Mar 30, 2011, 6:00 PM EDT
Kevin Durant may be the nicest superstar in the NBA, and he certainly has the most squeaky-clean public image. He doesn’t say the wrong things, he’s a quiet assassin on the court, he’s young, he’s exciting to watch, and he plays for a small-market team with great fans.
In fact, the only time you’ll ever see a casual fan actually get mad at Kevin Durant is when he uses his “rip” move, the sneakiest offensive maneuver in the game. When Durant has the ball in the triple-threat position, he likes to bring it down low and dare the opposing defender to stick their hand out instead of giving him space. If the defender takes the bait, Durant swings his arms up in a quick modified shooting motion, and more often than not is awarded with three free throws.
There’s no doubt that the rip move is a key part of Durant’s game. Durant averages 3.7 attempts at the rim per game (data courtesy of HoopData.com) and 8.7 free throws per game, which means he averages 2.35 free throws for every attempt at the rim. Let’s look at that in comparison to other high-volume perimeter scorers:
- LeBron James: 1.48 free throws per attempt at the rim
- Dwyane Wade: 1.25 free throws per attempt at the rim
-Derrick Rose: 1.03 free throws per attempt at the rim
- Russell Westbrook: 1.13 free throws per attempt at the rim
- Kobe Bryant: 2.00 free throws per attempt at the rim
As you can see, Durant is getting fouled on jump shots a LOT more than most high-volume perimeter scorers. Some of that can be explained by the fact that Durant is an extremely dangerous jump shooter — there’s a reason why Kobe Bryant also has a very high FTA/shot at the rim ratio. Still, Durant’s ratio is significantly higher than Kobe’s, and Kobe’s had nearly an extra decade to develop tricks to fool defenders.
So Durant’s “rip” move is clearly effective. But is it underhanded? Daily Thunder’s Royce Young chimes in:
Last night against the Warriors, Durant got two calls with [the rip move]. One in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer on Dorell Wright and then a big one in overtime on David Lee which gave KD three shots and put OKC up one with a minute left.
So as you might imagine, Golden State Warrior coach Keith Smart was not a fan of the move. He told the AP: “That shouldn’t be a call because defensive players, you’re trying to tell your guys to get up on a good player,” Smart said. “If the player’s going to bait you into a foul—and I understand it’s a rule, so there’s nothing we can do about it—but … who has the right to the space? We’ve got to come to a conclusion.”
Who has the right to space? Are you kidding me? What does that even mean? If Thabo gets up super tight on Monta Ellis — like really tight, touching even — and Ellis puts the ball on the floor and drives hard around him and Thabo can’t move his feet fast enough, thus picking up a blocking foul, is Keith Smart saying that shouldn’t be a foul? I mean, who has the right to the space? Ellis created the contact, Thabo was just playing defense. Right?
Young certainly has a point — players exploiting the rules to draw fouls is certainly not new, and it’s commonplace in many situations. Just like all professional athletes, basketball players do all they can to get any sort of advantage within the official rules. However, there is a difference between the “rip” move and drawing a foul off of a pump fake or a blocking charge — those defenders are, in theory, moving.
Everyone agrees that a defender who creates contact by moving into an offensive player attempting to score should be a foul. We’ve also come to accept that an offensive player who tricks a defensive player into creating contact — think Kobe Bryant up-faking and jumping straight up into a defender flying at him, Dwayne Wade getting a help defender to lurch towards the rim before jumping into his chest, or Chauncey Billups selling contact with a perimeter defender who didn’t get above the screen quickly enough.
The rip move, however, is an offensive player creating contact with a stationary defender that put himself in what is perhaps a bad position. Maybe that’s a small distinction, but it seems to me that it’s what makes the “rip” move just a little bit different than the rule exploits we’re already familiar with.
Still, one thing is for certain: Durant is going to use that rip move, and use it well, until the refs stop calling it, so defenders should be careful where they put their arms while guarding Durant.
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