NBA reportedly voting on proposal to issue technical fouls for flopping violations

The NBA is reportedly voting on putting some teeth behind its long-stated anti-flopping campaign.

Per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, owners will vote on a proposal at their July 11 meeting that would award opponents a technical free throw when a player is deemed to have flopped. This follows a May report that the league was considering implementing technical fouls for flops during Summer League. If approved, the new rule would be applied on a trial basis.

Owners will also vote on awarding a second coach’s challenge if the first is successful, per the report. This would mimic the NFL’s coach’s challenge system, which awards a third challenge only if a coach’s first two challenges are successful. It also mimics common sense. If a coach correctly identifies faulty officiating, then he should be allowed an avenue to defend his team from further transgressions

Nikola Jokic is called for an offensive foul against LeBron James during the Western Conference finals. (Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
Nikola Jokic is called for an offensive foul against LeBron James during the Western Conference finals. (Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

But the proposed techs-for-flops program is the real attention grabber here. Flopping has been a scourge on the game and a topic of ire for fans for pretty much as long as basketball’s been on television. No neutral observer likes to see the course of a game changed over the shenanigans of a defender who’s not getting the job done otherwise. Even more so, nobody like to see officiating incompetence getting fooled by said shenanigans.

The league defines a flop as “an attempt to either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call by exaggerating the effect of contact with an opposing player.” Here’s a classic example from Joel Embiid in 2018.

If approved, the step would be the furthest but not the first by the NBA in its effort to discourage flopping. Since 2012, the league has implemented an “anti-flopping rule” that penalizes players financially well after the fact.

Determinations of flops are currently made only in postgame video reviews. If a player is deemed to have flopped, he’s issued a warning before an escalating fine system starting with $5,000 for the second flop up to $30,000 for a fifth violation of the rule.

Implementation of the fine system is sparse. Per Spotrac, the last player to get fined for flopping in the regular season was Marcus Smart — in 2020. The new proposal would not only renew an emphasis on discouraging flopping but penalize offenders and their teams in-game.

If approved, the proposal would put the NBA in line with the NCAA and FIBA, which both have rules implementing technical fouls for flopping. In theory it’s a great idea. Disincentive the act by punishing the actors with impacts that could cost their team a win.

In practice, success requires proper application by officials, which opens a whole other can of worms for a crew that already struggles to get charging/blocking calls correct. The proposed rule doesn’t make it any easier for them to get things right. It does provide opportunity to make more mistakes. Hence the proposed trial basis.

But the potential downside shouldn’t discourage owners from making an effort to fix a pernicious problem. This is worth a shot.