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Trending Topics: Do fewer free throws allow for a better NBA game?

Players are still adjusting to the NBA's new rules on non-basketball moves. Have those new Points of Emphasis helped the game?

James Harden and other stars have struggled, at times, to adjust to the NBA’s new shooting foul rules.

Each week,’s writers will weigh in on some of the most important topics around the league.

We’re watching a more free-flowing NBA game this season, with limited foul calls being initiated by offensive players and fewer trips to the free-throw line overall. In your opinion, has this shift made the game better, worse or the same? Will this last?

Steve Aschburner: Way, way better. The pendulum had swung too far in favor of offense, to the point that some of the scoring numbers seemed right out of baseball’s steroids era. One example: In 2020-21, 31 players averaged at least 20 points per game. Just 10 years earlier, in 2010-11, there were 19. The last thing the league needed was to indulge contortionist maneuvers designed simply to draw whistles, bearing no resemblance to proper shooting form. There seems to be a greater tolerance for physical play overall, which heightens the sense of urgency each night, demonstrating how hard guys actually play at both ends.

Mark Medina: Much better. James Harden and Trae Young may not like they are not receiving calls. But that is a good thing. Even if both players deserve praise for their craftiness, Harden and Young went to the free-throw line far too often because of their expertise with manipulating the rulebook than actually drawing contact. While Harden and Young will eventually adjust, the rest of the NBA has benefitted from playing games with fewer whistles, and having more defenders feel empowered to do their job.

Shaun Powell: It’s made the game better. No longer do we have to stomach those non-basketball movements being rewarded with cheap fouls. Who cares if James Harden and Trae Young are suffering? They’re pros — they’ll adjust. Now, if only the NBA can do something about palming the ball and the Euro-travel … but that’s probably asking too much.

John Schuhmann: The Points of Education regarding “Non-Basketball Moves” intended to draw fouls are great, and it appears that players have adjusted already. As a viewer, I’m still adjusting to what seems like an increase in allowed contact in the paint, and it’s possible that the officials have over-corrected in that regard. Free throw rate on drives is down from 30.1 attempts per 100 shots from the field last season to just 26.5 this season. That’s a bigger drop than that of the overall rate.

Michael C. Wright: As a writer, I’ll never complain about shorter games. But the truth is it’s just flat out more entertaining to watch defenders being rewarded for their efforts on that end of the floor. Seriously, think back to just a few years ago. Remember San Antonio facing Houston in the 2017 conference semifinals, and spending that entire series guarding James Harden with its hands up, palms facing out? It looked silly, but that’s what San Antonio needed to do to keep Harden from living at the free-throw line. Sure, it’s a skill to be able to draw fouls. But it’s also a skill to defend. The players will eventually adapt like they always do, but this 2021-22 version of the NBA is a better game than we’ve seen in the recent past.

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