NBA transition foul 1

NBA Seeks to Curb Fouls in Transition After 1,700 Hacks Last Year

An NBA game has 48 minutes of live action basketball, but from tipoff to the final buzzer, games average 133 minutes. Most additional time is necessary for player rest, business purposes and the like, but not all.

As reported by Sportico, last season, the NBA eliminated automatic out-of-bounds replays in the final two minutes, resulting in slightly faster endings to games on average.

“We’re not targeting a specific game length, but there’s always an opportunity to increase that ratio of action to dead time by decreasing the frequency and length of stoppages,” NBA executive vice president of basketball strategy and analytics Evan Wasch said.

Like replays, fouls also create stoppages. So this season, the league implemented a rule to curtail intentional fouls that stop fast breaks without making a legitimate defensive attempt. Now a take foul will be penalized with one free throw, to be taken by any player on the offended team, which will maintain possession of the ball after the foul shot.

“We had over 1,700 transition take fouls last season, which means 1,700 plays where you did not see a fast break scoring opportunity and instead saw a lazy foul and a side out, so obviously we had to do something about that,” Wasch said.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, the frequency of take fouls more than quadrupled between the 2017-18 and 2021-22 seasons. For a phenomenon that developed so quickly, roughly 1.4 unnecessary stoppages per game is significant.

When tested in the G League, the new rule resulted in a 90% reduction in take fouls. “That doesn’t mean that all 1,700 plays are going to now turn into fast breaks, because many of those will still end up as fouls,” Wasch said. “But they’ll be fouls that were committed through legitimate defensive action, and that’s fine.”

Certain players will see their fast-break scoring opportunities increase this season. Unsurprisingly, the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led the NBA in transition points in 2021-22, was fouled a league-leading 30 times by intentional take fouls, tied with the Hawks’ Dejounte Murray.

Some teams will have to significantly adjust. For instance, the Utah Jazz, under then-head coach and take foul pioneer Quin Snyder, committed 174 intentional fouls outside of the last two minutes of fourth quarters in 2021-22; the team with the next highest number of take fouls was the Denver Nuggets with 123, while the league average was just 65. (Snyder stepped down from his head coaching role in the offseason, leaving current coach Will Hardy to strategize based on the new rule.)

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