It took a little longer this year, but once again, the NBA is facing criticism for the rule that allows a player to be fouled away from the ball, resulting in two free-throws. This time, however, it was not a big man at the target of the fouls. Instead, Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni opted to foul small forward Andre Roberson in the final five minutes of the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The league has modified the rule, preventing teams from committing the act in the final two minutes of a quarter. D’Antoni put Thunder head coach Billy Donovan in a tough spot, considering Roberson is one of the league’s best defenders. Unfortunately for the Thunder, he is also a 43 percent free-throw shooter.
In many ways, the strategy propelled the Rockets to the win. Roberson finished the game going 2-for-12 from the charity stripe, and 2-for-8 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Roberson’s shooting inabilities did not make for the best viewing, especially for Thunder fans.
However, the league should not look to make any more changes to the rule this time around. Roberson is a small forward, a position that requires some semblance of shooting skills. Not every player is required to have every skill. The game should not be changed to accommodate the deficiencies of certain players, be it DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, or in this case, Roberson.
Shooting is a fundamental skill in the NBA. Why should the rules be changed to benefit the Thunder? Or any other team that has a player dominant in one area but lacking in another.
At that point in the game, Donovan should have removed Roberson. Any success he was having defensively guarding James Harden was being lost at the other end of the floor. Donovan lost that chess match. In the series, Roberson is shooting 2-for-17 from the free-throw line.
In baseball, if a slick fielder is batting .200 for most of the season, chances are he plays sparingly. The rules don’t allow a substitute hitter to make up for his lack of plate prowess. The American League does allow a designated hitter, but that rule fails to protect other position players who can’t hit. The National League sends pitchers to the plate, where they rarely find success.
The NBA should not further limit a rule that requires competency with the most basic NBA skills: shooting. They are “free” throws, after all.