Ten Ways To Make X Better: Basketball

Submitted by Brian on 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 Duke ruined them for everybody, but now that there's a restricted circle their preferred tactic is no longer valid.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 2:02 PM ^

What problem exactly are we solving?

The NBA is at it's height of popularity and is growing exponentially hence the big jump in TV monies which caused all the contract angst this year.  And seven different teams (including Cleveland for God's sake) have won the title in the past 10 years. 

The college game is equally thriving with TV ratings and attendance both climbing.  I doesnt appear to me that college basketball is in trouble in the least.

You forgot to mention no more floor cams for ESPN.  That's one rule change I could get behind.


July 14th, 2016 at 2:02 PM ^

from calling three seconds until a coach blisters their ears up and down the court along with thier assistants all game lone complaining about the lack of the call and the ongoing violation of an offensive player seeking to gain an advantage by straying in there too long.

Can we acknowledge how basketball is officiated at most levels: based on advantage-disadvantage guidelines within the rules of the game. That means that not every rule is inherently enforced to the letter, but when a violation occurs or a personal foul takes place, that is witnessed and regarded as such, it gets called. Sometimes this behavior is correctly judged and other times it isn't. It's just like everything else in life. Perception is always greater than reality in officiating bacause for the most part, especially at most amateur levels, there is no replay opportunity.


Ali G Bomaye

July 14th, 2016 at 2:12 PM ^

I'm not sure how many of these are sarcastic and how many are earnest, but #10 is a terrible idea.  Calling advantage after a foul on a fast break would incentivize the defense to turn every touch foul into a mugging.  If the offense gets to play on after a foul, the defense is going to make sure they cause a turnover and stop play, even if they have to tackle the point guard.

matty blue

July 14th, 2016 at 2:25 PM ^

1 - (and i admit that this may have been legislated out already and i'm just an idiot) no more timeouts if you catch the ball and call timeout from midair on your way out of bounds.  the rule says you have to be in control of the ball.  if you're in midair, you're not in control of the ball.

2 - no more timeouts if you're on the floor in the middle of a scrum.  again, you're not in control of the ball if there's someone sitting on your thigh, or you can't pass to anyone else.  call it a jump ball and check the arrow.


July 14th, 2016 at 3:27 PM ^

call it a jump ball and check the arrow.

I was with you until this. I hate the arrow. It can lead to huge, game-turning possession changes.

There should be an actual jump ball in any tie-up. Let teams chose whomever they want to take it. It makes no sense that they have one to start the game but then rely on the arrow the rest of the way.


July 14th, 2016 at 2:30 PM ^

I coached youth basketball for four years. I think they gave us 2 timeouts per half. I definitely needed those to make adjustments and talk to the kids. There's only so much you can convey by yelling from the sideline. That said, if we are talking about college basketball, these guys should be able to take on more responsibility to figure things out on their own. In that sense, I'm very much in the Phil Jackson school of thought. Additionally, it doesn't make sense that you play one way for 38 minutes (limited direct involvement of the coach) and then for the final two minutes every play needs to be scripted and drawn up. I'm sorry, no coach is that intellectually gifted that he or she can come up with the greatest game-winning play on the spur of the moment. That stuff has to be worked on in practice and then you let the kids take over. Yes, you want everyone on the same page, but again, that should be done during your week of practice.


July 14th, 2016 at 2:35 PM ^

I could actually watch basketball again if some of these changes were enacted.  Resetting the shot clock in the last 5 minutes of each half OR shooting is genius.

Also, having suffered from a ref that called a charge on me after I released the ball and landed AND then took two steps on a game-winning shot, I agree wholeheartedly with you on "FIX HOW YOUR REFS CALL CHARGING NCAA ENTITY THINGS!"


July 14th, 2016 at 3:25 PM ^

I'm only a casual lacrosse fan, but the one I would support would be something along the lines of limiting substitutions:  perhaps requiring that once somebody is substituted for, they can not return to the game that quarter.  It seems to defeat the purpose of having a midfielder if they can specialize just like the attackers and defenders do.  Also, I'm not a huge fan of "specialty" faceoff people.  If that's your only skill, maybe you don't belong out there.

Also overtime needs to be fixed.  There is a problem with the 3-minute overtime:  teams win the faceoff, then try to hold the ball for a single shot (so the other team doesn't get the ball at all).  Overtime should be unlimited--no buzzer, just the first team to score wins.  Or maybe implement the shot clock automatically in overtimes.

L'Carpetron Do…

July 14th, 2016 at 5:21 PM ^

Yeah I agree.  OT is now like the NFL used to be - whoever gets the first possession just holds for the sudden death score.  But, the only difference is that in lacrosse the possession is determined by a faceoff, so in theory that team earned it, as opposed to a coin toss.  It would be interesting to see the other team get a chance after the first goal.  If they don't win the ensuing faceoff game over.  If they don't score and turn the ball over game over.  But I guess that leaves a lot of discretion up to the refs...



July 14th, 2016 at 4:20 PM ^

For example, if dunks are worth three, anyone who might dunk will get fouled. Even if they get three free throws, a 90% FT shooter will miss at least one more than a quarter of the time. Most of the league doesn't shoot nearly that well, so fouling becomes a better strategy. Plus they might not call it!

As for three seconds, one of the reasons the league shoots threes is because they can't just hold the ball until their behemoth has bench-pressed the other behemoth and gotten position for a dunk/layin. Restrictions breed creativity in small doses; in this case between three seconds and the three pointer, it's worth shooting from outside even if you only hit a third of your shots. Change the rules, and the efficiency of inside shots goes up (and the number of fouls again, as fouling people becomes a more effective strategy), so people start packing it in again.

The trick to reducing fouls is to make the penalty higher. Make breakaway fouls a goaltend plus possession, so it's not worth it unless you really can play defense. Similarly, make off the ball fouls in the last five minutes also add a technical foul - so one free throw by the fouled side's best shooter, and the ball, to be taken after the penalty for the foul, if any. Now you can only foul the guy with the ball.

The flip side of that is that free throw shooting becomes less and less important for anyone not handling the ball a lot - now it's important for everyone.


July 14th, 2016 at 9:38 PM ^

How about calling all those desperation fouls toward the end of the game what they really are: intentional fouls. That would put an end to the interminable last 2-3 minutes of every game.

Mr. Owl

July 16th, 2016 at 1:53 AM ^

I'd be a bit more radical.

3-pt line is now half-court.

Call EVERY traveling violation.  If a ref crew misses one, they get fined & the crews that miss the most calls are left out of the playoffs (and don't get the playoff game money.)

All NBA arenas are built using no taxpayer money.  The NBA makes enough cash to pay guys who can't shoot $15m per season?  They make enough to build their own arenas to play in.

40% of all tickets to games sell for $20/ticket.

To prevent the "Hack-a" strategy, adopt an idea from the NHL.  If a foul is committed away from the ball, the team has the option of shoooting free throws or resetting the play clock and playing a posession of 5 on 4 ball.

Impose an NHL style draft format where players can return to school & be drafted again if a team with a higher pick wants him.  Cap & don't guarantee the salaries of all players with college elligability remaining.  If you can't survive on $50,000 at 19 years old, go back to school.

Speaking of school, have a spelling test revolving around the team that drafted you.  If you can't spell "Lakers" without looking at the jersey, go back to school.