Three NBA Players Most Affected by In-Game Challenge Flags

NBA Challenge Flags
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 13: James Harden (13) of the Houston Rockets sets up the offense against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of the Rockets' 109-99 win on Monday, November 13, 2018. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Houston Rockets at the Pepsi Center. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

This offseason, the NBA together with the board of governors, approved the use of “in-game challenge flags” for the 2019-20 NBA season. Coaches may now challenge fouls, out-of-bounds violations, and goaltending calls against their team. More calls and in-game challenges will be added as the experiment goes on. For now, the scope of calls is limited to these three calls only and a flag may only be thrown once per game.

Many fans call for the league to add traveling to the scope of calls reviewable however there are still players who are affected by this rule change. Coach’s strategies and rotations may change according to their timeout situation and ability to slow down the game.

Players Most Impacted by In-Game Challenge Flags

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The reigning league MVP was in the 96th percentile for drives per game, 12.5 per game during last season. The Milwaukee Bucks superstar got a majority of his points in the paint, and it shows due to his physique and strength. He averaged a career-high 27.7 points-per-game with 6.3 points coming in the paint and 6.9 coming from the free-throw stripe.

Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 0.51 travels per game though according to NBA Miner— highest among active NBA players. He is prone to be called for traveling. With his frame however the Bucks will take the good with the bad. Especially if that means leading them to one of the best records in the NBA. He uses the “euro step” to get most of his points though sometimes he causes charges as seen in the Eastern Conference Finals series versus the Toronto Raptors.

Coming into next season, Antetokounpo will have to watch out for some challenges on his drives to the basket, especially when the game is on the line. He should not tweak his game though, as that is what he does best — driving.

James Harden

One of the players you might expect in this list but not for the reason you expect. James Harden has his notorious stepback which many fans call a travel. Right now, traveling is not part of the calls that in-game challenge flags can be used on. Where the first runner-up for the MVP lands on this list though is his out-of-bounds calls. Harden has third in the league with turnovers due to stepping out-of-bounds with 0.19 per game and sixth in the league in turnovers due to out-of-bounds with 0.26 per game.

James Harden’s usage is part of the reason for the Houston Rockets‘ success and downfall. His 5.0 turnovers-per-game led the league last season. The team turnover numbers will rise, especially with Russell Westbrook on the team. But for sure the turnover numbers for Harden will decrease this time. James Harden will be an interesting litmus test for officials this season with in-game challenge flags.

JaVale McGee

The former “Shaqtin-a-fool” star turned into a reliable starter for the Los Angeles Lakers last season. His efforts earned him another contract and a chance to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. JaVale McGee has always been known to be a rim-protector quoted saying “I am not scared of getting dunked on during in-game action. If I can block the shot, I will go for it.”

The statistics show. McGee led the league with goaltends-per-game according to PBP Stats with 0.44 a game. He has led the league in goaltends ever since he entered the league in 2009 with more than 200 goaltends. He even had a season where he had 52 goaltends.

With in-game challenge flags in effect, expect more challenges to be called during Lakers games with shot-blockers all over the team.

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