FanDuel - WFBC

January 28, 2010

LeBron James Called for Suspiciously Low Number of Fouls: LeBron James is averaging 1.8 fouls per game, significantly lower than the 2.7 of the other scorers in the NBA's top 10 in that category and unbelievably low for a player who guards big men inside. Blogger Zachariah Blott does the math: "The likelihood of LeBron's foul counts occurring with his minutes is less than one in a million. ... The numbers all come out so ridiculous, it's undeniable that either a) we're witnessing a defensive talent more capable than Bill Russell, or b) the NBA/referees are blatantly protecting him."

posted by rcade to basketball at 09:33 PM - 18 comments

Boy, it's awfully tough to pick between A & B there, huh?

posted by wfrazerjr at 10:33 PM on January 28

Yeah, well, after careful consideration, I'm going to have to go with option B there, fellas.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:56 PM on January 28

I'll go with A/B ... he's a tremendous defender, the best in years. But he also gets Jordan treatment - this didn't exist in Russell's era.

posted by cixelsyd at 11:15 PM on January 28

I go with B as well. Look at the last couple of decades at the big names that get away with penalties in Basketball. Jordan, Kobe, Shaq, and now james. Jordan I would say got away with more violations than anyone ever. James is coming in a close second.

posted by twgibsr at 11:40 PM on January 28

What's even crazier if you think about it is the fact that Wilt Chamberlain had never fouled out in his entire career...not once.

posted by BornIcon at 07:22 AM on January 29

True fact, BI... And we all know Wilt wasn't gettin' any slack from anybody in his early days in the league.

Answer A is clearly incorrect. But the King is a helluva player.

posted by mjkredliner at 10:27 AM on January 29

I'll go with option B. Funny to note, however, that he still got fined yesterday for that little fit he threw Wednesday night during his game with the Timberwolves.

posted by NerfballPro at 11:14 AM on January 29

At what point in the article did the authors actually do a comparison of defensive statistics?

I just skimmed, it but I don't see anywhere that his blocks, steals, defensive rebounds and drawing-charges were listed.

How are we to understand that "we're witnessing a defensive talent more capable than Bill Russell"?

Is it possible that James is actually quite poor at his defensive role, and that's why he's not getting the fouls?

How about a comparison with players of his position that produce the same number of blocks/steals/defensive rebounds/drawing-charges (on a per/game basis), and see what their foul numbers are like?

I don't understand the need to compare him to other scorers. What does points have to do with committing fouls?

posted by grum@work at 11:17 AM on January 29

What does points have to do with committing fouls?

Offensive fouls.

posted by rcade at 11:19 AM on January 29

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story grum.

posted by BornIcon at 11:27 AM on January 29

Offensive fouls.

Again, I ask, what does that have to do with defensive reputation?

posted by grum@work at 11:43 AM on January 29

What does points have to do with committing fouls?

I believe that the author is using the points scored category as the qualifying aspect of the player's overall status as a star player. While there are exceptions of players who excelled on both ends of the floor, and much the same way chicks dig the long ball in baseball, what everyone cares about in basketball is the high scorer.

In this case, it would seem that the author isn't attempting to say that LeBron is the greatest defender of all time, he is saying that LeBron is out Jordaning Jordan when it comes to getting the benefit of the calls from the refs.

posted by Demophon at 12:09 PM on January 29

It's sad how arbitrary foul calling has become. This situation really damages the credibility of the league. Sometimes I think I might as well watch WWF.

posted by mayerkyl at 01:08 PM on January 29

Is it possible that James is actually quite poor at his defensive role, and that's why he's not getting the fouls?

Interestingly enough, the author does reference Steve Nash, whose foul per game ratio is even lower than James, saying in his case it's because Nash is a terrible defender. So it sounds to me like the argument could go both ways, because no, there are no defensive statistical categories to compare James to anyone else in the article.

Nevertheless, I think the answer to the question is actually C) James gets away with more because he is such an unbelievable baby when the rare call goes against him (even more than Jordan was), and no one wants to see the face of the league behave like a two year old.

posted by MW12 at 01:11 PM on January 29

So the author wants me to believe that James is substantially more protected by officials than Kobe and Jordan. Then the author goes on to say that some defenders do foul less than others, Nash, but writes it off because he's a lousy defender.

The numbers all come out so ridiculous, it's undeniable that either a) we're witnessing a defensive talent more capable than Bill Russell, or b) the NBA/referees are blatantly protecting him.

I'll take C.

posted by tron7 at 03:23 PM on January 29

what does that have to do with defensive reputation?

From Bill Russell's bio page at nba.com:

"Russell's impact on the game can't really be tracked through NBA statistics. Blocked shots were not an official statistic until 1973-74, and the league only recorded total rebounds, without distinguishing between offensive and defensive boards until that same season. "

So, I guess we are left with reputation, and old video, to compare the two. Quantifying how many players didn't attempt to drive the lane because of Russell's presence is impossible. And as in baseball, comparing players from different eras is very difficult, if not impossible, too.

11 championships for Russell don't hurt him, either.

posted by mjkredliner at 08:20 PM on January 29

Grum, you're not going to find solace in a detailed study of NBA defensive statistics, because it doesn't acclimate like in other sports. Plus, there is little value in comparing James to Nash since they play completely different positions.

James is a good defender, but that is an astonishingly low number of fouls per game given the way he plays and the people he is asked to defend. Plus, he isn't a good one-on-one defender. He's a great help defender and open-floor defender, but it's nothing short of a miracle that he averages under two fouls a game.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 11:09 AM on January 30

A rebuttal

posted by tron7 at 04:06 PM on February 02

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