One of the most noticeable things that has caught the eye of NBA spectators this season has been the new fouling rules. These rules have centered on offensive players who lunge at defenders, kick their feet out, and will basically do anything to draw fouls to go to the free-throw line.
These new rules have not just caught the attention of the fans, but there has been a multitude of players around the league who have voiced their opinion on this matter. While there are some players who enjoy these new rules, other players do not share the same sentiment. Kyle Kuzma of the Washington Wizards on October 29th said on Twitter that “The new rule changes are the best thing the league has done in recent history.”
Golden State Warriors Power Forward Draymond Green, well known in the NBA for his outspokenness, was more than willing to share his thoughts on the new foul rules.
After the Warriors defeated the Thunder on October 30th, Green alluded to the fact that the changes are quite noticeable saying, “Because you don’t have guys doing the garbage to try and draw fouls anymore. I think this game was turning into, ‘who can draw the most fouls?’ Nobody wants to watch that, and you definitely don’t want to play in a game like that. So you can feel the difference out there for sure. It’s just more pure basketball, and that’s great for our game.”
Others like the rule changes for different reasons; one person in particular is New York Knicks Small Forward Evan Fournier. After the Knicks beat the Pelicans on October 30th, Fournier said that the NBA “did a great job,” regarding the new rules and explained that players have to “adapt and adjust.”
Knicks Head Coach Tom Thibodeau who is known for having an old-school/tough mentality to no surprise is also a fan of the new fouling rules. Thibodeau believes the NBA is “headed down the right path” with the rule changes. He also said that “I think [that] no one wants to go to a game and watch 80 free throws being shot. There’s no rhythm to that game.”
One of the players who has been a “poster boy” for these new rules is Brooklyn Nets superstar guard James Harden, who is known to be someone who gets to the free-throw line at a high rate. He was the leader in free throw attempts six seasons in a row from 2014-2020; never averaging less than 10 free throw attempts a game. But this season Harden has not been as proficient at getting to the charity stripe.
In the early stages of this season, he is averaging 5.8 free throw attempts a game; last season he averaged 7.3. What’s also quite noticeable is how Harden’s points per game is significantly down so far this season. As of right now, Harden is only averaging 19.8 points per game, which is the lowest he has averaged in ten seasons.
The conversation around Harden and these new rules has been quite prevalent early in this NBA season. After the Nets loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, October 24th, Nets Head Coach Steve Nash shared his thoughts on the situation.
Nash said that “I feel like he’s unfairly become the poster boy of not calling these fouls,” Nash said. “Some of them could definitely be fouls still but they’re so alert and aware and he’s the poster child of these new decisions. I get it, there’s a line, but some of them are still fouls. He’s just gotta stick with it. He’s gotta keep going to the basket and do what he does because a large portion of them are still fouls.”
Harden himself addressed the situation after the game saying “I’m not the type to complain about it,” the former MVP said. “I ask every official if they see a foul just call a foul. Sometimes I feel like coming into a game it’s already predetermined or I already have the stigma of getting fouls calls. I just ask for officials to call what they see… I can’t stop playing basketball. A foul is a foul no matter what league it is. But it’s bigger than that. I gotta just keep playing. I gotta play better, obviously. That’s it.”
Luckily for Harden, it’s still early into the season, and he has time to make adjustments, but if he doesn’t he could be in for a rude awakening.
Another player whose game has been impacted by these rule changes is Atlanta Hawks star point guard Trae Young, who is also known as someone who gets to the stripe at a high rate.
This season Young’s free throw attempts per game have gone from 8.7 to 5.3. Young, like Harden, is one of the most dynamic players in the league, but one moniker that has stuck to him during his young NBA career is his propensity to draw fouls. The problem is that the way Young tends to draw fouls is by initiating the contact himself.
After the Hawks lost to the Washington Wizards on October 28th, Young spoke to reporters about the officiating saying “Veering back and jumping into guys—that’s different. There are certain things that I agree with the rule changes, but then there’s things that are still fouls, and guys are going to get hurt. Especially a smaller guy like me who’s going up against bigger and stronger defenders, they’re using their body and they’re using their legs and their hands to stop me.”
Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook who is known for his ferocious nature of getting to the basket and the free-throw line has also seen a decrease in his free throw attempts per game. This season Westbrook is averaging 4.9 free throw attempts per game, which is the lowest average he has ever had in his 14-year career.
What’s clear is that there is certainly a difference of opinion among players and coaches in the NBA in relation to these new rules. Something that people will be eager to see is when or if the players will be able to make the necessary adjustments to their game in order to succeed.