Charge Down: Why The NBA Shouldn’t Get Rid Of Charges

Photo Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend was the start of the NBA playoffs, and it began with a bang. Two great games took place with the Knicks narrowly beating the Cavaliers, and the Kings defeating the Warriors in a nailbiter. The weekend wasn’t all good though as charges took over as the big headline of the NBA playoffs so far.

Sunday started with an injury in the Lakers vs Grizzlies game as Ja Morant went down. A few hours later, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tyler Herro went down. Giannis’ and Ja’s injuries caused some controversy, as both happened while a defender attempted to draw a charge.

It’s time to take a look at the injuries, explain why the charge rule is not a problem, and what they could do to help the rule instead of getting rid of it.

A Look At The Injuries

With 5:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ja Morant drove to the basket. He took off towards the hoop while Lakers forward Anthony Davis stepped up to take a charge. On the way down, Ja Morant landed on his wrist, immediately grimacing in pain. After it was called a charge, Morant checked out of the game and didn’t come back.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury came with just over four minutes to play in the first quarter versus the Miami Heat. Kevin Love stepped over to take a charge and on Giannis’s way down, he fell hard on his back. Right away you could see he was in pain. He would end up getting up and taking his free throws, as it was called a block, but would leave the game a little bit later.

Giannis returned at the beginning of the second quarter and tried to play, but the pain would prove to be too much. He would exit the game a minute later and not return.

Both of these injuries are unfortunate, that’s evident. Two players landing awkwardly and not being able to catch themselves is a tough thing to watch. With that said, injuries are a part of sports and there’s only so much that can be done to prevent them.

Why Getting Rid Of Charges Doesn’t Make Sense for the NBA

It’s a rule that players have known for a long time, and has only recently become controversial. Now, it’s being called a “dangerous rule”. However, I believe what we’re seeing a case of recency bias. The charge rule was introduced in 1928-29 and is defined as:

An on-ball, block-charge situation occurs when contact is made between an offensive player (who is moving in a particular direction or trying to change directions) and defensive player. The defender is permitted to establish his legal guarding position in the path of the dribbler regardless of his speed and distance. To get into a legal position, the defender needs to establish himself in the path of the offensive player before contact is made, thus “beating him to the spot,” and before he starts his upward shooting motion.

The NBA Rule Authority

When looking at each play, you can see that the defender was set prior to the offensive player taking off and was outside the restricted area; neither player was undercut.

Doc Rivers described the plays perfectly.

“I think both of those plays, I think were people taking charges. I think the only thing there is some of the charges people take can be viewed as reckless and so they can view that. They can’t take that away, but they can call it what it is. If it’s a reckless play, they can call it a flagrant, but none of those I think were reckless. Ja Morant can jump over a human being and he tried to do it and that’s part of it.”

Doc Rivers

Both plays involved the offensive player attempting to go over, or through, the defender who is in defensive position. I’m curious to see what the reaction would be if the defender was in the same spot but put their arms straight up. I believe we would see different reactions.

I’ve heard many arguments saying how the rule should be gone due to “the athleticism today”. It’s awesome to see big dunks and posterizations, but at what point do we stop making scoring easier? Hand checking is no longer allowed and that makes it tougher to stop someone from getting to the basket. Charges are a counter to that, and should cause the offensive player to use more brain than brawn.

One of the most commonly taught plays in basketball is the pull-up jumper. It’s a play that is supposed to be used when charges are attempted to be drawn. A floater, euro-step, and so many other moves can be used instead of trying to create a poster or draw an and-one.

How To Change The Rule To Make It Safer

Charges are game changing plays that have been crucial to the NBA for a long time. Up until now, there was not much talk about getting rid of them. Kevin Love has drawn 33 charges this season — second-most in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been called for 148 charges in the past five seasons. Why was there no issue during those charges?

This tells me that charges aren’t the issue. I believe there is a way to keep charges in the game, but also make them safer. Here’s two ideas to make them safer:

  1. Move the restricted area further away from the basket. This would cause defenders to have to be in position earlier to defend a player’s drive to the basket, since players are taking off farther away from the basket than ever before.
  2. Make it a rule that if a defender undercuts a player in the air or flops to the ground before being touched, the defender gets a technical foul and the offense gets two free throws. This provides a punishment for poor charge attempts.
  3. Bring back hand-checking. This would serve to help counteract the amazing athleticism of today. It would increase a defender’s ability to stop offensive players prior to them getting into the lane.

While those rules won’t get rid of injuries entirely, they will minimize them. A small amount of injuries come from charge attempts, so getting rid of charges would cause offenses to score even easier than they already do. It would ruin the game.

Leave a Reply