On August 8th, the NBA announced a new rule that targeted shooters who create contact to initiate a foul call. To be precise, the NBA focused on four situations that were automatic fouls in years past:
- “The shooter launches or leans into a defender at an abnormal angle.”
- “ The offensive player abruptly veers off his path (sideways or backward) into a defender.
- “The shooter kicks his leg (up or to the side) at an abnormal angle.”
- “The offensive player’s off-arm hooks the defender (often in the process of attempting a shot in a non-basketball manner).”
NBA fans rejoiced in this decision, as many felt the game was slowing down with the countless leg swings or lean-ins from perimeter shooters. We all know the classic pump fake lean-in move from Dwyane Wade or the leg kick of Paul Pierce, which generally resulted in two freebies. These calls grind the game to a halt, lowering scoring and breaking the casual fan’s interest. Setting these rules will speed the game up, thus increasing scoring. Some players’ repertoire includes getting these foul calls to send them to the line. When you’re a player that shoots 89% from the free-throw stripe like Damian Lillard, this rule can affect the way you play.
Last year, Dame was fourth in the league on fouls called against him at 6.3 fouls per game. So far this year, Dame is 26th in the league with 4.3 fouls called per game, the lowest amount since his sophomore season in 2013. His free throw attempts per 36 minutes are down as well. He’s averaging four free throw attempts per 36 minutes, which would be his lowest since his rookie year in 2012. Let’s look at his career free throw attempts (FTA) matched up to his foul calls per game:
Going into this year, Lillard has averaged one shooting foul call per 16.19 minutes (24,779 minutes played / 1,530 shooting fouls) for his career. Lillard averages one shooting foul per 28.14 minutes (197 / 7 shooting fouls) this year. Lillard will finish the year with 95 shooting fouls if this pace keeps up, which would be the lowest of his career. Granted, he’s only averaging 32.8 minutes per game at the moment, which would be the lowest by three minutes per game for his career as well. He’s also only shooting 34.9% from the field, which could directly be attributed to the new rule.
It’s not all harmful for Dame-Time, though, as he’s on pace for the best assist numbers of his career, averaging 9.1 assists per 36 minutes. Losing the scoring but gaining the assists could only help him and his team. He’s also on a Blazers team that leads the league in pace, which the four rules promote. If Dame and company can adjust quickly to the new rules, Lillard and his team can progress into success.