10 NBA Players Who Benefit from and Are Hurt by NBA's New Flopping Policy

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2012

10 NBA Players Who Benefit from and Are Hurt by NBA's New Flopping Policy

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    With the NBA's new flop fines going into effect this season there will be plenty of players who benefit. Plenty of players will also lose one of their favorite tactics—at least to the extent the modest slaps on the wrist have any effect at all.

    LeBron James makes enough money just thinking about McDonald's to get in at least five good flops before any risk of suspension sets in. So, no, the world isn't turning upside down, even if we really wish it would. The game won't look especially different, not with every skilled flopper believing he can sell it when he needs to.

    To the extent things do change, who stands to be affected the most? Besides the most egregious floppers, you can expect to see a number of stars actually take advantage of decreased flopping, either by virtue of their physical playing styles or their penchants for getting to the rim—so long as no one's standing in the way and attempting to draw phantom contact.

    Sometimes even the risk of drawing a charge can make an elite slasher think twice, just long enough for their window of opportunity to disappear.

    Here's a look at both the winners and losers from the new rule change.

Winner: LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat

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    Perhaps no one has more to gain from the stand against flopping than LeBron James. 

    His speed and power already made defenders think twice about getting in his way, but they'll now have even greater disincentive. That's a bad sign for the rest of the league, especially with James increasingly matching up against slower power forwards. Getting past them and into the paint just gets easier and easier for this guy.

    Of course, the rule change will cut both ways for James, who dishes out the flopping routine almost as much as he has to take it.

    Whether he's flying out of bounds after minimal contact, suffering delayed aftershocks from an actual hard foul or pretending the ball is his face (and winking about it afterward), James is hardly innocent when it comes to flopping.

Loser: Anderson Varejao, C, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Once voted the "NBA's Biggest Flopper" by 152 of his peers, we'll have to declare the Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao the biggest loser in all this.

    The big man has the size to play above the rim, but he doesn't have the hops. Instead, he does whatever—and I mean whatever—he can to shut down penetration with his feet firmly planted in the ground—at least until he goes flying across the arena like a grenade just went off.

    Varejao's enormous hair-plume flops in unison with his out-of-control body, create the impression that the contact is even worse.

    At least the guy can rebound—you can't fake that.

Winner: Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook is an absolute nightmare for perimeter defenders. Staying in front of him is hard enough, but keeping him from lifting off and making friends with the ionosphere is next to impossible.

    His speed, agility and explosiveness combine for a dangerous combination.

    So, it's no surprise defenders often fall back on a measure of last resort: drawing the charge.

    With defenders a little more reticent about sacrificing their bodies for no actual benefit, the lanes will be a bit more clear for Westbrook. That's a scary thought given just how electric he was to begin with and, of course, how potent OKC's offense is.

Loser: Manu Ginobili, SG, San Antonio Spurs

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    Manu Ginobili has long held the reputation as one of the league's worst flopping offenders.

    He's so adept at the flop that he can find flopping with more flopping at a moment's notice, as he proved when growing (sort of) entangled with Raja Bell in 2011 and when holding a veritable flopping contest with James Harden in 2012. The same legendary body control that makes Ginobili such a dangerous slasher also makes him quite the con artist.

    Love him or hate him, you have to admit the guy is both one heck of a player and a fine flopper to boot.

    Even his biggest critics have to secretly wish they could put on that kind of show.

Winner: Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs

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    Manu Ginobili may face some fines on account of his theatrics, but teammate Tony Parker should find a few more open looks at the basket.

    Even at 30 years old, he remains one of the NBA's most elite speedsters with an array of spins and up-and-under moves at his disposal. Parker consistently ranks among the league's very best when it comes to scoring at the basket, even when compared against much larger post players.

    The only real knock on Parker's penetration is that he's sometimes too fast for his own good, a problem exacerbated by floppers and all their shenanigans.

    Dodging bottles may not be this guy's favorite pastime, but dodging defenders just got a little easier.

Loser: Shane Battier, SF, Miami Heat

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    Shane Battier isn't the only member of the Miami Heat who's always down for a good flop, at least if you believe Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel (via ESPN's Tom Haberstroh):

    "Every drive to the basket, they have guys not making a play on the ball, but sliding in front of drivers," Vogel said. "Often times, they're falling down even before contact is even being made. It'll be interesting to see how the series is officiated."

    Thanks to Battier and forward Udonis Haslem, the Heat drew the fourth-most charges in the league according to Haberstroh, a trend Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra attributed to the club's style of play. 

    Of course, the two claims aren't mutually exclusive. It's certainly the case that Miami plays for the charge rather than the block, but it's also the case that a lot of those charges involve some acting. Without the luxury of leaving a legitimate shot-blocker in the game, the Heat rely on quick feet and the fortitude to endure head-on collisions.

    And, yes, they rely on the art of illusion from time to time as well.

Winner: Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Knicks

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    Carmelo Anthony has a quick first step, but he also tends to build a head of steam when streaking to the basket. Given his strength, he can pack quite a punch if someone's in the way.

    Just not this much punch.

    Given his effectiveness at the rim, anything that makes it easier for 'Melo to get there is more than welcome. Sure, he draws his share of actual offensive fouls too, but that is what makes him such an attractive target for would-be defenders.

    Their performances are actually halfway believable against Anthony.

Loser: Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Now, before Kobe Bryant's legions of fans take up arms and banish me to Siberia, a point of clarification is in order. In a world where so many players flop, you can't really blame the guy for playing along—this isn't an indictment of his character, so relax.

    That said, the evidence speaks for itself.

    Exhibit A: Kobe goes careening off of James Harden in a double flop only Manu Ginobili could love. Was there contact? Yes, but not enough to make Kobe do that. He's not made of Styrofoam.

    Exhibit B: He even flops in video games when there's absolutely no one around. Okay, okay—you can probably chalk that one up to a glitch or not being reality or something like that.

    Exhibit C: The same poll that ranked Anderson Varejao first puts Kobe at No. 13.

    Bryant isn't one for taking many charges, so most of his flops come on the offensive end where he deftly creates the appearance of contact. Then again, he's also quite good at drawing actual contact, so it's hard to tell who's guilty of what sometimes.

Winner: Kevin Garnett, F/C, Boston Celtics

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    When you play the game as physically as Kevin Garnett does, you become a target for floppers looking to score a quick foul.

    You can just imagine how incredibly angry that makes KG. Wait, you don't even have to imagine—just watch what happens when Pau Gasol turns into a wet noodle by virtue of merely touching Garnett. I guess he's just that intimidating.

    The mere potential for a foul will send some guys flying, sort of like the 2012 Eastern Conference finals when Mario Chalmers fell to the ground despite Garnett's elbow never making much contact.

    Now Garnett will feel a little freer just being himself.

Loser: Paul Pierce, SF, Boston Celtics

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    Paul Pierce has mastered the art of the flop on both ends of the floor, as testified to by forward Matt Barnes (via the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz):

    "My third foul in the third quarter, when I tried to beat him over the screen, he fell down like I threw him," Matt Barnes said during the 2010 playoffs, when asked about Pierce's tendency to exaggerate contact. "It was ridiculous. But the refs called it, so it was a good play. It was a flop, 100 percent, and that's how some guys like to play. But if the refs call it, it's effective."

    There are indeed some numbers to confirm Barnes' observation. Pierce drew 13 charges in the 2009-10 postseason alone and another 12 in 2007-08.

    Of course, Pierce has also relied on the none-too-occasional violent flailing when heading to the basket, a talent that's helped him average 7.4 free throws of the course of his career—including a high of 10.3 in 2005-06.

    Those numbers might not stand out ordinarily, but they're impressive for a guy who's never been the quickest or most agile slasher in the game. Give the guy some credit. He's made the most of his physical tools with skills many of his generation must envy, and those skills haven't been put to nefarious purposes alone.