Under The Bleachers: Hack-A-Shaq Not The Problem

Above: Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond
Above: Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond

Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond missed more free throws Wednesday night (23) than Golden State Warriors guard and reigning league MVP Stephen Curry has missed all season. Soak that in for a minute. Curry has missed 22 all year, as of this writing; Drummond went 13-36 from the charity stripe against the Houston Rockets in the Pistons’ 123-114 victory in the middle of the week.

As you would expect, Drummond’s frequent appearances and overall inability to knock down a set shot that is sure taught to kids in the first week they take up the sport has prompted another round of “The NBA needs to change the Hack-a-Shaq Rule” arguments.

The logic, in case you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid hearing it in the past, is that the game is cheapened by teams being able to target and foul guys like Drummond that shoot .355 from the free throw line regardless of if they’ve got the ball or not. It slows the game down, allows the defensive team to get the ball back quickly and generally just feels like one of those dirty pick-up game moves where you saddle one team with the dude you think is the worst player on the court.

But here’s the thing: sometimes that dude you think can’t ball is actually pretty solid and the problem isn’t as serious as you think.

Of the 114 statistically qualified players in the NBA, only two of them shoot below 50 percent from the foul line: Drummond (.355) and DeAndre Jordan (.415) of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Two. Not 10. Not 20. Not 50. Two.

You want to change the rules because two guys that play consistent minutes can’t knock down better than 45 percent from the line? Even if you expand the statistically look to include all players in the league, regardless of how many foul shots they’ve taken, there are only 14 players shooting below 50 percent. Only 61 players are shooting below 60 percent and that includes the guys that have gone 1-for-3 or 2-for-5 from the line so far. You don’t change the rules to account for 14.5 percent of the players that have made at least one free throw this year.

The other part of this that the people arguing in favour of changing the “Hack-a-Shaq” rule is that it’s not like the team committing the fouls doesn’t take a hit while employing this tactic. Sending Drummond to the line a dozen times in the first four minutes of the third quarter, as Houston did on Wednesday night, puts them in the bonus immediately, which means every other foul is sending Detroit’s better foul shooters (and that’s everyone else) to the line no matter what, which is a chance for free points.

Additionally, Detroit still won; it’s not like Houston managed to game the system and come away with a victory. Drummond clanked a 2-4 of bricks off the iron on Wednesday and the Rockets still couldn’t take advantage, so how does that make their strategy effective? (Answer: it doesn’t.)

What actually needs to happen in lieu of Wednesday’s foul-a-thon and the overall poor foul shooting from Drummond, DeAndre and a handful of others is that those bigs need to be spending a couple extra hours a day in the gym getting up foul shots, working on their form and not being allowed to head out until they go through 100 shots connecting at a higher clip than they average on the season.

And coaches through the ranks need to work on this too because it’s crazt that guys reach the NBA while being able to knock down 60 percent from the line. That’s not even a great percentage. That affords you four misses out of every 10 shots. If you do the inverse of that from behind the arc – connect on 4-of-10 – you’re a specialist, but you these dudes can’t step up to an uncontested shot where they have time to get comfortable and go through their routine and hit six out of 10?

The problem isn’t the Hack-a-Shaq system; it’s that Drummond and Jordan are alarmingly bad free throw shooters and that’s what needs to be fix.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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