James Harden, Chris Paul, Joel Embiid and the NBA's Worst 10 Floppers

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves knocks the ball out of the hands of Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers in the first quarter at the Wells Fargo Center on October 30, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Back in 2012, the NBA revealed a new policy it hoped would curtail the amount of flopping in the league.

"Flopping will not be called as an infraction during games but will be determined afterward by video review," Howard Beck wrote for the New York Times. "A player will be given a warning for his first offense and will receive a fine of $5,000 for a second violation, $10,000 for a third violation, $15,000 for a fourth violation and $30,000 for a fifth violation during the regular season."

At the time, many voiced their support of the new policy.

"Flops have no place in our game," Stu Jackson, then the league's executive vice president for basketball operations, said. "They either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call."

"It's going to clean up the game a little bit," Nicolas Batum said. "It takes out some of the acting on the court," Amar'e Stoudemire added.

And maybe it did. At least for a bit.

You know all about flopping, that shameless act of goading officials into calling fouls out of thin air.

Tune in to about any broadcast on any given night, and you're bound to see a few. Some egregious, some not so much. Some even come after an actual foul. Those just serve to draw more attention to the contact.

Why, eight years after the anti-flopping rules went into effect, is the practice still alive and seemingly doing better than ever?

It seems the league may have just given up on enforcement.

According to Spotrac's database, there were 12 flopping fines in 2012-13, the inaugural season for the policy. In 2013-14, the number dropped to nine. Then, in 2014-15, there were just six flopping fines. And finally, in 2015-16, there were two. If you're wondering about the three full seasons between then and now, the combined total from those is zero.

And no, the reduction doesn't suggest the policy worked. Again, just watch some NBA action this season and decide for yourself if flopping has been eradicated. Google or YouTube "flop," and you'll find plenty of borderline embarrassing examples from the last few years.

It's still happening. Officials and the league office just aren't concerning themselves with the flops.

And as the practice has become commonplace, some have more fully incorporated it into their games than others.

There was a two-step process in determining the "top" 10.

First, solicit the opinion of the masses in a tweet asking for the three biggest floppers currently in the league. Second, put the most common responses to that question in a poll housed at AllOurIdeas.org.

With all the inputs in, the site then gives voters simple either/or options. For example, the question is "Who is the bigger flopper?" And the options may be James Harden and Chris Paul (or two of any of the other entries).

"The score of an idea is the estimated chance that it will win against a randomly chosen idea," the site reads. "For example, a score of 100 means the idea is predicted to win every time, and a score of zero means the idea is predicted to lose every time."

The results of the exercise went as follows:

  1. James Harden (90, flop reel)
  2. Chris Paul (81, flop reel)
  3. Joel Embiid (78, epic flop)
  4. LeBron James (64 flop reel)
  5. Draymond Green (64, flop reel)
  6. Marcus Smart (61, flop reel)
  7. Russell Westbrook (57, epic flop)
  8. Patrick Beverley (46, a flail)
  9. Kyle Lowry (42, turnover and fall)
  10. Lou Williams (41, more trickster than flopper)

There are probably not a lot of surprises there. Much of the griping over flopping in today's game is directed at the likes of Harden, Paul, Embiid and others on that list.

And it's not just fans. A handful of executives, coaches and former players shared their own opinions on the question.

"Lowry and CP3 are the two biggest I have ever seen," one general manager told Bleacher Report on the subject of the game's most notorious floppers.

"Marcus Smart, Harden," an executive vice president of basketball operations said. "Trae Young stands out as well. ... Draymond Green was historically the worst I had ever seen because he was injuring people while flopping, but he has toned it down an awful lot..."

A former player instructed that this is not a new phenomenon.

"Magic [Johnson] was great at exaggerating contact when he had the ball and then simultaneously letting out a scream like he was being mauled by a Grizzly (a real one, not Tony Allen)," he said.

A current assistant coach—after tabbing Embiid, Harden, Smart, Beverley, Paul and Jamal Murray as his nominees for this list—explained the frustration flopping can cause:

"To me, I'm most amazed that the refs are constantly fooled by these actions when even from the bench most times we can see in real time that it was a flop...

"They need to stop rewarding the flops with free throws and offensive fouls, but they constantly get tricked by the same actions...

"The head jerk when a guy is dribbling, they fall for it all the time. It's crazy."

We can certainly sympathize with the league's officials. This is a fast-paced game that would be difficult enough to call without players trying to trick them. There's the added layer of stress brought on by "animosity between the players and referees," as described by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

But like players, refs aren't perfect. Sometimes they miss things. Sometimes they fall for the flopping. The thing is, the NBA already has a policy in place that doesn't force them to get everything right on the fly. Being able to retroactively punish players for this practice made sense then. Maybe the penalties weren't harsh enough.

Or maybe the league should at least try applying the rules already on the books.

Would it make life on the court a bit more difficult for some of the stars in that top 10 above? Sure. But several of those names are attached to all-time talents. They'd adjust and eventually be fine without the flop.