December 08, 2012

Stern Would Like to Eliminate Hack-a-Howard: "I would have liked to have seen the rule changed to make the last-two-minute rule the whole rule,” he said. “It was getting to a point last year where, [in the] first period, they were just grabbing players. I think that’s ludicrous."

posted by DudeDykstra to basketball at 12:06 AM - 8 comments

Great headline. I was sure this post was about Howard Stern and was anxious to see how we at SpoFi could find a way to keep up the hacking.

posted by beaverboard at 11:21 AM on December 08, 2012

Watching "hack-a-whoever" is probably not entertaining, but isn't it the player's responsibility--and perhaps the team's--to eliminate it?

posted by skifan at 11:48 AM on December 08, 2012

I'm all for eliminating 'hack-a-Howard'. After all, I regularly get fouled here on SpoFi, and nobody ever calls the foul. So what if I haven't made a free throw in a basketball game since 1957. It's unfair.

To get serious, David Stern should quit his job with the NBA and become commissioner of the new sport he's trying to invent. If you want to stop intentional fouling, get players who can shoot free throws at better than a 50% rate. What's unfair about taking advantage of an opponent's weakness? It's done in one way or another in every competitive sport known to man.

posted by Howard_T at 01:46 PM on December 08, 2012

Why didn't he just fine the offending teams?

posted by tron7 at 02:41 PM on December 08, 2012

The best fix I heard for this is that if you are fouled off the ball you would just get the choice of either free throws or the ball out of bounds. It makes so much sense I'd be offended if they didn't do it.

posted by tron7 at 02:49 PM on December 08, 2012

As I thought about this further, I remember when there was an intentional foul rule in the NBA. Of course, this was when a foul on a non-shooter resulted in only 1 free throw. If the foul was deemed to be intentional, 2 free throws were awarded. Perhaps a variation could be created, where in the case of an intentional foul, the player fouled shoots the free throws, then his team is given the choice of the ball out of bounds or 2 additional free throws by a player of their choice who is on the floor at the time. Tough part of this is for the officials to determine the intent of a foul, but game situation could have a lot to do with that. It would have to be called just once to have an effect.

posted by Howard_T at 04:40 PM on December 08, 2012

Yeah, I don't think I'd like a rule that bases itself on intent or excessiveness; there's already the flagrant foul (I and II) for that. Nor do I like extra penalties for fouls off the ball- those can be as arbitrary and ticky-tack as those on the ball, and you already get the two shots when the other team is in the penalty no matter how they foul (outside of a flagrant). I personally love creative uses of the rulebook, so while not terrible "creative", if a simple clean foul is tactically a better move in some situations... what's the problem? That's part of the game.

I think Howard_T has the right idea: if you want to stop the hack-a-_____ game plan, get your player shooting 70% from the line or better. That makes the cost of fouling the player too high to make a common practice.

That said... let's take a quick look at the numbers.

1) Dwight Howard is a career .584 shooter from the line, and a career effective FG % .578 shooter from the field (although since he takes so few three point shots, it's basically the same as his FG%). Conclusion: when he takes a shot he averages 1.17 points per attempt, and when he shoots two free throws he averages 1.16. It's not quite that simple since fouling him on a shot he makes anyway just means he'll average another .58 points on those plays, but overall it's basically a wash either way, with the slightest of edges towards not fouling him.

2) Fouling him without the ball, however, seems initially less sensible. Even as a .584 shooter from the line, if he's converting 58% of his free throws, then he'll average a little bit more than the average points per possession than his team would otherwise. That said, the advantage is miniscule, since it'd be an advantage of a seventh of a point per possession in which you foul him without the ball while in the penalty. Over a large number of hack-a-Howards, you'd start giving up more points than you might have prevented, but it'd have to be 14+ per game to even equal one extra basket.

3) There are also more tangible benefits in terms of disrupting the Magic/Lakers offense, or specifically using a hack-a-Howard strategy late in the game to stop the clock/prevent 3-point plays. This has the effect of throttling the Magic/Lakers points-per-possession to a frustratingly predictable miss one, make one, which can be huge when you're ahead or behind by a small amount.

4) However... the last two years his FT% has been under .500, which throws those numbers above off. It now means that fouling him, even without the ball, means the Magic and now Lakers will actually consistently score less each possession than they would otherwise. Multiply by ~10 times a game, and that's a good 2-3 points they aren't scoring- plus the benefits of disrupting the flow of their offense as noted. In a close game, the ~3 points difference of the hack-a-Howard plan could even switch a loss into a win.

5) Now my favorite numbers to look at. Below is a year-by-year list of Dwight Howard, his free throw attempts per game and his shot attempts per game:

Granted, fouls on a shot he misses result in the shot attempt not being recorded, so if he was being more heavily fouled as a shooter we wouldn't see it in his FGA/3PA per game... but would still see it in his FTA per game. Fouls without the ball would increase the FTA, so again we should expect that the Hack-a-Howard plan should see a big jump in FTA.

And yet, those numbers have held pretty steady, year over year (I didn't see at a list of personal fouls against per game). It's possible I'm missing something here, but if he's being fouled more now, or more without the ball, the numbers don't seem to support it. Either he's been Hack-a-Howarded since his sophomore season, or Stern is picking an odd time- Howard's ninth NBA season- to suddenly care about it.

posted by hincandenza at 09:23 PM on December 08, 2012

This should not be an issue for Stern, this is a team issue. If the Lakers don't want this strategy used against them then fix it! Its just like in baseball, it your pitching staff cant compete with a hitter and you keep walking him, you dont get to change the strike zone because your pitcher cant beat him.

posted by bo_fan at 08:22 AM on December 10, 2012

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