The Charlotte Hornets Aren't Flopping, Hassan Whiteside

Whiteside suggested the Hornets are flopping to get calls. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford disagrees. Who's right?

The NBA Playoffs generally lead to ramped up physicality and defense. The term "playoff foul" is common nomenclature for a reason.

When the whistles start to favor one team over another, though, you can be sure that someone will have something to say when the stakes are as high as they are.

After the Miami Heat's Game 4 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, center Hassan Whiteside came up with a good idea.

But Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford disagrees.

"Listen, I watch the films really closely," Clifford said during this morning's shootaround. "If you're going to get into career flopping between the two rosters, it wouldn't be close. [...] We don't have anybody that flops. We haven't had a flopping issue all year."

Any idea what he means?

Uh, yeah. Me neither.

More importantly, is Whiteside still correct?

Getting Whistles

In the rawest sense, the Hornets have gotten more calls than the Heat, as measured by free throw attempts. Through Game 4, the Hornets have attempted 122 free throws, 30.5 per game. That's tops among 16 playoff teams.

The Heat have attempted 94 freebies, 23.5 per game. That ranks ninth among playoff teams.

Miami has been called for 23.8 fouls per game, tied for fourth-most in the NBA Playoffs and above the playoff average of 21.7.

Charlotte has been whistled 19.3 times per game, 13th-most.

And as measured by free throw attempts per field goal attempt, Charlotte is leading the playoffs by far, with a mark of .382. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers are tied for second at .355, and the playoff average is .296.

The Heat (.297) rank 10th in Free Throw Rate by this measure, but that still ranks them above average.

For more context, the Houston Rockets led the NBA in Free Throw Rate this season at .352, and the league average was .276.

The Heat ranked tied for 11th in the NBA at .282 during the regular season, and the Hornets (.280) ranked 13th. They were got to the line at similar rates during the regular season, but there's a chasm between them in the playoffs.

The Hornets are flopping to get calls, and Whiteside's comments are correct. Case closed, right? Nope.

Playoff Mode

It doesn't always make sense to change gears in the playoffs after having a successful season.

But these two teams have clearly done so.

Check out the Heat's percentage of field goals from inside the arc, from inside three feet, and from beyond the arc relative to their regular season numbers and ranks (while keeping in mind that the playoff field is basically cut in half).

Team Season FT Rate %FG 2P %FG 0-3' 3PT Attempt Rate
Miami Heat Regular .282 (11th) 77.9 (4th) 30.3 (10th) .211 (27th)
Miami Heat Playoffs .297 (10th) 73.1 (5th) 25.3 (13th) .269 (12th)

They're actually getting to the line more frequently, but a smaller percentage of their field goal attempts are coming from inside the arc, and a much smaller percentage are coming near the rim.

Let's check out the Hornets' change of heart -- if they had one.

Team Season FT Rate %FG 2P %FG 0-3' 3PT Attempt Rate
Charlotte Hornets Regular .280 (13th) 65.2 (27th) 27.4 (24th) 0.348 (4th)
Charlotte Hornets Playoffs .382 (1st) 79 (2nd) 37 (1st) .210 (15th)

That right there is a team that is getting to the rim.

In the playoffs, 79% of the Hornets' field goal attempts have come from two-point range. Only the Memphis Grizzlies (80.3%) attempted them at a higher rate.

The playoff average is 69.5%, and the Heat are fifth at 73.1%.

But an astounding 37% of Charlotte's overall field goals have come from within three feet of the hoop. The Grizzlies are a distant second at 35.4%, and the playoff average is 29%. The Heat are down at 13th at 25.3%.

During the regular season, the Hornets ranked 27th in terms of percentage of field goal attempts that were two-pointers (65.2%), well below the league average of 71.5%. Miami attempted 77.9% of their field goals from inside the arc, fourth-highest in the league.

It's not a surprise, then, to see that Charlotte is averaging 34 drives per game, third-most among playoff teams. Miami's 25.8 are tied for seventh-most. Miami was seventh in drives per game during the regular season at 29.4 per contest.

Charlotte's 24.7 drives per game ranked 20th.

They've each undergone a drastic shift in shot selection through the first four games, but only one of them helps to earn extra whistles.

It's All Irrelevant

In a lot of ways, the flopping issue is moot. NBA playoffs -- small samples even at their fullest seven games -- require immediate changes to the game plan and officiating.

The Hornets have gone from one of the most three-point happy squads in the NBA to a team attacking the rim at will, and the Heat are trending the opposite direction.

Perhaps Whiteside, who is leading the playoffs in field goals defended at the rim per game (14.3 -- only two other players have contested at least 10 per game) is just getting frustrated with the amount of shots he's seeing each night. (He defended the second-most per game during the regular season at 10.5.)

But he and the Heat need to figure it out soon because their 58% chance to win Game 5, according to numberFire Live, is far from a guarantee.