USA Today Sports

The NBA: Cheap Free Throws Are Corrupting the League

More and More Free-Throws Are On The NBA Horizon

It drives me crazy. You are driving in the fast lane, making good time, and listening to good tunes. Your day is perfect. Then it happens! Some guy in front of you is going legitimately 10 mph under the speed limit. No worries, you try to do the quick lane switch and pass him on the right. Unfortunately, there happens to be a semi-truck in the right lane. The guy on the left is not going fast enough to pass the semi, and you have no choice but to slow down. You have to tap the brakes. Frustration ensues. Eventually, the guy moves over, and you move back to the fast-lane. Life is good again. Until about 45 minutes later, when it happens again.

That same feeling, the frustration, is what I experienced in watching the NBA this season. There is a new strategy on the block, and it has moved through the NBA like a wildfire. This strategy all revolves around defending the pick-and-roll. The PnR is as common in an NBA offense as corn is in the state of Indiana. There are two ways for the player getting "screened" to get around the screen. 

1. You can go under the screen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEFcNmbIqpw

In the footage above, you see both Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert go under the screens. It works on Toronto Raptors Guard Cory Joseph. The thinking here is: "Let the opponent shoot over the screen" which is exactly what Kyle Lowry does to beat the Cavalier defense on the play. This style is employed by almost every NBA team. 

2. You can go over the screen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfH6Fa8iteo

In that video, Kyrie and Kevin Love get put in the PnR. Kyrie fights over the screen, and Kevin switches onto Curry. The rest of the video is the Cavaliers trying to do similar things. The idea here is that you take away the jump-shot over the PnR, and you either fight over and hedge, or just switch after you fight over. 

Both of these methods have been used since the Stockton-Malone era of basketball. However, it is becoming nearly impossible to fight OVER the PnR anymore. It was always "good basketball" for the guard to cut by the pick as tight as possible, but in the recent months, whenever a player tries to fight over the screen a foul ensues and the offensive player throws the ball at the rim, garnering them three free-throws.

Don't believe me? Check out this video of James Harden doing it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nv85Kyg9tnU

There is an interesting stat flashed at the bottom of the screen during the video. Harden has done it EIGHT times in the Thunder-Rockets series. The biggest problem I have with this is the 3 point foul call. Is it a foul on Taj Gibson for leaning in? Absolutely. Is Harden's jumper after the foul? Absolutely. We can call the foul on Gibson and give the ball to the Rockets on the sideline out of bounds. Harden should not be shooting three free throws.

Harden is not the only player to do it. Jeff Teague did it against Cleveland and hit the shot. Even Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook have started doing it. This has caused a stir in the basketball world.

Media...

https://twitter.com/thunderousint/status/849786905713627136

https://twitter.com/royceyoung/status/856240509601402880

Also athletes...

https://twitter.com/JaredDudley619/status/856242434468188161

And of course fans...

https://twitter.com/LongLiveNerko/status/856264701067628545

At the end of the day, the NBA probably won't change any rules. But this has to stop. The refs need to be told to look for this, and when a player tries to "deceive" a referee, that player needs to be fined. If the NBA doesn't make changes soon, we could be in for extremely long games spent at the free-throw line. The change needs to be made, it's frustrating for the fans, players, and referees.


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