NBA is testing new free throw rule and you have to read this
Jayson Tatum at the free throw line | Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
In an attempt to shorten the length of games, the NBA will be testing a new free throw rule in G-League games this upcoming season. Only one free throw shot will be taken per trip to the foul line. For example, if a player is fouled on a layup they would normally be awarded two foul shots. With this rule, the player will only take one foul shot that will be worth zero if he misses or two if he makes the single foul shot.
It marks the latest move -- in both the G League and the NBA -- to improve game flow and reduce the length of games. Officials estimate that moving to a "one foul shot for all the points" model will shave between six and eight minutes off each G League game, said Brad Walker, head of basketball operations for the league. - Zach Lowe, ESPN
Lowe mentions in his piece that G-League games are currently running 2 hours, 5 minutes. League officials think that this new rule will cut 6-8 minutes off that total by eliminated extra free throws and the time in-between each attempt. The ultimate goal is for the NBA games to be played in a 2-hour window.
There would be a little more work involved to shave off minutes in an NBA game. For the first half of last year, Forbes had non-overtime NBA games coming in at over 2 hours, 13 minutes. This was up a couple minutes over the previous season due to increased fouls being called per game.
This type of change does not come without concern for the NBA though. According to the Washington Post:
The worry with this rule change is that, with only one free throw, it will drive down everyone’s free throw percentage. Over the past 20 seasons, ESPN notes, NBA players have historically shot the worst on their first free throw attempt: 73.3 percent. That improves to 78 percent on the second and 85.7 percent on the third.
I’m a bit of a traditionalist, so at first glance I was a little uneasy about a big change to the game like this. But as the MLB is finding out with their pace of play, sometimes big changes are necessary to keep viewers.
The NBA is not nearly in as bad of a position as baseball because NBA games are usually over within 2-and-a-half-hours. Baseball gets applauded when they can squeeze one in under 3 hours. People seem to watch the NFL no matter what, but their games have a lot of non-action-minutes and run over 3 hours as well. The NHL is in a similar boat as the NBA in terms of game length, which is good, but they have other issues with attracting viewers.
As much as I like the free throw breaks for a run to the ‘fridge, bathroom, or to scroll on Twitter, I commend the NBA on their forward thinking. I hate to pick on the MLB, but as their demographic gets older and dies off, the NBA is finding ways to keep their viewers while looking forward to what the younger viewers are going to appreciate.
In a fast-paced world where it seems that anything over 2-and-a-half-hours is too long, this makes a lot of sense. Maybe 2 hours is that sweet spot. Think about the last time you went to this movies for a 3-hour movie. It was too long. Same applies to sports entertainment. And maybe our attention span has made TV shows/series (typically running 30-minutes-to-an-hour) more palatable.
We’ll see how this looks in the G-League for a season. The rules translating to the NBA is not imminent. There will be a lot of questions that will need to be answered prior to this change making its way to the pro’s, but at least the game we love is looking forward and not stuck in the past.