The length of an average game has become a massive issue in major American professional sports. Major League Baseball is discussing transformative rules changes to shorten their games and appeal to a younger, broader audience. Yet NBA games are quantifiably, marginally longer this year and the league said that it"s okay with that, more concerned with what it termed game flow than adding a little bit of time to its games so far this season.

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Through games played on Dec. 6, non-overtime games are a little over two minutes longer this year, per numbers provided by the league, and just under three minutes longer on average if you factor in OT games.

Season All Games Non-OT Games
2015-16 2:16:41 2:15:40
2016-17 2:18:19 2:16:28
2017-18 2:11:48 2:11:16
2018-19 2:14:39 2:13:26

A lot of that has to do with the new enforcement of the freedom of motion rules, which has led to more fouls being called this season. In games played through Dec. 5, there were 43.6 fouls being called per game. That"s up four fouls per game from last year and three fouls year to date, according to the NBA.

Fouls Per Game

Season YTD (Dec 5th) Fouls Per Game Full Season Fouls Per Game
2014-15 42.7 40.3
2015-16 41.5 40.4
2016-17 40.5 39.7
2017-18 40.6 39.6
2018-19 43.6 43.6 (YTD)

“We’re actually really comfortable in that 2:10 to 2:15 range that we’ve been in," said Evan Wasch, the NBA"sSenior Vice President of Basketball Strategy & Analytics.

Los Angeles Lakers" LeBron James (23) claps after scoring against the Miami Heat during the first... <+> half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)


The NBA is currently satisfied with thechanges it made to games prior to the 2017-2018 season to improve game flow, which the league defines ashow often play is stopped, how long the stoppages and timeouts are and how long it takes to get back to play after a stoppage like a foul or a turnover.

Following the 2016-2017 season, the league slashed the number of timeouts coaches had for the game and how many they could use towards the end of games. They cut the number of TV timeouts and made halftime length uniform across all games. The leaguealso cut the number of timeouts teams could take toward the ends of games.

Those changes improved not only game flow but shortened non-OT games by more than five minutes. This year, the increase in fouls have led to longer games, but games this year are still shorter than they"d been before the flow changes were made after 2016-2017.

“We expected that there would certainly early in the season be an increase in fouls called," Wasch said. "I think it’s a little less clear what will happen as the season progresses as players adjust. But we were not concerned with the flow impact because we thought it was more important to clean up the aesthetic portion of the freedom of movement."

Boston Celtics" Jayson Tatum, left, runs into Charlotte Hornets" Cody Zeller, right, during the... <+> second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)


Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller thinks that the rule change has made a bigger impact than the league might be letting on.

“It seems like a big difference, actually," he said. "They’ve called it a lot tighter this year. We’ve all had to adjust to it. I think we’ll see how the game changes, how it lasts.”

Zeller"s been noticing the extra stoppages and thinks it’s definitely taking away from the flow of the game.

Wasch thinks that the number of whistles will decrease as the season progresses and that teams will adjust to the new rules over time.The parity of teams this season has definitely led to longer games, Wasch said, and that will likely average itself out over time.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, right, goes up for a basket as Memphis Grizzlies center Marc... <+> Gasol defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, in Denver. The Nuggets won 105-99. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)


"I don’t think we’re at a point where we would say the flow is worse," Wasch said, "but we’re really comfortable with the way that the freedom of movement enforcement and our officiating metrics are coming out. We’ve been getting slightly longer games as a result, but ultimately much, much better aesthetics of play. But I don’t think we’re in the position of saying the overall game flow this year is better or worse as a result of that.”

New York Knicks" Courtney Lee, standing, is fouled by Washington Wizards" Austin Rivers during the... <+> third quarter of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)


New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee has noticed the uptick in fouls and said that the freedom of motion enforcement takes away from the physicality on defense, but didn"t notice the slight uptick in game length.

“I’m sure before they changed the freedom of movement, there were probably games that lasted the same length with all the fouls," Lee said.

Brooklyn Nets broadcaster Ian Eagle hasn"t noticed a huge change either way.

"For a 7:30 game, it usually means we’re off the air at 10:00. That’s always been my mindset," Eagle said. "Anything short of that, it’s a bonus. Anything beyond that is out of the ordinary. So that’s the template. I haven’t seen a major fluctuation on a personal level this year.”

There"s also been an average of about two replay reviews per game this season, Wasch said, with one usually taking place during a TV timeout or the end of a quarter and one taking place during live action.

Replay (through Dec. 5)

Stoppage Time averages (whistle to whistle)

This season: 1 min 42 seconds

17-18 regular season: 1 min 44 seconds

16-17 regular season: 1 min 43 seconds

15-16 regular season: 1 min 46 seconds

Average Review Times (headset on to headset off)

This Season: 30.2 seconds

17-18 regular season: 31.8 seconds

16-17 regular season: 32.0 seconds

15-16 regular season: 31.9 seconds

Replay reviews have been pretty consistent over the last several years, according to league figures.

“We don’t view that as a problem, but it’s something we could continue to improve,” Wasch said.

The league is looking at different technology and ways the communication, both video and audio, between the arenas and the replay center in Secaucus N.J.

“It’s really not affecting game flow, but we would still like to tighten that up a little bit over time and find ways to get more calls right without impacting the flow," Wasch said.

Golden State Warriors" Draymond Green, right, greets Stephen Curry (30) prior to the first half of... <+> an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. The first game both have retuned to play at home since recovering from injuries. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


So to recap, the NBA pretty much knew that more fouls would be called this year and that games could end up being a little bit longer, but to improve game flow and give players more freedom of movement, the league deemed it a worthy trade-off.

Is length of game a major issue for the NBA like it is for baseball? No. But it"s definitely something to monitor as the calendar flips to 2019 and the regular season marches on.

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Shlomo Sprung is a senior contributing writer at SportsMoney. He"s also a features writer at Awful Announcing and writes at FanSided, SI Knicks, YES Network and

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Shlomo Sprung is a senior contributing writer at SportsMoney. He"s also a features writer at Awful Announcing and writes at FanSided, SI Knicks, YES Network and other publications.. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, Business Insider, Sporting News and Major League Baseball. You should follow him on Twitter.