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Beware of the foul-prone
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Luis Scola is no Wilt Chamberlain.

I'm not referring to the scoring discrepancy between the two or even Chamberlain's acting prowess (Conan the Destroyer, anyone?).

Two championships, four MVPs, 31,419 points and 20,000 women (or so he claims) later and the thing we still remember most about Chamberlain is that he never fouled out of a game. Not even one.

Scola, on the other hand, gets kicked out of games on a regular basis. Scola's last disqualification came eight days ago in a loss to the Trail Blazers.

It was the sixth time Scola has fouled out this season. Only Boston's Jared Sullinger (out for the season because of back surgery) has been asked to leave the premises as often as Scola in 2012-13.

That's not to say that Scola and Sullinger are the only players in the league worthy of being deemed "foul-prone." Amir Johnson, Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins have all been whistled over 185 times this season. Golden State's David Lee is right behind them at 182 personals for the season while Larry Sanders and Marc Gasol are also creeping up the list (177 and 175 fouls respectively).

There are lots of ways you can process this information. The most natural would be to say that Scola and the rest of his elbow-swinging, arm-pulling brethren need to take it down a notch.

That bit of fatherly advice probably wouldn't go over so well with a guy like Cousins (temper tantrum in five, four ...) but I can't argue with you. The NBA has always been plagued by over-aggression and right now Scola, Cousins, Hibbert and Howard are some of the league's worst offenders.

But let's not forget about the fantasy implications of all the pushing, shoving and generally misguided behavior that we are seeing. When these hooligans decide to hold their teams hostage by getting into foul trouble, they're also shooting fantasy owners in the foot.

We've all seen what happens when a player picks up a couple quick fouls. The coach motions for that player to come out and usually he'll ride the pine for the next five minutes.

What if we had those five minutes back?

It's impossible to know for sure but I think it might look something like this.

First, let's look at the current season averages for some of the players I described above:

Cousins: 17.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg in 31.9 minutes per game

Hibbert: 10.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.6 bpg in 28.2 minutes per game

Howard: 16.3 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 2.3 bpg in 34.5 minutes per game

Sanders: 8.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.2 bpg in 25.8 minutes per game

Scola: 12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg in 27.1 minutes per game

Get a good look? Now let's pretend that fouls aren't an issue. Here are the adjusted stats for each player with five added minutes of fantasy productivity:

Cousins: 20.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg

Hibbert: 11.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.1 bpg

Howard: 18.6 ppg, 13.6 rpg, 2.6 bpg

Sanders: 10.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 3.8 bpg

Scola: 15.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg

That's a pretty noticeable difference, isn't it?

But alas, it was only a dream. Self control isn't something a player can develop overnight. It takes years of coaching and experience to become that disciplined.

Take Tim Duncan for example. During Duncan's rookie year in 1997-98, he averaged more than three fouls per game. In recent years, Duncan has been able to trim that number to under two fouls per contest (1.8 fouls per game in 2012-13). The last time the veteran fouled out of a game was back on January 20, 2010 in a loss to Utah.

Only one of the players listed above is older than 27 (Scola turns 33 in April), so perhaps the foul problem is something that will go away with age.

Maybe I was a bit unfair in some of my rhetoric earlier in the article. Fouling isn't always a product of unchecked aggression or being out of control. Often times, it's out of necessity.

Paul Pierce isn't a particularly foul-prone individual (just 2.8 whistles per game for his career) but he's already fouled out twice in 2012-13. Both disqualifications came in games the Celtics were trailing and needed to foul to get the ball back late in the game. In these situations, it would have been unwise for Pierce NOT to foul.

David Lee is another good example. Though his 3.3 foul per game average is among the league leaders (sixth-highest in the NBA), that's only because Lee averages over 37 minutes per contest. Lee, who is tenth in the NBA in minutes this season (2,082), ranks 17th in fouls per 48 minutes (4.2).

Lee's high foul total doesn't reflect a lack of self control. It just shows that head coach Mark Jackson isn't giving him much rest.

While Cousins and Scola are hurting their fantasy value by racking up so many fouls, the Jamal Crawfords of the world are boosting their value by doing the opposite.

The Clippers' sixth man, described by former ESPN analyst John Hollinger as a "low-effort defender" (hence the lack of fouls), is averaging a mere one foul per game in 29.5 minutes per contest. Guards generally don't struggle with foul trouble the way big men do but if Crawford did have a penchant for fouling, his scoring average (currently at 16.7 ppg) would probably fall into the mid to low teens.

Putting up points and rebounds is easy. Staying on the court is the hard part.

Unless, you're Wilt Chamberlain. Then, everything is easy.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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