The End of the Free Throw?

Jeremy Lin (7) prepares to shoot a free throw against the Golden State Warriors Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago, TrueHoop examined changes in the NBA that have made the game better to watch for the average fan. They talk about how changes in rules have changed defense in the NBA and led to more threes and fewer free throws, leading to a more exciting viewing experience.

NBA writer Ethan Strauss ran with the idea and suggested another change that could further improve the NBA. The basics of his idea are to make fouls result in an automatic two points instead of free throws until the final two minutes. He argues that this would significantly speed up play but could cause more flopping and fatigued players.

It’s an intriguing idea. Instead of dismissing it as extreme, let’s take a look at what removing free throws would mean for the game. Strauss believes that a more constant pace, like soccer, would make the NBA more popular. Would it, though? America’s first love is not soccer, it is football. Football is full of down time. Almost every play is followed by a break of 25-30 seconds. This shows that short breaks can be tolerated if they do not disrupt the flow of the game.

So how can the NBA speed up the game but still allow for breaks for players to catch their breath? How about this: Each two shot fouls = One FT and possession. Each three shot fouls = Two FTs and possession. Technical fouls = One automatic point. Since NBA teams average around one point per possession, the extra possession takes care of the eschewed free throw. This allows for breaks while still speeding up the game. End of game strategies would change, as this idea would discourage hack-a-player tactics. This would actually promote better defense while making the game more exciting, two things once thought to be mutually exclusive.

A problem with this idea could still be the encouragement of flopping. One FT and the ball can be considered a harsher result than two FT’s, making drawing a foul even more beneficial.  Despite this, the idea could improve the flow and popularity of the NBA. Even if it means missing out on a few “ball don’t lie” technical misses.

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Tags: Free Throw

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