“I’m Glad that Now We’re Calling it Correctly” – Sixers Discuss the NBA’s Foul Hunting Crackdown

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers beat the Raptors 125-113 on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Good performance from the home team, which shot 18-37 from three and rolled Shake Milton at point guard with the first unit. Doc Rivers has two more preseason games to figure out whether it’s going to be Shake or Tyrese Maxey being the primary ball handler for the October 20th home opener, assuming Ben Simmons continues his costly holdout.

Instead of breaking down a meaningless game, we decided to go in another direction, and ask about the big rule change that’s making the NBA so much more enjoyable already. This year, the league has instructed officials to stop calling fouls when offensive players awkwardly jump into defenders, which means plays like this will no longer result in a whistle:

Under the new guidelines, play will simply continue when a sequence like that happens. In other instances, if the contact is egregious, the player initiating can be whistled for an offensive foul. It’s one of the few rule changes in recent years to actually benefit the defensive side of the game.

“I think it’s a great change,” said head coach Doc Rivers before Thursday night’s game. “I think we all know, having been on the competition committee for probably way too long, every time there was a rule change, there was something else that it created. I don’t know what that ‘something else’ is yet, but there always is (a drawback), you know? But upfront, I love it. I think it’s a good rule change, I think (the foul hunting) was frustrating for fans, and I think it was frustrating for teams when you’re playing solid defense. And, you know, this the only thing that I would say that I guess is kind of negative, is that this is really not a rule change as far as I’m concerned. It’s the way the rule should be called. If I’m on the side (playing defense) and the offensive player dives into me, I don’t think that’s a rule change. I think that’s an offensive foul. But for whatever reason we were calling it a foul. So I’m glad that now we’re calling it correctly.”

Which Sixer stands to benefit the most from this rule change?

It’s probably Matisse Thybulle, who had a hell of time trying to deal with Trae Young in last year’s playoffs. There were a couple of plays in that second round series where Young angled himself into Thybulle’s body and got to the line, but with the new guidelines this year, an aggressive perimeter defender will get some leeway, and maybe these types of sequences will stop happening:

“Some of his fouls will still be fouls,” Rivers said of Thybulle. “The over-the-head one he gets (whistled) quite a bit. That still will be a foul. But where Matisse is great is on recovery, especially the rear contest where the guy is moving. I think that will really help him quite a bit. And I think a lot of defenders are really happy with the rule change. It just feels like every rule change over the last 10 years has gone against the defense. It’s kind of nice seeing rules now for defense. It’s good.”

Two games in, the Sixers have now had a decent amount of time to get a feel for how refs will be calling offensive contact this year.

“We saw a couple of calls (Thursday night) that were different,” said veteran wing Danny Green. “They called some offensive fouls and some hooks and they’re emphasizing some other things. It’s always interesting to see the upkeep and who they’re going to call it on. I think a lot of these emphases are better, especially for defenders, but we’ll see how it goes throughout the season and what complaints come about.”

For Joel Embiid, you shouldn’t expect anything different with his ability to get to the foul line. The rule changes are aimed at perimeter players who generate unnatural contact, but the Sixers’ center should still be able to rip through with two hands on the ball in the low block and get the same whistles he got last year.

“For me personally, it doesn’t affect me. I think’s more about the guards,” Embiid said after the win. “You talk about shooters, and guys who like to jump sideways and backwards into defenders. I think it’s great for defenders, guys like Danny, because they’re finally going to get the benefit of the doubt. But for me, it doesn’t affect me, especially with my rip-through and stuff. But I think it’s good, and usually it lasts for a little bit and then they don’t care anymore (to enforce the new rule), so I hope it lasts for the whole season and beyond. Because it is annoying. Even going back to last year in the playoffs, it is annoying.”

Trae Young went to the line 58 times in the seven-game series, so he averaged 8.2 free throws per game. He was fourth in the league in the regular season with 8.6 free throw attempts per game and that number is going to come down this year as long as officials enforce the new rules.