. There are 14. The three best and three worst teams are omitted from an eight-team single-elimination tournament that gets played in the latter stages of the NBA playoffs. There is a third place game; top three get the top three slots in the draft.

This is more content to get money from. It turns the bottom three slots in the league into poison to be avoided, instantly upping the drama for the 8 teams at the bottom who are otherwise trying to lose games.

2. Goaltending is legal if you're 5'9" or shorter.



Sorry, Tom, you've got way too many fingers to call timeout [Bryan Fuller]

1. Coaches can only call timeout by cutting off one of their digits and handing it to the referee.

I admit my previous no-timeouts-ever stance was too radical. In the spirit of compromise, let us allow for timeouts if coaches are willing to take garden shears to their toes and fingers. If the situation truly calls for a little huddle on the sideline where the coach can remind his players to "play good" and "show effort", all it requires is one sickening moment of shredding flesh and cracking bone that forever alters a man. Should a long-time coach be so mutilated that he can no longer operate a pair of garden shears, a Make-a-Wish child can execute the act for him.

It is in this way timeouts can be responsibly managed.



July 14th, 2016 at 12:38 PM ^

this rule be modified or eliminated in the last two minutes of the game?  Just asking your take.  While it can be painful to watch continuous fouls at the end of a game, there is drama when one team is able to get back into the game.  Without intentional fouls in the last minutes of a game leading to free throws, for instance, the Trey Burke miracle never takes place.


July 14th, 2016 at 1:11 PM ^

Shouldn't the better team generally win?  As a former NASCAR fan, I followed the sport through from the "good ole days", thru the "golden years", and gave up during the recent "pro wrestling" era.  As much as I like an exciting finish, I have no respect for a sport that reracks the balls for one last "winner take all" shot that invalidates all of the preceding events of the contest.


July 14th, 2016 at 3:20 PM ^

But if the shot clock is turned off, then you just have the offense go into a four corners and the game will almost always end on a dull note. 

I  don't mind giving the defensive team the chance to foul in that situation.  If I'm a neutral fan I like that they can get one more possession.  The real problem is the timeouts.  Limit them (maybe only one per team in the last two minutes) and a lot of choppiness is eliminated.






July 14th, 2016 at 1:04 PM ^

you'd still be able to foul the guy with the ball and send him to the line. That moves the advantage toward the team in the lead by letting them keep the ball in their better shooters hands.


July 14th, 2016 at 1:58 PM ^

Rather than taking the ball out of bounds, I really think if you foul someone away from the ball, the team that was fouled should get to pick who takes the shot.  You didn't prevent someone from going up and shooting a basket, so why should that dictate who takes the shot?


July 14th, 2016 at 1:55 PM ^

Like I said in a previous post.  I don't have any problem with fouls at the end of the game as long as the fouls are committed against the player with the ball.  If a foul is committed away from the ball, then rule it an intentional foul and reward the team with 2 ft and the ball back.  This would eliminate the big problem of fouling during the beginning and middle of each quarters in order to put some crappy ft shooter on the line.  This would help speed up the game and eliminate the hack a shack crap.  As long as the foul occurs on the ball, I have no problem with a normal foul being called.  At the end of the game you have to be able to hit the ft's, but the silly hack a shack crap could be eliminated in a very easy way by 2 shots and the ball.  Simple


July 14th, 2016 at 1:44 PM ^

Hack-a-whoever does not need to be banned, it needs to be called properly. If a guy has the ball and the defender is going for the ball and fouls him it should be a foul. If a guy gets fouled when he does not have the ball or there is simply bodily contact made without going for the ball it should be called an intentioal foul. That way "bad freethrow shooter X" still has to try and make two free throws, but the team also gets the ball out of bounds to try again.

This makes a defensive team have to truly force the ball into "bad freethrow shooter X"'s hands, it creates another in-bounds play opportunity (which are exciting, especially if you eliminate the ability to call a timeout once the ref has started the five second count).

The wrap your arms around someone and force them to shoot two free throws should be forced to be a startegic move, not an automatic move.


EDIT: ST3 made this point. That's what I get for answering a call at work finishing up a post only to come back later and save.


July 14th, 2016 at 3:06 PM ^

I've often thought that fouls in basketball ought to be called like penalities in football: give the fouled team the choice of accepting or declining the foul. If they accept the foul, it's one-and-one or two shots, depending on the total number of fouls. But if they decline, they inbound the ball, and the foul doesn't count against the total.

A team shouldn't be able to commit a foul/penalty/infraction and have it work in their favor, no matter what the sport.


July 14th, 2016 at 12:29 PM ^

Go a little farther on item #10 - call fouls like they do in hockey.  Stop play only when the offending team touches the ball.  That would allow fast breaks, or advantageous offensive sets/plays to continue, while disallowing any advantage gained by the defensive - or offensive -  foul.


July 14th, 2016 at 2:28 PM ^


Go a little farther on item #10 - call fouls like they do in hockey. Stop play only when the offending team touches the ball.

But the team on defense could just foul the crap out of the guy with the ball to make sure there is no fast break opportunity.  They'd give up an inbounds or free throws but no dunk - which is right where we are now.

On a similar line of thinking, though, I think shot-clock violations should never be whistled if the defensive team clearly has possession when it expires.  Referees are inconsistent about this.  Sometimes they let it go, but I've seen other times where the defensive team is about to go on a fast break and play is whistled dead.


July 14th, 2016 at 12:31 PM ^

Charging rule- once the player has left the floor if the defenders moves even the slightest its a block. If the defender is in place before the offensive player has left the ground -charge.

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July 14th, 2016 at 12:32 PM ^

This goes back to the 80s, but it's relevant now:

Dunks are worth 3 points.

Rewards big-man play again and keeps basketball from completely turning into a moving 3 point contest.


July 14th, 2016 at 12:35 PM ^

For draft picks, I like the system from this article.  Basically, the pick order is based on the number of games a team wins after they have been mathmatically eliminated from the playoffs.  It still gives weak teams an advantage, but they will all be trying to win games at the end of the season.  It might still lead to some tanking early on, but that's better than the whole season and you wouldn't want a team to be too bad because then they couldn't win games after they are eliminated.


July 14th, 2016 at 12:43 PM ^

Whoever initiates contact commits a foul. Don't give a whit about stationary or not, under the basket or not. Up fake and jump into defender? Charge. Lower shoulder into moving defender to clear space or draw a foul? Charge. Offensive player goes up for layup outside the stupid "protected area" and defender slides in and gets stationary? Block.


July 14th, 2016 at 12:45 PM ^

As somebody who likes basketball more than football (I know), this post interested me.

10-I like the idea of using the advantage call on fast breaks, but basketball refs are veering ever closer to incompetence in 50/50 calls. Putting an extra decision in their hands (even one as fairly as obvious as "advantage) seems like it could backfire. I love this idea, but worried about its implementation.

9-Agreed. Sports is primarily entertainment. Is there anything entertaining about watching a game where one team repeatedly sends a poor FT shooter to the line in order to maximize their expected point differential. It's turning basketball into a poor approximation of chess.

8-If the problem with the 3-second call is that nobody calls it, then maybe somebody should call it once in a while. The NBA is moving away from behemoths that plant themselves inside, but if the ball is at the top of the key, the baseline official should be watching the paint and counting.

7-The biggest problem with the current rules in both college and the NBA. A charge was originally called in the offensive player appeared out of control and plowed into a defender's chest. It's blatantly obvious is somebody is out of control with the ball. Basically, a charge should only be called if the offensive's player knee hits the defender in the midsection while the defender is firmly planted in one spot. No sliding. No restricted area.

6/1-I'll combine these two in order to say that I can't handle the pace of the last 2 minutes of a modern basketball game. Timeout. Play. Review. Timeout. Play. It absolutely ruins the drama. 2 timeouts per half in both college and the NBA. Players or coaches can call them after a made basket or the ball is stopped.

BONUS: Coaches have to challenge a call in the last 2 minutes in order to spark a review. Each coach only gets 1 challenge.

5-100%. Why the college game hasn't pushed for this is beyond me. The NBA isn't MLB or the NHL. Let's say you're the Boston Celtics and you draft Jaylen Brown at #3 this year, but you don't need the help right now and feel like it'd be beneficial for him to play another year at Cal over sitting on the end of your bench. Guess what? You now have a bunch of Celtics fans watching Cal games to see how Brown is doing and Brown gets another year of development.

4/3-The 8-team post season tournament for the top 3 spots is a great concept. Teams would work hard to avoid being purposefully awful and you could play it at a neutral site over the first week of the playoffs. I'd be down to go to Vegas to watch 8 teams battle it out for the top 3 draft picks.

2-Only if it's called the Nate Robinson rule

Ron Utah

July 14th, 2016 at 2:31 PM ^

10. YES.  Intentional fast break fouls are dumb and should be eliminated.  The "advantage" method is a great idea.

9. Different idea: After any player has been fouled 6 times, subsequent fouls allow the team to pick the FT shooter.  I like this rule because it still punishes bad FT shooting to a point, but doesn't allow the game to get hijacked with intentional fouls.  It would also open up huge strategy changes which I believe would benefit the league.

8. Three second rule is outdated and should be gone.

7. Charges should be about who initiates contact.  Guys that are drawing fouls with up fakes or lowering shoulders should not be rewarded.  If you are running into a defender, you are the one committing a foul.

6. Too many is the problem.  It's not the timing of TOs, it's that there are too many.  Three each half.  That's it.  Make them precious like they are in football.

5. YES.  Not sure about the length of the guarantees, but I love this.  Teams tell kids how long to stay in school and the kids get paid and know their destiny.  Contracts could be contingent on the kid remaining academically eligible.

4/3. I like the "Loser Playoff" concept.  Everyone gets extra games.  One-game series.  Seeding based on regular season record.  Starts to feel like March Madness and there is actually something on the line.  


July 14th, 2016 at 4:40 PM ^

If the problem with the 3-second call is that nobody calls it, then maybe somebody should call it once in a while. The NBA is moving away from behemoths that plant themselves inside, but if the ball is at the top of the key, the baseline official should be watching the paint and counting.

Technically, all fouls are only fouls when they disadvantage the offended team. This is especially applied to "3 in the lane." Good officials at the high school level will talk players out of the lane and make the call when the players don't get out. Same at the collegiate level. In the NBA, if you really pay attention to it, players aren't in the lane for more than three seconds, often, without getting the ball. It does the offense no good for a player to clog the lane; it only become advantageous to the offense when the player gets the ball. And that's when the call is made if they've been in their for 3 seconds. It's actually one of the rules that is well enforced at the NBA level, in my opinion.


July 14th, 2016 at 12:46 PM ^

Here's a question:  Why does the NBA have a draft?  The league already has roster limits and a salary cap.  I know the argument is that blue-chip players would go to NYC/LA, but after the first year or two they would be maxed out.  If there was no draft, instead of "tanking" teams would want to have a pretty good team with room for one huge contract to lure the next LeBron.


July 14th, 2016 at 12:47 PM ^

I thought they tried #9 several years ago in one of those pre-season tourneys where they experiment with rules -- it was a disaster.  There was no suspense to the game at all -- the team leading just stood around and ran out the clock. 

There should be 1 timeout per half per team -- with the first half use it or lose it.  That would greatly enhance the end of game flow.

I'm disappointed that the new rules don't have a guy on skates -- where everything he does is legal.


July 14th, 2016 at 1:46 PM ^

Interesting (thanks).  But how is an "inbounds-pass fest" worse than a "free-throw fest"?  Both are boring stoppages of play (although I think inbounding would generally consume less time than shooting free-throws).

The key thing, in my mind, is to make a violation of the rules unequivocally disadvantageous to the offending team (or as close to it as possible).  Basketball is nearly unique among sports in that intentionally overt rule-breaking can work to the offender's advantage in a large number of cases.  

In reading this article, I wonder if the real cause of the game still devolving into an "inbounds-pass fest" was that even with the rule change fouling was still too cheap for the trailing team.  They clearly calculated that they were better off (or no worse off) trying to steal an inbounds-pass than by playing straight up defense.


July 14th, 2016 at 2:07 PM ^

Basketball is nearly unique among sports in that intentionally overt rule-breaking can work to the offender's advantage in a large number of cases.

I wouldn't say that. Baseball has the intentional walk. Football has delay-of-game penalties to create space for punters, and pass interference as a way of avoiding giving up touchdown passes. There are others.

IMO, the bigger problem with the end of basketball games is the timeouts.  That's what really causes the last minute to take forever.  It doesn't take all that long to shoot FTs.  It's the timeouts during/after every set of FTs that are the problem.



July 14th, 2016 at 12:47 PM ^

To me, in most cases this should be called as an intentional foul:  2 free throws and the team shooting the free throws gets to take the ball out of bounds after the second free throw.  However, it's never called that way.  

In almost all the cases of 'Hac a shank' it's pretty obvious the defender doing the fouling is doing it intentionally.


July 14th, 2016 at 1:02 PM ^

I agree 100%.  When I played, if you fouled someone intentionally it was called an intentional foul, and 2 shots and the ball back was the penalty.  Pretty simple and quite easily enforced.  I never understood why it wasn't called like that in the pros.  I have turned off many games that have turned into the lets hack a guy away from the ball because he can't shoot FT's.  It ruins games.  I have no problem with fouling the guy who has the ball, but fouls away from the ball that are intentional should be punished by the 2 shots and the ball back.  Likewise, the biggest issue is when teams are fouling at the beginning of the quarters away from the ball.


July 14th, 2016 at 1:03 PM ^

If the foul is intentional (other than end of game situations), then the team that is fouled can pick anyone on the floor to take the free throws.  They already do this for technical fouls.  Soccer does it for penalty kicks.

That way, there is no advantage to hacking Andre or Deandre Jordan.


July 14th, 2016 at 1:16 PM ^

I personally like the 2 ft and the ball back to be enforced, because that takes away the big problem of fouls away from the ball that are clearly intentional.  I think any foul away from the ball should be rewarded like that.  Any play on the ball would be a normal foul.  To me it's not  a complicated solution to the problem.  There is no need to make distinctions of under 1 min down by 5 ect...  The rule would be simple to enforce.


July 14th, 2016 at 1:07 PM ^

More "Play on" no-calls.

Not every contact a charge or a foul. Sometimes it's . . . nothing.

The idea that as an offensive player with the ball you can just put your head down and bull rush into the defender and toss the ball in the air near the basket hoping for a foul call is ridiculous.  You initiated the contact.

Just play on.

If I get you to jump in the air a yard away from me and then I run under you to get a foul, I'm the one that initiated the contact.

Just play on.




July 14th, 2016 at 12:58 PM ^

#9 is dumb as written unless there is a caveat with under 5 min or something.  otherwise if you are down > 5 pts with less than a minute left, the game is, in effect, over.

#8 also dumb.  no 3 seconds?  ok, i will just recruit two 7 footers, plant them on each side of the hoop and throw alley oops to them all game.  good luck defending that.  calipari would love that rule change.