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WNBA Makes Major Rule Changes for 2013

Yesterday, the WNBA Board of Governors approved three major rule changes effective for 2013. The rule changes include moving the three point line back to FIBA length of 22 feet and 1.75 inches, instituting a defensive three second violation rule, and also anti-flopping rules.

With the WNBA adopting the FIBA three-point line, the basketball court will now look a lot more like an NBA basketball court.  The FIBA three on this basketball court in Manchester, UK is in dark blue.  The NBA three is in white.
With the WNBA adopting the FIBA three-point line, the basketball court will now look a lot more like an NBA basketball court. The FIBA three on this basketball court in Manchester, UK is in dark blue. The NBA three is in white.

Here are the rule changes 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 at 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 though they're close, and 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. For a visual representation, you can see it here, from the Team USA vs. Brazil men's basketball game at Verizon Center this past July, with the Washington Wizards' court on display. The three point line is white so it may be a little hard to see.

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. This forces zone defenses to be more fluid, especially in the lane and with a farther three point line, gives guards and wings more room to penetrate to the basket and create. Also note that the NBA already has this rule.

3. Anti-Flopping Rule

Like the NBA, the WNBA is trying to curb "acting" on the court, where some players try to convince referees by acting that 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 get fined, and then perhaps worse. I think it will be a bit hard to enforce beyond warnings and fines though.

4. Instant Replay

I considered this rule change to be minor as opposed to the first three. There will be video reviews before assessing classifications of flagrant fouls, and there will be 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, this will allow quick guards to penetrate to the hoop more easily and perhaps the pace of play will improve.

The bad side to a further three is that teams may shoot fewer threes than in the past, and Nate alluded to it last season that perhaps this three point line is too far away for women's basketball at the present time - though I disagreed. 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 as well given that the three is further away. Teams that didn't shoot well from the old three last season may not be as successful in 2013 if they do not have slashing ability to compensate for a lack of shooting ability.

On the defensive front, they will be stretched more in part due to a farther three point line and perhaps defensive field goal percentages may rise (good for the offense but not good for the defense) because there is some more room to create and get open looks. There are some who may think that the defensive three-seconds rule in particular is also meant to counter Brittney Griner, but Brittney is also pretty athletic for her position and I am not a fan of any post player just standing in the lane on defense.

Coincidentally, last year, I did suggest that the WNBA implement the now-current three-point line and the defensive three-seconds rule, and that post is here.

What do you think about these new rule changes? I think they are good for the game, but I do think that the rules could have been implemented before FIBA did.

Update: Thanks to James Bowman for his take in his FanPost on the rule changes.