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Determining Who Gets the Most ‘Star Treatment’ in the NBA

Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

Star treatment is what they call it in the NBA. Player X collides with Player Y, and because he has a bigger name, his charge is called a block. And of course, the player who gets the most star treatment is the one whom you despise the most. And you despise him the most because he gets all his points at the line because the refs are out there giving him preferential treatment.

Life sucks, and then you die. That’s the NBA.

LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden. Oh. My. God. James Harden. And Russell Westbrook. Don’t get started on Russell Westbrook!!! 

But how much of that is actually real observation and how much is just fans getting posteriorly pained because they got beat by a great player, again?

Using play-by-play data through Nov. 28, I looked at every instance in the league where a player collided with another player and either some sort of offensive foul or shooting foul was called.

The first thing you have to understand when considering this is that the rules aren’t even. An offensive player can create contact with a defensive player and draw a foul. A defensive player can never initiate contact with an offensive player. Without going into a ton of rule hashing, simply put, if a player isn’t in legal guarding position and there’s more than minimal contact, the defender takes the blame.

As a result the majority of the time, the calls are on the defender, not the offender — to be precise, 82.6 percent of them.

Here’s a look at every player with at least 30 instances where a foul was called, and how often the call went to them:

Who Gets the Call-

A few random observations from here that are hard (or impossible) to read from the chart:

  • Chris Bosh has the most instances without having a call goes against him, 42. Not the first name that springs to mind when you’re thinking “star treatment.”
  • Westbrook has 83 instances and gets the call 86.8 percent of the time. LeBron James has 81 at 87.7 percent. Both are getting the call a lot but aren’t that far off the median of players with 30-plus calls of 84.7 percent.
  • James Harden has, by far, the most incidents. But while he’s had the benefit of the most calls (97), he’s also been on the wrong side of the most (15). So he doesn’t “always get away with it.”
  • In totally not surprising news, when it comes to blending the ability to draw fouls without getting whistled, Stephen Curry leads the pack. Of players with 50 incidents, he leads with 96.6 percentage of times he gets the call. He got whistled twice. Slacker.
  • Kobe is still good at getting whistles. He’s had 24 instances and come out ahead on 22 of them.
  • I have no idea why it’s doing the cool swirly, curvy thing. But I thought I’d comment that it looks cool.

Want to know which teams fare the best? Here’s a look at that:

Dashboard 2 (3)

I know, “HOLY CLIPPERS, BATMAN!” right? But then remember that a massive chunk of those are DeAndre Jordan (94.2 percent) and that helps solve a lot. Chris Paul (93.6 percent) helps too.

Another team that surprised me in terms of volume of calls is the Raptors, who actually do well in winning them too. That’s mostly on the back of DeMar DeRozan (89.0 percent), though Kyle Lowry has won 84.7 percent of his 65 instances too.

If any fan base has a right to whine, it’s the Timberwolves, who’ve been on the wrong end of 62 calls when they had the ball.

So what’s the general upshot of all this? Mostly that there’s really not as much star treatment in the NBA. There are just rules stacked in favor of the offensive player, so most players get the call when they have the ball most of the time.

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