Upon hearing that the NBA would be cracking down on non-basketball moves and reducing the foul calls that came as a result prior to the 2021-22 season, I — and I'd assume many others — immediately thought of which players would be most heavily impacted by such a shift. And if Trae Young wasn't the first name that popped into our minds, he wasn't too far down the list.
It shouldn't come as all that much of a surprise, then, to hear that the Atlanta Hawks star isn't vibing with the rules as much as others may be.
"I don’t want to get fined too much, but it’s frustrating," Young said after Atlanta's 11-point loss to the Washington Wizards (via Noah Trister of the Associated Press). "There's a lot of missed calls. It's basketball. It's just, it feels that they're learning and they're just — I don't know. It's frustrating."
Young has been very good from the free throw line this season, converting 21 of his 22 chances. But the volume is down — way down — from last year. In the first five games of the 2020-21 season, Young took 66 free throws, and for those of you who aren't mathematicians, that's three times the total that he's taken this year. Perhaps the rules just aren't giving him calls. Perhaps he's altered his play to adapt to the new rules. It's likely a mixture of both.
That's not to say he hasn't been effective, with averages of 24.2 points and 10.0 assists in the small sample size. He poured in 30 points in two straight games without going to the line more than four times in either contest, which, for Young, isn't how he typically operates. However, Young did note that the rules seem to be impacting some others around the association.
"You can watch basketball. Damian Lillard’s never averaged 17 points probably since his rookie year," Young said. "There’s a couple guys. I mean, (Devin Booker) is averaging 18. There’s a lot of things that, when guys are driving straight and guys are getting knocked off balance — it’s still a foul, whether they’re using their lower body or their hands.
"Veering back and jumping into guys — that’s different. There are certain things that, I agree with the rule changes, but then there’s things that are still fouls, and guys are going to get hurt. Especially a smaller guy like me who’s going up against bigger and stronger defenders, they’re using their body and they’re using their legs and their hands to stop me."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has been laudatory of the new way of officiating in the league, expressing his satisfaction with the way things are running on Thursday night.
"I love what I'm seeing. I think the officials are doing an amazing job. I think the game has a more authentic feel," Kerr told reporters (h/t Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report. "You're seeing some players try to draw fouls that maybe they would have gotten the last few years, and they're not being rewarded for that. And I think there's a purity to it that I'm seeing right now. We've seen [Stephen Curry] even a couple of times pump fake, start to jump into his guy and then realize, 'Oh, I'm not gonna get that." And he moves the ball on."
The opinions on how officiating has changed will likely continue to differ, but the impact is more important than the league-wide opinion, and that's being felt early and often.