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Paul George: Thunder’s big three officiated differently

Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony

Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George (13), Russell Westbrook (0) and Carmelo Anthony (7) pose for photos during an NBA basketball media day in Oklahoma City, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)


LeBron James complained referees aren’t treating him fairly.

Now, Paul George is taking his turn on behalf of himself, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.

Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:


It’s tough. We’re so aggressive. We play at the rim constantly. We’re just officiated differently, all three of us. And it’s tough. At least one of us should get the benefit of the doubt. But when we’re on that floor, no one is getting the better side of that whistle. But we’re going to keep attacking. We’re going to keep being aggressive. That’s our job, to put pressure on them. At some point it’s got to work out for us.

I don’t see a unique conundrum officiating Oklahoma City’s stars the way there is with LeBron.

LeBron is bigger/faster/stronger than anyone else in NBA history. He creates and draws contact at an incredibly high rate, and officials are loathe to blow the whistle every time. (Shaquille O’Neal presented similar issues.)

The Thunder stars just don’t create havoc on that scale. Westbrook is incredibly athletic and strong, but he’s not as big.

For a baseline, here are the percentage of times each Oklahoma City star draws a foul on drives (league average: 6.7%):

  • Anthony 14.4%
  • George 10.4%
  • Westbrook 6.3%

And post-ups (league average: 5.8%)

  • Anthony 10.2%
  • Westbrook 7.0%
  • George 1.4%

These numbers seem about right.

Westbrook drives a lot. A lot. He’s not a great finisher, but even mediocre finishers are more efficient than other play types. Westbrook’s major asset is the volume of his drives, not the efficiency of each. But that drive-without-abandon strategy means more drives against prepared defenses. They can’t always stop him, but they’re also less likely to be out of position and foul.

George isn’t much of a post-up player. Very good player overall, but post-ups aren’t his game. So, I wouldn’t expect him to draw a lot of fouls there.

Anthony leading in foul rate in both categories is also logical. He has taken a backseat to his co-stars in the Thunder offense. So, he’s more likely to attack when he has a mismatch – meaning the defender is more prone to fouling.

To be clear, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Westbrook, George and Anthony are excellent offensive players, and maybe they should draw even more fouls. Without reviewing every offensive play, it’s impossible to say.

But a cursory look hints at roughly proper officiating, which hints at George – who fined earlier this season for criticizing officiating – being blinded by his personal bias and taking his complaints too far.