Years ago

The balance of offence and defence in the NBL

Andrew Price (Lob Pass to Abercrombie) had a disturbing graph on his site recently showing trends in team points per game, and fouls per game across the years.

This 2013 season is the first season that the points to fouls ratio has gone under 2.0...

While there are many who don't mind a tough slogfest, the majority would presumably favour a more free-flowing and scoring game. That is, more points and fewer fouls, and a game that favours offence slightly before defence.

I think the NBL are in a tough position here because one way to quietly tweak this balance is to penalise the defence for bumping, holding and so on. That is, calling more fouls. Which doesn't really improve the spectacle in the short term, and possibly just encourages coaches to use their bench to absorb fouls.

What other answers are available to the league? Illegal defence?

Or maybe reducing the foul limit to four per game, but also remove the concept of players fouling out? No more watching benches battle in a second overtime, or seeing your stud centre ride the pine for the second and third quarters after picking up a third early foul. What if, after a fourth foul, every subsequent PF gave shots and possession?

(Ideally we could leave 40 vs 48 minutes out of this discussion.)

Topic #30518 | Report this topic

Years ago

Calling more fouls consistently will lead to less thuggery long term.

Referees often call a lot, like the New Zealand game. Then get abused by one coach, one team because it affects them more. So change and let things go. Coaches know right now referees will stop calling fouls because no one wants to see high foul counts. Also if one team plays more physical then the other the count will be uneven and coaches will complain so referees stop calling fouls to try and even the count up.

Problem is as referees call less, coaches abuse that and get more aggressive.

Referees need to take a stand like the NBA and call all the cheap stuff and the abusive carry on by coaches and to a lesser extent players. We all have to wear the short term pain of high foul counts, but stay with it for the long term benefit of the league.

Reply #398713 | Report this post

Years ago

Have discussed this with a few influential people.

The belief is if refs start calling all the holding and grabbing on the shooter and cutters then scoring and fg %'s will go up. Remove the arm bar as being legal, this will go a massive way to helping big guys score and quick guards blow passed defenders.

Players will soon adjust on D and the offence will very quickly take advantage.

Interesting point made by one was this could be the source of international frustrations for some. The international game is called a lot closer to the literal definition as opposed to interpretation which then catches players out in that transition.

Reply #398714 | Report this post

Years ago

The NBL refs have made some adjustments in the past few weeks which have opened the game up a little. I expect there will be some bigger adjustments in the off-season when teams have time to prepare.

The NBL went through this in 2000 when the scoring rate was pretty similar to now. The following year they cracked down hard on hand and arm contact ala how the game is called internationally and things opened up.

It isnt time to panic though, last season the NBL had the highest scoring rate of the top 10 leagues in the world including the NBA, and the season before that it was second.

This season a few factors have combined to see scoring drop to middle of the pack but the adjustments needed are easy.

Reply #398718 | Report this post

Years ago

Paul, where did you get that stat?

Reply #398721 | Report this post

Years ago

About the top ten leagues around the world.

Reply #398722 | Report this post

Years ago


Reply #398723 | Report this post

Years ago

Can I get these website(s)? They are pretty impressive stats.

Reply #398725 | Report this post

Years ago

Why do all the answers seem to depend on the refs?

why shouldn't the players and coaches take more responsibility for playing by the rules?

We're penalising good offense by allowing all this sloppy defense! It's usually the defenders who break the rules cos they're not good enough. If they can't defend a good player then force them to back off instead of letting them hold or grab or whatever.

Instead of changing the game to pamper the players, put it back onto them to play by the rules.
Soccer suspends players whenever they get 5 yellow cards - why not start suspending basketballers when they get fouled out 3 times or get to 15 fouls?

Reply #398726 | Report this post

Years ago

This article had some of the stats from leagues around the league last season:

The general rule is on each continent higher standard leagues have lower scoring than their lesser counterparts. For example:

In America, the D-League is higher scoring than the NBA.
In Oceania, the NZNBL is higher scoring than the NBL.
In Europe, Finland, Slovakia and Sweden have higher scoring than Spain and the Euroleague.

Reply #398727 | Report this post

Years ago

So do you go on eurobasket/fiba/individual league's sites to find these out or?

Reply #398728 | Report this post

Years ago

Paul nice work. Just shows that perception is'nt reality. Most want to stick it to our league, poor players low scoring etc. This is not a crap league.
Time to appreciate the game and respect the players.
Not in the top few leagues in the world but sure up there. Some of the teams in many European leagues are very poor. Huge score differences. Most of resources in many leagues goes on the Euro League or Euro cup teams.

Reply #398729 | Report this post

Years ago

I agree hoopie, call it by the rules. The NBL is aware of this and taking steps to address an evolution that started with Goorjian but really gained momentum from Joey Wright and the Bullets.

Of course, with eight teams I dont think we will ever get back to being a really high scoring league like back when there were more teams and less focus on defence.

Reply #398730 | Report this post

Years ago

Spursfan, I get them from the league sites, Eurobasket as a last resort. It's all accessible, all you need is time and some motivation to go through all the numbers.

Reply #398731 | Report this post

Years ago

"Or maybe reducing the foul limit to four per game, but also remove the concept of players fouling out?"

That's a pretty ridiculous solution...

The NBL isn't in a tough solution, either. I agree with anon713 and BJF: the fouls are clearly there, so call them and in the long-term players and coaches will adapt.

@Hoopie - "Why do all the answers seem to depend on the refs?"

Because they dictate how the game is played with their calls.

If the refs allow 4-step layups, players will take 4-step layups. They're abusing the rules because the refs allow them to do so.

Reply #398733 | Report this post

Years ago

An ex NBL player suggested to me that the NBL is to well coached. The Breakers have 30 page documents on scouting for each game. Hours are spent trolling through video to analyse and attack every players strengths, weakness' and tendencies.

The more money involved as Paul suggest (ergo more professional) the better the scouting and defensive strategies are. Those things will not stop. What can be done is the refs start calling the game to allow a more free flowing game.

Adelaide have had players told by refs " if we call the foul every time you take a shot you will spend the whole night on the foul line" That, sadly is some refs mentalities. The natural response is call the first few fouls and then the D will stop fouling. If you stop the fouling and the points and %'s go up.

Back in the day the scouting consisted of "Ricky Grace will try and go left" and that is about it.

Reply #398734 | Report this post

Years ago

Play to how the game is called.

Dont winge about it, take advantage of it, that's what any half decent coach would do.

Either way any change specifically to how the game is called should be made in the off season not round 15.

Reply #398735 | Report this post

Years ago

Out of interest, the rough numbers for this year are:

NBA = 80, Italy = 77, Spain = 76, NBL = 75, Euroleague = 75, Greece = 75, Adriatic = 74, VTB = 74, Turkey = 74, France = 74.

Given the style we play I think the NBL should be towards the front of that pack, but I think now that all clubs in the NBL take defence very seriously somewhere around 77-80 is about right.

To get much above that again I think we would need to dilute the talent pool by bringing in more teams.

Reply #398739 | Report this post

Years ago

BJF, whoever the ref was that told the Adelaide player is A) probably a shit lower ranked referee and B) should not be in the league.

Simple as that.

The referees need to just keep blowing their whistles till the players adjust. Simple as that. What was the foul count again in the Adelaide v Perth OT game...61 or something from memory and 5 guys fouled out. If they are slow learners....Bad luck

Reply #398740 | Report this post

Years ago

The level of defense has drastically improved in the last fifteen years, but at the same time over the past three or so seasons the level of grappling of ballhandlers allowed by certain teams and defensive styles has gotten a bit out of hand.

And this is coming from someone who loves defensive slugfests...

It doesn't affect the PGs so much because we have some amazing PGs in this league, but the SGs and wings who still play on the perimeter but don't have the same ballhandling ability see less opportunities to attack because of it.

It also affects younger players who seemingly are allowed to be more heavily defended without a whistle (this is always going to be the case but is glaringly obvious in these situations).

The thing I can't get over this season though is how horrid the free throw shooting and shooting in general has been....

Reply #398742 | Report this post

Years ago

By the way, the guy who posted that graph has got it completely wrong.

It looks as if he is using points per game for one team and fouls per game for two teams! So the ratio would really be closer to 4:1.

Yawn, Andrew!

Reply #398743 | Report this post

Years ago

even if true Paul that is still a foul at least every minute, if not 2 per 90 seconds right?

The crux of this issue for mine is the spectacle of the game. fans want to cheer for their team. They can only really do that by applauding scoring. Take away scoring opportunities means less fan engagement which arguably leads to less fan satisfaction across the board.

If the game is constantly being slowed by ref calls then that is an issue. Consistency of application also applies. What maybe a foul in Adelaide might not be in Cairns. Different refs call the game differently.

I was just given a stat that says Perth have not lost a game when one particular ref is involved this season. The same for NZ last year. They lost all home games when one ref wasn't rostered on that night.

FWIW i think Andrew does a fantastic job of highlighting statistical insights.

The Breakers use him to help prepare for games so he must be doing something right.

Reply #398747 | Report this post

Years ago

He crunches numbers well, no doubt, but if you are going to make a statement like 'yawn' then you better make sure you get your numbers right.

FWIW, a 4:1 ratio is pretty good compared to other comps around the world and the Olympics/WCs. The 'yawn' was a little bit ignorant of basketball around the world.

Stats are as fallible as any other measure, just look at Andrew's December 17 prediction the Wildcats would finish with 15 wins!!

Reply #398749 | Report this post

Years ago

Surely it's also got to do with a lack of dynamic scorers in the league?

Reply #398752 | Report this post

Years ago

Totally agree that the answer is to call the fouls that are there. Challenge is for the refs to have the courage, and the concentration, to keep on seeing, reacting and blowing.

Shutting up the coaches - or at least not walking over to them to start up a conversation - would help with the concentration issue in my opinion.

However, another factor is whether or not the players are coached to play defence, or just to grab. One of the issues, it seems to me, is that defenders want to overplay & pressure the player with the ball before he has dribbled, so they repeatedly expose themselves to being beaten on the dribble, and because they are essentially out of position [and in many instances have poor footwork] the only counter they have is to hold, push or whatever.

Call the first foul, not the third or fourth, as is currently often the case, and it will change; and that will mean better legal defence [greater defensive skills]as well as more scoring.

Reply #398755 | Report this post

Years ago

Perhaps an easy solution of going back to two refs would mean less calls?

Reply #398756 | Report this post

Years ago

And more thug tactics.

Worst idea

Reply #398757 | Report this post

Years ago

Agree with the call about the NBL been too well coached.

Part of the problem is the large break between games. Teams generally have a while to scout teams before their next games.

I also think, however, that players in the league lack the versatility to find other ways to score.

A lot of players are predictable, and will score in very few ways. e.g. Boucher (when he does shoot), Crosswell (everyone knows he can't shoot), Cedar, Tovey etc.

In the NBA, you see high scoring games..not because the scouting is bad, but simply because the players are that multi-skilled they can find other ways to get it done.

Reply #398758 | Report this post

Years ago

Exactly POP.

Guys who grapple and hold only get called after subsequent incursions, rarely on the first go. The first instance of illegal defense is all it takes to slow the play and a prevent a blow-by, so the defensive player has already stopped it. If you grapple, wait for the ref to say "let go or I'll call a foul", and then let go, you have already slowed the play down and "won" the contest.

Perth and New Zealand are the best at it, and not coincidentally are the top two sides in the league (FWIW I'm not suggesting that is the reason, just that those two teams -- who are already the most talented and well-coached -- are even better for it).

It's come to the point where I'm consistently pissed off that my team DOESN'T adopt that approach. It costs them games and for all intents and purposes, holding and bumping ball-carriers on the perimeter and in the backcourt is entirely legal in the NBL.

Reply #398761 | Report this post

Years ago

Have to agree that teams have to much gap between games to scout and prepare for opposition.

The league should look at playing more games and making the season a little shorter. Play mid week games as well as weekend games.

This would have a large effect on the level of scouting for each game.

Reply #398765 | Report this post

Years ago

Checked quickly out of interest:

Average total fouls called in four NBL games this round: 35.25 fouls/game.
Average total fouls called in first four NBA games today: 38.75 fouls/game.

NBL fouls/minute: 0.88
NBA fouls/minute: 0.81

NBL: 153.00 points/game
NBA: 191.75 points/game

NBL points/minute: 3.83
NBA points/minute: 3.99

Adjusting the NBL FPG at this round's rate for 48 minutes gives an extra four fouls.

Reply #398766 | Report this post

Years ago

Isaac no maths genius here but
.88 x 48 mins = 42.35 or 7 more fouls a game at the NBL rate

or 35.25 + 20% = 42.3 fouls per 48 mins

Reply #398768 | Report this post

Years ago

The NBA is under called IMO, they smash each other, inconsistent shooter protection, the NBA is not a good league to compare officiating.

The NBL does not have the athletes to play through that much contact..

Reply #398769 | Report this post

Years ago

Paul, is it the graph that's wrong (e.g., the trend), or just the ratio?

why shouldn't the players and coaches take more responsibility for playing by the rules?
Many players and coaches don't have such a personal interest in the long term future of the league, or don't realise that they should. e.g., the NBLPA campaigns for more money while most teams lose money, etc.

Owner wants results from coach and team. Coach pushes players to achieve that result. Players follow instructions, which will include to play harder, get away with what they can, etc.

Reply #398771 | Report this post

Andrew Price  
Years ago


Yes, I am using PPG for one team and fouls per game for 2 teams.

This is because when a foul is called it effects both teams. When the whistle is blown both teams have to stop and the game loses some of it's momentum.

So in other words, a team may score 80 points in the game, but they've had to stop 40 times along the way because of the referee blowing their whistle, regardless of which team caused the foul.

I did think about doing combined PPG, but thought this didn't make any sense in terms of the way people think about games, or in terms of the stop of momentum, which is the actual point I was trying to make.

Also, these numbers are only for the regular seasons, I didn't include post-season's in the figures.

Reply #398773 | Report this post

Andrew Price  
Years ago

Also, Paul - The projections you mention for Perth are based on the pythagorean win expectation model. I mention this on the post itself.

What it does is look at the team's offensive and defensive production and give an estimated win figure, out of a possible 28.

At the start of the season, the Wildcats were a lot less cohesive of a team that you see today, hence the lower projections. You'll notice the projections change week to week, based on how well each team has been doing. That is part of the fun of having these posted each week. Fan's like to see if the outlook of their team is getting better.

They are however only projections, as the title itself suggests. If you read the weather report and don't take an umbrella to work, only to get your nice new pink shirt all wet and people can see your nipples through it on your way home, is that the weatherman's fault? No, it's yours, for putting to much stock in something called a 'forecast' or 'projection'.

Reply #398775 | Report this post

Years ago

great topic and some good posts, cheers for the read.

p.s 3peat

Reply #398785 | Report this post

Melbourne Boy  
Years ago

It's worldwide, the game is being coached into a technical half court affair. The amount of possessions per team per game has dropped off considerably in every league. Transition basketball in most cases is only off a turnover where there is a certain layup attempt, otherwise the instruction is given to run a set.

There was a stat i read that NCAA div 1 points per game has now dropped down to the same level as before the shot clock was introduced.

Reply #398786 | Report this post

Years ago

Looking after the ball and shooting well is where its at, defense is very important but if you have less than 10 T/O's a game and shoot at 48% you wont lose too many games.

Reply #398794 | Report this post

Years ago

yeah Paul, he has the comparisons completely wrong... kinda like doing a story on Todd Blanchfield and only asking Gordie McLeod about him!

Reply #398797 | Report this post

Years ago

The phenomenon of games being "too well coached" is a more general, modern sports science phenomenon. It manifests in most sports and shows most strongly in professional sports, where the available money fosters a range of supporting roles to assist coaches to develop and deliver better tactics.

Just think of how people were complaining of "flooding" in the AFL a decade or so ago. Now people are complaining that AFL is too structured on possession at the expense of flair and excitement (much like soccer, which has been dealing with this for decades longer than basketball and other professional sports).

Reply #398807 | Report this post

Years ago

Ps - and don't expect the "too well coached" phenomenon to go away any time soon, regardless of rule changes and refereeing approaches

Reply #398808 | Report this post

Years ago

Andrew, it's not biggie, but this is what you published:

"This 2013 season is the first season that the points to fouls ratio has gone under 2.0 - this means that for every two points scored there is on average at least one foul... yawn."

This is literally 100% incorrect, there are just under 4 points per foul. It was a throwaway gibe, I understand, but when you publish those without triple checking your facts you generally cop it, I know that from experience!

Not only was your stat incorrect, the implication of the 'yawn' was too. The Euroleague ratio is around 3.5, the ACB is approx 3.8, the Olympics was 3.8 even with the massive anomaly of the USA averaging 116 points!

The amazing USA v Spain gold medal game was 3.8. So if the NBL's foul/points rate is yawn so are most of the highest levels of basketball.

Reply #398809 | Report this post

Years ago

how can 2 people disagree on the internet and not call each other names and make references to sexual activity with each others Mother????

I'm blown away.....

Reply #398864 | Report this post

Years ago

Call the game as it happens and in-line with the rules. Don't worry about who's winning the foul count and how often a player is at the foul line.

The umpires job is to officiate the game - not play a part in the result.

If the games were called as they are seen I would bet that the ladder would look a lot different especially for Perth. Having Redhage fouled off before quarter time each game would no doubt affect their results.

Reply #398893 | Report this post

Years ago

lol @ paul about checking facts before posting.

Reply #398899 | Report this post

Gaylord Focker  
Years ago

Awesome topic and some really interesting points raised.

The issue of thuggery as a tactic is rife across all levels of senior basketball in Australia. And the refs are the ONLY ones who can stop coaches using it. As POP said, they need to have the courage to see something and call it straight away. There should be no reason for interpretation.

You can't blame players for following their coaches insructions. However, when the instructions involve grapling, elbowing, kneeing, or acts that are basically "cheap shots", coaches should take some responsibility. I know you can't coach to lose or be soft. You can coach to win within the spirit of the game though.

MYSTRO, I'm also blown away..... by your mother at least once a week!!

Reply #398922 | Report this post

Years ago

And the refs are the ONLY ones who can stop coaches using it.
Currently, yes. Rules could be changed in the off-season though, however unlikely that might be.

What hurts the refs doing this is that every time there are a bucket of fouls called, there are fans reacting with:

"Refs, it's not about you!"
"Just let them play!"
"Such a soft call."

And so on.

What coach is ever going to take the responsibility to keep their players legal and what fans would ever support that? Again, teams would be called soft, etc.

Reply #398931 | Report this post

Gaylord Focker  
Years ago

Yeah Isaac, also players and coaches reacting the same way as the fans.

What this says to me is that refs are taking the comments of fans, players and coaches way too personally. To the point where their calls are potentially influenced by some drunken yahoo in the crowd yelling insults.

My experience in Australian basketball as a player and a fan has taught me it is very rare for a ref to understand the emotion involved in a game of basketball. They should really stop trying to "control" the game, which seems to be a prevailing trend. Instead, they should call the flippin game in accordance with the flippin rules..

Reply #398946 | Report this post

Years ago

Gotta disagree with ya on two points, Isaac

"What coach is ever going to take the responsibility to keep their players legal and what fans would ever support that?"
When you're coaching to win and you've had three players fouled out by half-time because the refs called strictly by the rules, then you'd be a really dumb coach not to get the message and change your players' behaviour.

"Again, teams would be called soft, etc."
There's always going to be thuggery. What we need is some sense of consequence - 'you do the crime, you do the time' kind of thing. It's sad that some players will keep doing the wrong thing until they think they're going to get caught out, but that's the way the refs around the world have let the game turn out.

To think that one of Naismith's original principles was to avoid physical contact, because he didn't want it to be just another version of football. NBL doesn't look much different from AFL these days. I certainly wouldn't take kids to it to show them how the best game in the world should be played.

Reply #398954 | Report this post

Gaylord Focker  
Years ago

"What coach is ever going to take the responsibility to keep their players legal and what fans would ever support that?"

To add to Hoopie's point, the fans are the ones who would benefit from a coach keeping their players legal. In the NBL, how often do fans get excited to see a player on a break about to throw down a dunk, only to be disappointed by the THUG who commits the "professional" foul?

College ball is a better example of how the game should be played. It's not perfect, but coaches place a lot of emphasis on how to play defence. Not how to be a thug to hide the fact they can't play defence.

Reply #398964 | Report this post

Years ago

hoopie, I don't mind the NBL as it is now (points, fouls, whatever) but if there is a perception amongst the public that it's not entertaining enough, that's an issue.

There are a lot of solid defenders (who might push boundaries) who I enjoy watching - D Martin, Gibson, Vukona, Saville, etc.

Reply #398974 | Report this post

Years ago

MYSTRO, I'm also blown away..... by your mother at least once a week!!

you sure that's my mother and not my brother in her dress?

Reply #399158 | Report this post

Years ago

Isaac, I agree with you. And I agree with Gaylord's example.

I love to see good dunks, and I love to see dunks stopped because of great LEGAL 'D'. (I wish every year that Damian Martin would join the Tigers cos I love his 'D'.)

What I hate is attackers being too scared to go inside the key or to leave the ground because some thug might ruin their career and get away with it. I also hate attackers who can shove defenders out of their way and get away with it.

And that gets back to calling the rules tightly and penalising based on the intent, not on whether the other player survived intact or whether there was any blood spilled.

It's not football FFS !

Reply #399185 | Report this post


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