Tweleve days. That’s how long we have left before the 2017-18 NBA season starts. We can’t speak for everyone, but we’re all geeked up for the start of a new season. We’ve actually done our homework too, beginning with new rules and schedule changes that will take effect this coming season.
Some of these changes are significant whereas others will barely get noticed by fans. Either way, they’re all important because the viewing experience of the NBA is about to change. So before tip-off, it’s time to get acquainted with these new rules so you won’t have to wonder about any of them when the season starts.
Shorter preseason, early start to season
Almost all NBA fans have become accustomed to seeing the league start its regular season around Halloween, so it’s going to get some getting used to knowing that the schedule now has the 2017-18 season starting two weeks before the norm. Well, this is the new norm because the NBA—finally!—decided to cut the preseason schedule for each team from eight games to four, or in some cases, just three. Eight preseason games have long been a bane for coaches and players alike, a lot of whom are in consensus that each team doesn’t need that many. Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford is one of many coaches who openly embrace the new schedule. “By playing a shorter preseason, playing less games, we’re going to get more practice days throughout the season,” he told NBA.com. “You have fewer back-to-backs. I think it’s better for the players—there’s no more 18 [games] in 30 nights anymore, five in seven nights.”
By cutting down the number of preseason games, the league was also able to extend the length of the regular season schedule, adding more dates in to help cut down back-to-back games and those dreaded four-games-in-five-nights swings. So if you’re playing fantasy basketball, those rare weeks where you have a team playing five games in seven nights are effectively gone.
New setup of timeouts
One of the league’s biggest concerns heading into the 2017 offseason was to improve the gameplay of the league and make it more free-flowing. It does feel like it addressed a major hindrance in that regard by streamlining the number of timeouts a specific game can have. Previously, the maximum number of timeouts per game was 18. Now it’s down to 14 timeouts, with each team getting seven 75-second “team outs” that they can use without restrictions in any part of the game. Remember those 20-second times that seemed to last to forever? Those are gone.
Teams can also now carry up to four timeouts heading into the fourth quarter, although during the last three minutes of a game, teams are now limited to just two team timeouts instead of being able to carry three timeouts (full/20-second) in the last two minutes.
Outside of the team timeouts, each quarter will also have two mandatory timeouts, one taking place at the first stoppage under the seven-minute mark and another happening at the first stoppage under the three-minute mark.
Trade deadline has been moved up
It goes without saying that a lot of NBA fans look forward to the trade deadline more than they do the actual games. They wouldn’t be wrong either. The trade deadline is an absolute circus. Now, the league and its fans won’t have to wait until the first Thursday after the NBA All-Star Game for the deadline because it’s been moved up to the Thursday 10 days before the All-Star Game, meaning that the deadline will now take place sometime in the first week of February as opposed to the third week of the month. This should allow teams the chance to solidify their rosters before going on the All-Star break. Episodes of DeMarcus Cousins getting traded to the New Orleans Pelicans immediately after the 2017 All-Star game, though comical and made for great TV viewing, will no longer happen.
All-Star Game changes
Speaking of the All-Star Game, prepare yourselves for this doozy of a rule change. All-Star teams will no longer play under the banner of their respective conferences, as has been the case since forever. The same format of voting in starters applies. Same thing with the coaches picking the reserves. The new wrinkle though is that the top vote-getters from each conference will act as team captains and draft players from the All-Star people, pick-up basketball style. So suppose LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the top vote-getters in the Eastern and Western Conferences, they’re in charge of picking their teams, meaning that LeBron could pick Steph Curry on his team and KD could pick Dwyane Wade on his.
To make the game more competitive, the game will actually have some form of stakes in it with the two teams playing for local charities. Whether this solves the issue of competitiveness remains to be seen, but at least one charity will now benefit from it.
New draft lottery rule
Arguably one of the most significant rule changes is the new draft lottery format. This rule change actually deserves an article of its own, but for the most part, the NBA decided to enact it in time for the 2019 NBA Draft to prevent teams from tanking. Under its previous format, the chances of landing the number one overall pick were tiered in such a way that the team with the worst record had a 25-percent chance to win the lottery and could only fall as low as the number four spot in the draft. Now, the team with the three worst records will each have a 14-percent chance to strike lottery gold with the remaining lottery teams retaining the old percentage structure of the draft. This change is significant because the worst team in the league can now fall to as low as the fifth overall pick should the lottery Gods decide against their favor.
In a comical twist of fate, the Philadelphia 76ers, the same team that bottomed out for the last four seasons, voted in favor of making the rule change. They got their loot and are now preventing others from getting theirs. Genius.
The 'Harden Rule'
Every few years, it seems that a new rule is instituted and named after a specific player. We’ve been introduced to the Gilbert Arenas Rule (extensions for second-round picks), the Derrick Rose Rule (contract incentives for All-Stars), the Kevin Durant Rule (the rip-through move to draw a foul), and now, the James Harden Rule.
The Harden Rule should be familiar to those who have watched Houston Rockets games the past few seasons. Even casual NBA fans will recognize when Harden lunges into a defender to draw a foul or locks his arms in pick-and-roll situations just to draw some form of contact. It used to result in marathon trips to the free-throw line for the Beard, but now, the rules have changed that if Harden, or any other player does it, they could instead be called for offensive fouls. It’s effectively the NBA equivalent of soccer players getting a yellow card if they simulate contact and flop in the penalty area.
Obviously, enforcing this new rule will take tremendous attentiveness from referees, because there are different interpretations on who caused the contact and in what position the offensive player is in. For example, if the contact comes before the offensive player starts his shooting motion, it's a common foul, not a shooting foul.
Rules on resting players on nationally televised games
This last rule change will have far-reaching ramifications to fantasy leagues all over the world. The San Antonio Spurs popularized resting players who weren’t injured and soon enough, the league caught on to the tactic, with some teams even going so far as resting their stars on nationally televised games. Now, teams won’t be allowed to sit healthy players for nationally televised games, unless they’re willing to bite the bullet and incur a fine of at least $100,000 from Commissioner Adam Silver. Likewise, teams are no longer allowed to rest multiple healthy players on the same game or when they’re playing on the road.
Complaint on how teams addressed resting healthy players came to a head when multiple nationally televised games last season featuring teams like the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, and San Antonio Spurs, turned into scrimmages among scrubs.