A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

A simple solution to Hack-A

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The subject of how to fix the Hack-A pandemic in the NBA has been a hot topic this year. There are now three infamously hacked players in Andre Drummond, Deandre Jordan and Dwight Howard along with some other players from time to time.

I favor the idea of asking “is it making the product worse for the fans” and if it is, the rule should be changed. Adam Silver has hinted toward a change.

I personally think the problem is not as hard to fix as the media writes sometimes. At least not as hard as the problem of the lottery incentivizing tanking. In fact the solution is already in the rulebook.

Spelling out the problem with the Hack-A in three words, is that it’s Delaying the Game. It’s pausing the regular, more entertaining action of basketball. It’s making the end of the game farther away.

Well, the NBA already tries to prevent the Delay of Game. On occasion you may see a ref call a technical on a player for something like hitting the ball away from the ref after a made basket, or hanging on the rim too long. This rule has value because otherwise teams could manipulate the pace of the game with it. For example if playing against a team who thrives in in a back and forth transition game such as the Warriors, without the delay of game technical, the other team could mess around with the ball after made baskets to prevent the type of fast pace environment the Warriors want.

What I propose is just letting the refs call a Delay of Game technical when the coach decides to use the Hack-A. Since the coach is delaying the game by using this strategy, why not punish it just as much in the other ways a team can delay games?

The one argument I’ve seen used against this, is that shooting an extra free throw is itself a delay. But the key is deterrence. My logic is that the Delay of Game technical eliminates the incentive to Hack-A. Therefore you would only rarely see the technical actually being called and it wouldn’t delay games.

As it stands now, it’s arguably already a bad decision to hack a FT shooter. It’s not only comparing the FT shooter’s % to the eFG of running a play, but adding the chance of the shooter’s team getting an offensive rebound and taking into account letting their team set their defense. When it comes to players like Dwight Howard and Deandre Jordan, if you take all this into account and then add a 3rd FT coming from an 85%+ shooter like Chris Paul or James Harden, that extra free point would push Hack-A mathematically over the cliff of logical sense. Andre Drummond’s FT shooting is so bad that adding Reggie Jackson’s 85% FT only brings the expected points to current Dwight Howard level’s of Hack-A, but it at least makes it less logical to hack him as it does now. Furthermore the other disincentive is that technical fouls would lead to a fine paid by the player or coach depending on who the rule targeted and repeated instances can lead to ejection or suspension.

You can ask how to deal with the grey area between intentional and unintentional fouls on poor FT shooters. This would be the refs discretion and with most technicals, the refs give players or coaches warnings. As could a semi intentionally Hack-A be given a warning first. What the rule would prevent is the 5 minutes stretches of repeated hacking, which is what really delays the game.

As an alternative to this I’ve seen it suggested to let teams choose to inbound the ball or shoot 2 FTs. This could be an option but I see more problems with it than my idea. One issues is whether teams would just choose to take the FTs instead of the inbound. Consider how Dwight is over 50% FT shooting, which added to the chance of offensive rebounding and Houston setting their defense. Inbounding the ball instead takes away all of that and puts them at risk of turning the ball over on the pass, which often lead to fastbreak points. It also risks burning a timeout to avoid a 5 second call. It seems like the smart move for Houston to do in this case is take the 2 FTs and the other team may know it. If say the Pistons choose the inbound over Drummond’s worse FT shooting, the problem is the other team may expect them to. This could cause them to game the Pistons, by forcing them to inbound the ball repeatedly, putting them at risk of steals, wasting timeouts, or just annoying them into finally letting Drummond take the FTs or taking him off the floor.

Overall, I just think the best and most simple solution is to react against coaches delaying the game, in the same way the refs do now: Let them call a technical for it. The extra shot and the technical foul fine should cause coaches to now avoid going near the Hack-A, and thus it dies while leaving the rest of the game in tact.

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Written by jr.

March 8, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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