Video scouting the floppers?

April, 3, 2012
4/03/12
2:08
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Heat Index's Tom Haberstroh had an interesting question and a great idea. The question was, essentially, does flopping work?

As in, if you tally up the cost of flopping (falling down and not getting the call, then trying to recover in time to prevent an easy basket) does it outweigh the benefit of some extra calls?

My immediate thought is that contending teams feature a hell of a lot of flopping, which would seem to argue strongly that it goes hand-in-hand with success.

But you know what assuming gets you. Tom's idea was that somebody should chart some games, count the flops, and see how well it works out. There have been whispers from some people in the NBA doubting flopping was all that effective.

I e-mailed Synergy Sports Technology founder, and former Suns staffer, Garrick Barr (you may remember him from the Hero Ball article) to see what they thought of charting flops in keeping with Tom's idea. His response was thick with insight:
We log all charges so it would be a simple matter to watch them and then chart flops from there. However, flops fool a lot of people (on-air commentary for example) and I fear they would fool some of our loggers as well.

Frankly, we stay away from judgment calls that require the more sophisticated skills of a basketball coach or scout to accurately differentiate. We do provide the tools for teams to take things to the next level with relative ease. Teams don’t trust anyone but themselves to judge certain categories and I tend to agree with them. For example, it would be amazing if we could log defensive breakdowns (e.g. which player started the breakdown and which players fell victim to the initial breakdown), but it is just too hard. I have been party to countless coaches film sessions where we watched a play several times before the room agreed to the cause of the breakdown. This happens with NBA coaching staffs so how can we expect a single logger to get it right?

As to the assertion made by your basketball guy, I couldn’t disagree more – the problem with flopping is that it’s TOO effective when officials get fooled regularly. Players who flop are great at selling it. Unless the rewards for flopping are cut back via no-calls or fouls on the flopper when that occurs, they will continue. Coaches love players who draw charges and so the incentive to get them is great. It is seen as a heads-up play where you sacrifice your body for the team (all true). Getting a charge gains your team a possession -- and frequently, when it occurs at the dotted circle, it takes away an easy bucket from the other team. Flops have the same effect and so they are also heads up plays -- the player manufactures the benefits of a charge out of thin air (but there is no sacrificing going on with a flop). Your guy is right in cases when the flop is not rewarded, but that just doesn’t happen enough to curtail the behavior. I can see where a coach might say something like that to try to get people to think flops don’t pay off, but overall, the assertion does not currently hold water.

I see flopping as a big problem too. It’s a momentum changer that preys on officials because it is quite difficult for them to detect. It is also painful to see an offensive player get robbed by this sneaky play. I would guess/hope the league is placing an emphasis on flop detection, but it will take a while before officials get good at it.

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