The 1 way the NBA Will be Just Like the NFL Next Season

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We'll see refs going to the monitors thanks to coach's challenges and the NBA instant replay system.

In 1999 the NFL instituted the instant replay rule. The rule allowed coaches to challenge calls made by the officials. Replay became one of the key pieces of the sport for the last two decades. The NBA also will institute instant replay for the first time in 2019, which makes this the perfect time to go over how coach’s challenges will work in the Association.

What caused the rule change?

This change has been in the works for some time, as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has always strived to make the league as innovative as possible. It won’t immediately be a concrete rule in the NBA’s official list of rules, but used as a one-year pilot program.

This will allow the team’s and NBA operations officials to determine if it can be a viable option for the long-term growth of the league.

What can coaches challenge?

The coaches will be able to challenge four types of calls during the course of a game:
  • A personal foul issued to their team
  • Out-of-bounds calls
  • Basket interference violation
  • Goaltending violation. 

No other calls can be challenged, including Flagrant 1 or Flagrant 2 fouls (which result in an immediate ejection from the game). 

One difference in the NBA compared to the NFL is that each coach will only get one challenge per game. Also, there won’t be a flag to show a challenge is being issued. According to a memo obtained by ESPN, coaches “must immediately signal for a challenge by twirling his/her index finger toward the referees.”

The challenge must come immediately after the play, and only personal foul challenges can be called during the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or the final two minutes of overtime. 

If a team wins the challenge, it gets to keep its timeout. However, a lost challenge leads to a lost timeout. The big difference is that in the NFL, each coach receives two challenges, and can earn a third if they are right with their first two.

The success rate for challenges in the NFL is generally between 40% and 50%, with a 53% success rate in the 2013-14 season.

Who do you think will use it the most?

Gregg Popovich figures to use plenty of coach's challenges with the NBA instant replay system.
Gregg Popovich figures to use plenty of coach’s challenges with the NBA instant replay system. |Aaron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The coaches we expect to challenge calls the most are Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, and Doc Rivers. All three have championships under their belts, and all three are some of the smartest minds in the NBA today. Popovich and Rivers were both ejected this past season, and their fiery personalities will no doubt lead to direct confrontations with officials during a challenge.

Spoelstra led the league in technical fouls from 2016-2018, and he shows a fiery temper when defending his NBA players.

We think Rivers will get a handful of technicals when a close call doesn’t go his way, but the new rules should improve the accuracy of the calls throughout the season.

How has it been used in the other NBA affiliates?

The challenge rule has been used in the G-league for a few seasons, which prompted the option to promote it to the NBA. It also appeared during the three summer league tournaments in Sacramento, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City.

Surprisingly, it hasn’t be tried in the WNBA yet, but if there is success in the league, it could enter in the 2020-21 season.