Friday, May 30, 2008

NBA Proposes Fining “Floppers”

In an effort to reduce “flopping”, what seems to be an over-reaction to player contact in the NBA, the league is considering fining the most egregious floppers. The obvious reason is that as you raise the cost of flopping – taking a dive – then you reduce the incentive of this type of behavior. Questions still to be determined is how much will the fine be, will the fines increase with additional occurrences, etc.

My question is: what is the cost of “flopping”? If referees do not call fouls on the offensive player who makes incidental contact, then the offensive player has an easier shot and likely a better opportunity to make a basket. Likewise if referees call a foul – such as unsportsmanlike conduct – then players will have less of an incentive to flop. Flopping is only an optimal strategy if referees call fouls on the player who makes incidental contact. By referees not calling the foul on the offensive player or by calling fouls on the flopper – either reduces the incentives to flop on the court – without having to revert to another layer of referee oversight.

This same problem exists in the NHL, with players diving all over the place. NHL referees have the option to call unsportsmanlike conduct on the player exaggerating the foul which in the NHL leads to a two minute “time out” or penalty. I have not done the statistics on this, but in casual observation of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, they tend to also occur with a penalty on the opposing team’s player, thus canceling out any advantage of diving. Admittedly, there is still a lot of diving in the NHL, but calling an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty does reduce the incentive to dive.

What do you think?


Mike said...

Congrats on your blog here, hope your transition to Iowa goes well.
Why doesn't the league simply allow referees to call unsportsmanlike conduct more often? They imposed a hand-checking rule a few years back and that worked fairly well. The refs are right there. I can't stand watching bug-eyed Duncan along with his flopping European sidekicks, it's about time the league addressed this issue.

Shake'n'bake said...

Using the flopping fines as opposed to emphasizing (not)calling fouls to reduce the incentive to flop is based on the assumption that the refs can make the correct call more often watching the tape than in a split second live.

You see mistakes on instant replay in other sports so having the tape doesn't guarantee that the calls will be right, but it hopefully improves the accuracy.

Stacey said...

I am with you with the refs. I think that if the league came out and said we are not going to tolerate flopping; and if the league holds the referees accountable to calling unsportsmanlike conduct - players will adjust. Players have adjusted to hand-checking.

Ultimately, the decision makers in the NBA need to decide if this is a big enough issue and provide the incentives to reduce it.