NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a statement during the 2016 playoffs about banning the hack-a-Shaq strategy, saying, “Not only is that something that is bad for our network partners, but for all of the fan research we have shows that the fans hate it.” (reports ESPN).
This would be a terrible move for the game of basketball. Sure, the casual fan may hate it, but what they should really be irritated about is the player shooting the free throws who can’t make them. There are a couple of good things that a rule forbidding this strategy would bring to the game, but I believe that the effects of this rule drastically change the game of basketball long term for the worse.Positives
1) As commissioner Silver alluded to, it makes for hard to watch basketball. Fouling the opposition’s weakest free throw shooter in order to interrupt the flow of the game, and forcing the weak link to make two shots from the charity stripe, makes for very boring basketball I will admit. A rule discontinuing this strategy would keep the game in motion and force opponents to beat the other team without resorting to hack-a-(insert bad free throw shooter here).
2) A rule created to prevent hack-a-Shaq tactics could bring back the importance of the old school NBA centers. In recent memory, old school type centers have not gone very high in the draft, as the game has evolved into a faster paced game of shooting and life above the rim. Traditional centers are known to play ten feet from the rim with their back to the basket, which half of the time results in them going to the free throw line due to the large amount of physicality a player experiences as they get closer to the rim. A rule change would keep NBA centers like Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and other centers shooting sub 60% from the line, from being benched in tight game situations, making for more competitive and undisputed outcomes.
1) A rule change would only help about a handful of players, all of them centers. That’s like introducing a 4 point line for sharp shooters like Steph Curry, when no more than a handful could make that shot on a consistent basis. Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond all attempted over 450 free throws in the 2015-16 NBA season, and all of them shot below 50%; Drummond and Jordan were both top 5 in the league in free throw attempts and shot 36% (Drummond) and 43% (Jordan). All three of those guys were on playoff teams this past season, hence why Silver wants to eliminate the tactic all together; it affected the NBA’s ratings. There were no more centers or players at other positions in the past season that attempted more than 400 shots and shot below 60% from the charity stripe; the next 3 centers that had the most free throw attempts, while shooting below 60%, shot 225 free throws (Rudy Gobert 57%, John Henson 59%, and Nerlens Noel 59%). In a league that has over 400 players, to accommodate for only a handful of players seems rather pitiful and sad.
2) Enforcing a rule of this nature would take away importance of a fundamental of basketball skill; shooting. Creating a rule banning the strategy would send a message to all future NBA hopefuls that shooting free throws isn’t as important as putting on a show, which would allow for more bad free throw shooters. Sure, shooting free throws will still be important in crunch time moments, but let me give you a scenario: under the proposed rule change, with the poor free throw shooting centers in the game, who is most likely to be involved in the offense to try and win the game? As soon as the ball would get anywhere near their hands, they can expect hard contact and force the referee to call a foul to send the player to the line and, based on his bad percentage from that part of the court, will miss one if not both of those shots. When that happens, fans will wonder “why did the coach have him in the game in such a tight situation?” The opposition will still find a way to expose the weakness of these players which makes for bad television and makes fans feel like their team didn’t play their best, because their team put in a bad free throw shooter at such a pivotal moment in the game. The fans will then notice after a while that many younger players will shoot poorly from the free throw line. Teams and coaches have often planned for and against other teams whether or not they have a bad free throw shooting center on their team; they know that the player is a liability and doesn’t give them the best chance to win. The result of the rule would be a lack of importance on practicing free throws and shooting form.
I apologize to Adam Silver, but I am calling a flagrant foul on him for what would be the first huge mistake in his reign as commissioner. I know what some of you may be thinking; “Oh you’re just afraid of change,” when actually, I am not, I just know what makes for great basketball, and missing so many free throws is a stain on the purity that can be shown on the court. The bottom line is: Make your free throws so fans don’t pity you and a commissioner has to try and bail you out.