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NBA adding rules aimed at shooters leaning into defenders

(AP Photo / Frank Franklin II)

It looks like NBA stars like James Harden, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young may have to ween themselves off one of their favorite tricks ahead of the 2021-2022 season.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the league is “expected to implement new rules to limit non-basketball moves that would result in an offensive foul or no-call beginning next season.”

Those new rules would target now-common acts like leaning into a defender in the middle of a shot, kicking a leg out to draw contact, or quickly moving sideways or backwards into a defender’s path in an attempt to force a foul.

Charania’s report came one week after a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicated that the league’s competition committee had met to “further explore rule changes to restrict the unnatural motions surrounding jump shots that players are using to draw fouls.”

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Those “unnatural motions” became staples for superstars across the league throughout the 2020-2021 season.

What started as the “Harden Rule” for the former Houston Rockets star’s ability to draw a foul soon turned into a league-wide phenomenon, and the influence carried over into a multitude of younger stars across a variety of teams.

Doncic has been known to lure defenders into the air with a pump fake, and launch himself into that defender to draw a foul.

Young frequently utilizes movements like this during games, and tends to stop his motion all together when driving to the paint in order to draw contact from behind in what appears to be the act of shooting.

Even Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry said in 2018, specifically about Harden, that there “was an art” to that type of ability to draw fouls, whether there was actually a foul on the play or not.

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On the other hand, Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash, who happens to be Harden’s coach at the moment, doesn’t appear to be a fan of it all.

When Young drew a foul with an “unnatural shooting motion” in a game against the Nets in December of 2020, Nash was seen telling a referee “that’s not basketball.”

If things go in the direction they appear to be going in ahead of the 2021-2022 season, it sounds like the league will be agreeing with Nash’s statement.

While the general consensus is that these types of plays shouldn’t be allowed in the sport, a common phrase that’s used heavily when discussing rules across any sport rings true: “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

As much as players and fans want to criticize stars like Harden, Doncic, and Young for how they draw their fouls, it’s not the players’ faults that those types of acts are called the way they are.

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Until the league actually changes the way those types of situations are officiated, players are going to get themselves to the foul line however they can.

Luckily for opponents of “unnatural motions,” it appears as if that change is on the way sooner rather than later, barring any abrupt movements from the league into another path.

What are your thoughts on the potential rule changes? Let us know by following @SOTSports on Twitter or by liking our Facebook page!

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