Why the Problems with NBA Officiating Have Been Severely Overblown

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2012

MIAMI, FL - MAY 24:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls talks with referee Joey Crawford against the Miami Heat in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 24, 2011 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
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The two most overplayed stories in this NBA postseason are the “good effort kid” and how bad the NBA officiating has been this year. The truth is that it hasn’t been any worse than any other year.

There have been some blown calls, no question. Of course, there are blown calls every year. This year hasn’t been any worse in terms of bad calls.

Some people feel that the officials are getting too free with the whistles. This year in the postseason there have been 42.4 personal fouls per game. Last year it was 43.0 fouls per game. The year before that it was 46.6 fouls per game. In 2009 it was 45.4 fouls per game.

For those who want to bring up the “old days” of the late 80s before the game got “soft” in 1989: There were 49.4 fouls per game the year of the “Bad Boy” Pistons and the “Jordan Rules.”

Teams aren’t getting any more free throws than in previous years, either. In fact, this year the average team has taken 17.7 free throws per game. That’s in comparison to 20.2 in 2011, 20.9 in 2010, 19.4 in 2009 and 22.3 in 1989.

In other words, there has been a 15-percent drop in free-throw attempts per game.

If you think there are too many fouls being called, that’s a subjective thing. If you think there are more fouls being called though, then you’re wrong. Objectively, this is a light year in terms of fouls being called.

Are some fouls being called that are flops? Yes. That’s the fault of floppers though, not the officials.

I can already see the comments coming, “Stats don’t mean everything! If you were watching the games you would know!”

Well, a) I am watching the games and, b) watching the games has surprisingly little impact on what happens in them.

In fact the question which needs to be considered is “Why are fewer fouls being called this postseason?” Bear in mind this is not an opinion but an absolute fact. Fewer calls are being called this year.

The truth is the answer may very well be the rise in flopping. The reason the refs are swallowing their whistle more often is that players are exaggerating contact more often. The officials have a split-second to decide whether or not that contact was a real foul or a flop.

Do they get it wrong sometimes? Yes, but they’re apparently less inclined to call fouls than they used to be. Teams are getting fewer free-throw attempts than they used to.

Yes, there are some calls that fans of every team have felt were "absolutely ridiculous." Celtics fans feel like the Heat are getting every call and the Heat fans feel the same way about the Celtics. 

As a Bulls fan I can tell you, we get it worse than anyone though. 

Fans of every team feel like they're getting shafted by the officials. That's as big of a constant as there is in the NBA. 

Teams might be getting away with flopping and there might have been some bad calls but the fact that this year there have been fewer fouls and fewer calls proves that the hype about the officiating has been completely overblown.