Rollin' In The Rye

Pros and cons of the “Hack-a-Shaq” rule change

The basketball strategy named “Hack-a-Shaq”, is used to prevent the opposing team from scoring the basketball on a consistent basis; by fouling the opposing team’s worst free throw shooter (while in the act of shooting or while in the bonus) making him shoot free throws.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that this strategy has been used for years. Even though former Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson first utilized this strategy in the NBA, it was San Antonio Spurs coach/mastermind Gregg Popovic who’s well known for using it on former Los Angeles Lakers centre, Shaquille O’Neal; hence the name “Hack-a-Shaq”.

As a result, some of the worse free throw shooters in the league have been forced into this:


The NBA, however, has been ripped by the media, fans, and their own players for having the strategy continue over the last 30 years. On Wednesday, the NBA caved in, as they’ve implemented new rules in order to prevent this strategy from happening in games.

Here’s the official NBA statement from the NBA commissioner Adam Silver:

“The current rule for away-from-the-play fouls applicable to the last two minutes of the fourth period (and last two minutes of any overtime) – pursuant to which the fouled team is awarded one free throw and retains possession of the ball – will be extended to the last two minutes of each period.”

Here’s how DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond are feeling right now:




At the same time, is this really the right move by the NBA? Sure, the game won’t be as stale; and watching an NBA game for the typical fan will be easier, but is everyone thinking about what this will do to players who are coming in to the league?

Here are the pros and cons of this move:


#1. Better for business/faster game

The number one reason as to why the NBA is enforcing these new rules is, due to the fear of losing business/ratings.

People complain about this all of the time, and the NBA has definitely taken notice. The league doesn’t want to lose its fans, because of a strategy that’s turned into a big part of the game. It’s obvious that the NBA’s most important goal is to make sure that their fans enjoy watching the product they put forward. This will change the way NBA coaches use this strategy, and this will increase the tempo of the game.

The NBA knows that they’ll have fans tuning in regardless, but they want to make sure that they don’t have a reason to change the channel or leave their couch.

#2. New coaching strategies

The NBA didn’t completely eliminate the “Hack-a-Shaq” rule, giving NBA coaches a chance to find a loophole within the new rules. There are some great NBA coaches, and they’ll definitely start to think about new strategies to counter this road block.

This will also make the NBA more fun to watch, as fans will get to see coaches develop something that we’ve never seen before. This isn’t a guarantee, but it’s now a possibility.

#3. “Hack-a-Shaq” doesn’t work at times

To be specific, the Los Angeles Clippers (sometimes) have found a way to counter the strategy. DeAndre Jordan free throw shooting has been an issue for the Clippers for as long as he’s been in the league. Last season, Jordan shot 43% from the charity stripe; the 2nd worst percentage in the NBA (Andre Drummond has the worst percentage mark with 35.5%).

The Clippers’ record, however, wasn’t affected last year (in a minor injury season) by Jordan’s shooting numbers. The Clippers were 15-2 when Jordan shot 12+ free throws, 12-0 when Jordan shot 14+ free throws, and 9-0 when Jordan shot 15+ free throws.

This was due to the rebounding numbers that the Clippers produced off of Jordan’s misses. In the 2014-15 season, the Clippers rebounded nearly 21% off Jordan’s free throw misses. As stated earlier, this has to be a healthy Clippers team, in order for this to have a chance. Blake Griffin missed 47 games last season, which meant that this would’ve been very difficult during games.

So if the strategy doesn’t even work at times, what’s the point of having it there?


#1: Making the game easier for bad free throw shooters

Gregg Popovich has come out in the past and said that he “dislikes” using the strategy. However, he continued to use it anyway; because it apparently helped his team’s chances of winning. It seems like he had the right idea, and quite honestly, if NBA players wanted him to stop going through the pain of “Hack-a-Whatever”, they’d make their free throws.

With this new rule being incorporated, it’ll give the players an excuse to not work on their free throw game as much as they should.

DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, Clint Capela, are a few of the players that are notably bad free throw shooters in the league (all shooting under 50%); and with this rule being implemented they won’t have to worry about being intentionally fouled during the most crucial minutes of the game.

#2: Bad free throw shooting from players coming into the NBA 

Players who struggle with shooting free throws in college, won’t have the immediate pressure of working on their free throws during the off-season. The NBA is letting players off the hook; and they’re taking away a game-changing strategy for coaches to use in the future.

People always say that the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy is ruining the game, but taking away an aspect of the game (free throws) from a player is just as bad. Free throws are a major factor in an NBA game; and giving young players a reason to not care about that aspect as much as the other, can lead to a string of bad free throw shooters coming into the league.


Yes, the NBA wants what’s best for it’s fans and its business, but is it really the right decision? This is the first measure the NBA has taken on this issue, but who says it’ll be the last?

Hopefully the NBA finds an equal solution as soon as possible; or else we could find ourselves talking this same issue for years to come.


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You can follow Peter Ash on Twitter @peterash_


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