NBA's new playoff flopping rules

A press release from the NBA:

The NBA has set the league’s anti-flopping disciplinary schedule to be used during the 2013 Playoffs, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations Stu Jackson announced today.

“Flopping” is defined as any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player. The primary factor in determining whether a player committed a flop is whether his physical reaction to contact with another player is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force or direction of the contact.

The NBA’s anti-flopping rule, adopted at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, had 24 violations during the 2012-13 regular season. Fourteen players received warnings while five players received a $5,000 fine for violating the anti-flopping rule twice.

Physical acts that constitute legitimate basketball plays (such as moving to a spot in order to draw an offensive foul) and minor physical reactions to contact are not deemed to be flops.

Any player who is determined to have committed a flop during the 2013 Playoffs will be subject to the following:

  • Violation 1: $5,000 fine

  • Violation 2: $10,000 fine

  • Violation 3: $15,000 fine

  • Violation 4: $30,000 fine

If a player violates the anti-flopping rule five times or more, he will be subject to discipline that is reasonable under the circumstances, including an increased fine and/or suspension.

This is not so different from the league's regular-season anti-flopping program, although a key difference is that in the regular season every player's first offense was granted with only a warning. Now the fines start immediately and quickly get steep.

Whether or not such a program is effective depends entirely on how active the league is in noticing and punishing flops.

In the regular season they spotted one flop for every 51 games played. (That's one for roughly every 25,000 minutes of player time on the court.) At that rate, the whole playoffs will feature a grand total of two flops. In other words, the entire anti-flopping effort would amount to a couple of $5,000 holes in a couple of guys' wallets -- but no real need for any flopper to change strategy.

There are other ways the flopping program could be better. Why wait until after the game is over to review three seconds of video that affect the game in real time? That delay means, for instance, that effectively there are no flopping rules worth worrying about for any team facing elimination. Or, picture Game 7 of the NBA Finals, when any flop would be punished next season. Flop away, gentlemen.

And finally, I'm not a fan of any of these NBA rules (for instance, with technical totals) that accumulate through the playoffs. The risk of a five-flops-in-the-playoffs suspension is effectively zero for every NBA player -- except maybe those on very top contending teams that expect to play a couple dozen games. If you play for the Thunder, Spurs or Heat, in other words, you're facing anti-flopping, anti-technical and anti-flagrant pressure no other team has. It also means that if anyone is to get suspended, it's most likely in the Finals, when fans would most appreciate having them on the court.

Hardly seems like the smartest set up, but of course it's better than no punishment at all -- which is how the NBA treated flops before this season.