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G-League to experiment with ‘one foul shot for all points’ system this season

Milwaukee Bucks v Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MARCH 04: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks attempts a free-throw shot against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on March 04, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Bucks 114-105. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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When a member of the Santa Cruz Warriors lines up a three-point attempt and is fouled on the closeout by a player from the Raptors 905 this season, that player will walk up to the free-throw line and take just one shot. Make it and the Warriors get all three points. Miss it and they get none.

In an effort to speed up games — and because nobody enjoys a parade to the foul line — the G-League will experiment with a “one free throw for all the points” system this year on all trips to the line. That will apply all game, except for the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime. Here is the exact wording from the G-League press release.

Under the new experimental NBA G League rule, one free throw worth one, two or three points will be awarded in the event of any foul that would typically result in one, two or three free throws being shot under standard NBA rules. The NBA often uses the G-League to try out experimental rule changes before bringing them to the big show. For example, last season after an offensive rebound the shot clock only reset to 14 seconds, that had been tested in the G-League the season before.

The goal is simply quicker games and a better flow — free throws just slow everything down and do not make good television. This is expected to shave 6-8 minutes off a game, according to Brad Walker, head of basketball operations for the league, speaking to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Lowe added this note that really explains the motivations.

The average G League game clocked in at about two hours and five minutes last season, Walker says. This move could take that average below the two-hour barrier, a clean broadcast window that has been in the minds of league officials for years.

At the NBA level, with the longer and more numerous television timeouts, there would never be a game that fits neatly into a two-hour broadcast window (something that works well for soccer). However, anything that trims time off of games is something the league should consider.

There are reasons to question this, from if it will lead to a return of “hack-a-player” strategies (it’s more likely to lead to an empty trip down the court) to what it does to historical records (if James Harden sinks a free throw after being fouled, he gets the two points but should he be credited with two make foul shots?), but at the G-League level it’s worth a look. Maybe the teams and players hate it. Maybe not. There are always going to be unintended consequences, but what are they? That’s why experiments exist. Good on the G-League for at least trying it out.

It’s worth monitoring to see how this plays out.