WNBA Announces Major Rule Changes for 2013

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Last week, the WNBA Board of Governors approved three key rule changes effective for 2013.  The new rules address flopping and defensive three-seconds, while also extending the three-point line. The changes will speed up the play of the game and lead to more offense: four ten-minute quarters, a :24 second shot clock and no more jump ball to start the second half.

 

Credit Image: © Pat Lovell/Cal Sport Media/ZUMAPRESS.com

Here are the new rules in more detail.

1. Longer Three-Point Line

The old WNBA three-point line was at 20 feet and 6.25 inches which was actually closer than the three-point line for NCAA men's and women's basketball, which is  20 feet and 9 inches. A recent college basketball tournament at Verizon Center using the Washington Mystics court shows the difference between the two lengths and though they're very close, you can see the differences here. The new line at 22 feet and 1.75 inches inches is the same line used in FIBA men's and women's basketball and the Olympics. This line is still a little closer than the NBA three-point line, but it's getting there. 

2. Defensive Three Seconds

If a defensive player is in the lane with no player near her for more than three seconds, it's a technical foul which gives the other team one shot at the stripe. This will prevent post players from just standing there all the time. The new rule forces zone defenses to be more fluid, especially in the lane and with a farther three point line, guards and wings have more room to penetrate to the basket. The NBA already has this rule.

3. Anti-Flopping Rule

Like the NBA, the WNBA is trying to curb "flopping" on the court, where some players exaggerate movements in order to convince referees they were fouled when in reality, no foul took place. With this rule, any player who is found to have flopped will receive a warning. Habitual floppers will get fined, and then perhaps worse although this may be hard to enforce.

The primary factor in determining if a player committed a flop is whether her physical reaction to an action by another player (whether or not that action resulted in contact) is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force, direction, or nature of the action of the other player. An example would be a player who lunges, flails, or falls following minimal or non-existent contact with an opponent.

Slight changes also have been made regarding the use of instant replay as it pertains to flagrant fouls and the restricted area. There will now be  video reviews before assessing classifications of flagrant fouls, as well as video reviews in the final minute of regulation and overtime to check for restricted arc violations as appropriate.

Impact on WNBA Players For 2013

With the three-point line further back and with the defensive three-seconds rule in effect, quick guards will be able to penetrate to the hoop easier and perhaps the pace of play will improve.

The negative side to a further three point line is that teams may shoot fewer treys than in the past. It should be noted that women's Olympic basketball teams, and even Team USA, weren't making threes at a particularly high rate, but many men's teams also had similar issues because the new FIBA three hasn't been in place for very long as a whole.

On the free agent front, sharpshooters will be valued more than in the past  given that the three point line is further away. Teams that didn't shoot well from the old three last season may not be as successful in 2013, especially if they do not have slashing ability to compensate for a lack of shooting ability.

The defense will be also stretched due to the farther three point line and perhaps defensive field goal percentages may rise because there is more room to create and get open looks. There are some who think that the defensive three-seconds rule is meant to counter a player like Brittney Griner, or any post player standing in the lane on defense.

So far, fans and players seem to like the rule changes. Many players already use this style from playing overseas so the learning curve should be minimal. Becky Hammon of the New York Liberty had this to say:

I think it's part of the evolvement of the game, but it's quick, so I'm happy in the aspect that it's going to move the game, make it more up-tempo, more up-and-down, because I think it's a more exciting brand to watch and a more exciting brand to play

Do you have any thoughts about these new rule changes? 

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