In an era where sabermetrics and mathematicians seem to have more power than ever before, you would think forcing a poor free throw shooter to the line as frequently as possible would have more support. Yet, here I stand. Alone and pushing the boulder uphill like Sisyphus.
We’ve had sportscasters and the NBA Commissioner weigh-in on the future of the Hack-a-Shaq strategy, and with support waning, it seems the move may be going the way of Greek Mythology.
Hack-a-Shaq has brought the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers series to a standstill because of dismal free throw shooters like DeAndre Jordan (who took 28 free throws in the FIRST HALF last night) and Dwight Howard. In terms of defensive strategy; any coach in the league would rather these superhuman athletes took to the free throw line to split a pair than take off from the baseline. This does not make for exciting television.
In a series that features Josh Smith, James Harden, and Lob City people want high-flying offense and dunks; not free throw contests. Too bad. These teams are out to win a national championship, and the best way for either team to accomplish that is to send these big men to the line and have them shoot an uncontested 15 foot shot.
There are only two ways to stop the Hack-a-Shaq: remove the player from the game, or they learn to make their free throws. The latter is something that has been missing from this long conversation. Instead of the league acting and removing a legitimate defensive strategy from the game, the league should put the onus on players like Howard and Jordan by forcing them learn to make an uncontested shot. That’s the way the Hack-a-Shaq should leave the game. By making the strategy obsolete.
In an era where shooting has never been better, and where sabermetrics is king, shouldn’t we expect centers to improve as well? Make your free throws and improve your value to a team. All it takes is shooting 55% from the charity stripe to end Hack-a-Shaq. If it’s going to leave the game, let it leave the game through centers improving in the Shooters Era. Don’t let it leave because it’s too effective.