Chances of a Technical Foul

NBA athletes have rightfully earned a reputation for being among the fiercest competitors in the world. Whether it’s Michael Jordan’s infamous flu game or LeBron James’ championship-clinching block, these supreme athletes seem to have an extra gear when it comes to big moments. However, with such heated matchups, tempers are bound to flare. That’s when things get technical.

Technical fouls –often leading to player ejections and suspensions – have long been a punishment for inappropriate or dangerous behavior. Due to a rule change in 2006, once a player receives his 16th technical foul, he is suspended for one game without pay. For each two additional technical fouls, players are suspended for another game. Let’s reflect back on the rowdiest NBA players of the past couple of decades.

Let’s Get Technical

There’s no question about it: Rasheed Wallace has a stronghold on technical fouls, leading the NBA in all-time technical fouls (291) and a single-season record of 41. These records have become even more untouchable after the 2006 rule change; if a player received 41 technical fouls today, they would be suspended for a minimum of 13 games during the offending season.

The list is peppered with Hall of Famers like Allen Iverson, Gary Payton, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Dennis Rodman, as well as future candidates like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant. Considering the number of all-time greats on this leaderboard, maybe a little extra flare is a good thing for athletes.

Boogie Monster

In the 2016-2017 season, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins was the far and away league leader in technical fouls per game played. Cousins took home another obscure award when he became the fastest player ever to receive an automatic one-game suspension following his 16th technical foul – 26 days earlier than the previous record-holder Dwight Howard. His trade from Sacramento to New Orleans didn’t stymie his rate of technicals, but it did calm the court for his former team.

Despite his murky past with technical and flagrant fouls, Draymond Green doesn’t seem to plan on changing his emotional approach to the game. In 2016, Green may have cost the Warriors a championship when he went over the limit for playoff flagrant points and found himself on the bench for Game 5 of the NBA Finals versus the Cavaliers. This game began the Cavaliers’ historic comeback and Warriors’ infamous loss of a 3-1 series lead.

The Wild, Wild Pacific

The Suns, Clippers, and Warriors all finished in the top 5 for team technical fouls, so it’s not surprising that the Pacific leads all divisions. Although the Pacific ended with the most technicals by a sizeable margin, the next three highest division totals all came from the East. The Celtics had the most of any Eastern Conference team on the back of Isaiah Thomas’ 14 technical fouls.

These rankings reaffirm Gregg Popovich’s exceptional reputation as a coach, as the Spurs finished with the least technical fouls of any team. Pop’s Spurs helped the Southwest conference finish as the second lowest division total.

Let’s Not Get Too Heated

As the 2017-2018 begins, there’s always hope your favorite players learn to control their tempers. If not, though, history shows a technical foul problem is far from a death sentence for an NBA team or player.

Methodology

For this project, we scraped foxsports.com and basketball-reference.com to collect personal stats for each NBA player. The number of technical fouls received included technicals from the regular season and postseason. To calculate the chances of active players receiving a technical foul in the upcoming 2018 season, we divided the number of technicals by total games played for the 2016-17 season.

Sources

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