Adam Silver thinks the NBA will change the “Hack-a-Shaq” Rule this Offseason

(USA Today) NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s evolving opinion of Hack-A-Player indicates there may be changes to the increasingly practiced and increasingly reviled strategy.

After months of media debate, putrid foul shooting, lengthy games and fan discontent, Silver told USA TODAY Sports in an NBA A to Z podcast that, “I’m increasingly of the view that we will be looking to make some sort of change in that rule this summer.”

Long neutral on Hack-A-Player – the strategy of fouling a poor free throw shooter away from the basketball in an attempt to limit an opponent’s scoring – Silver is taking a side.

“Even for those who had not wanted to make the change, we’re being forced to that position just based on these sophisticated coaches understandably using every tactic available to them,” Silver said. “It’s just not the way we want to see the game played.”

Hack-A-Player is up this year. The number of those intentional fouls through mid-December surpassed the number of times it happened last season (164), and the league is closing in on 300 Hack-A-Player instances before the All-Star break.

Through Tuesday’s games, fouls against Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond and Houston Rockets Dwight Howard have accounted for 69% of Hack-A-Player fouls. Jordan accounts for 34%.

Silver knows the data. But the interaction with fans as he watches a game has made an impact, too.

“Again, as I travel around the league, there’s that one school of thought ‘Guys have got to make their free throws,’ ” Silver said. “But then at the end of the day, we are an entertainment property, and it’s clear that when you’re in the arena, that fans are looking at me, shrugging their shoulders with that look saying, ‘Aren’t you going to do something about this?’ ”

Basketball is a game of flow, rhythm and pace. Multiple intentional fouls interrupt that unique style, and the game becomes an eyesore, such as the Jan. 20 game in which Detroit’s Andre Drummond shot 36 fouls shots.

“Because more and more teams are doing it to more and more players, there is an absolute necessity to get this right,” ESPN/ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy told USA TODAY Sports. “And it’s not for the individual players. It’s not even for the teams. It’s for the fans, because I see this escalating more and more.”

NBA data through Tuesday’s games reveals that teams use the Hack-a-Player strategy more often when trailing (68 times) than when winning (21 times). But teams have won 16% of the time using the strategy when trailing but 61% of the time when using the strategy while ahead.

From a pure data standpoint, the strategy is sound way to keep a team from piling up points. Avid NBA observer and data cruncher, Haralabos Voulgaris, said on Twitter recently that teams using Hack-A-Player allow .82 points per possession – which is better than NBA-best .951 points allowed per possession by the San Antonio Spurs.
The rumblings have been growing since more teams have adopted the Hack-a-Shaq in recent seasons. Because it breaks up the flow of the game and basketball is very much a fluid game like soccer is. So when that gets interrupted more often than not the product suffers. I get why they want to do it, but I just cannot fully get behind it.

To change the rules of the game because three guys can’t make their free throws?! Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan make up for almost a third of all Hack-a-Shaq fouls. The reason its happening more because the data backs it up, this season teams that were leading then started fouling won 61% of the time. But I do not want to see the game changed because a handful of guys can’t make free throws.

The funny thing is that most teams who use it do so when they are down and lose the game most of the time. Defense still wins Championships ,with Shaq it was used because he was so dominant and nobody could defend him, now it’s because these guys are just so woeful at shooting freebies that even the best defenses of all time pale in comparison to what the Hack-a-Shack does to teams. Haralabos Voulgaris broke down the numbers that said recently that teams using Hack-A-Player allow .82 points per possession – which is better than NBA-best .951 points allowed per possession by the San Antonio Spurs. So it only makes sense to use it when you are in the right situation.

With that said, the NBA is an entertainment league, so the only valid argument I see against it is the fact that it makes games boring. That’s a legitimate reason to change it, because the NBA is about entertainment first and foremost. If the league isn’t losing money aka ratings why would they implement such a sweeping change?

One of the better compromises I have seen with the rule change is from Tom Ziller Allow the team fouled to the opting of shoot the free throws or taking the ball out of bounds, which would essentially eliminate the strategy. Has there ever been a rule change in the NBA because only some players were bad at something ? I don’t think so and it shouldn’t start now. Plus you wouldn’t get funny moments like this


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