Sporting Charts

Hack a Shaq: Comparing the NBA's Worst Free Throw Players

 It's no secret that for years NBA team defenses have been using the "Hack-a-Shaq" or more recently the "Hack-a-Dwight" strategy on players with poor free throw percentages.

Hack-a-Shaq defined
A defensive strategy devised by former Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson in which the defense intentionally fouls the offensive player on the court with the lowest free throw percentage. This strategy is used by a team with the intention to stop the clock, consequently increasing its own number of offensive possessions and hopefully limiting the points per possession of the opposing team. It is usually employed when the team is trailing late in the game, but some coaches have implemented the strategy when they're ahead as well.

In the chart below, we compare a few of the worst players from the line (who played real minutes).  Shaquille O'Neal bears the name of this strategy, but Ben Wallace was actually the worst in the past decade.


Dwight Howard
's free throw percentage is down nearly 10% since 2010, so it's no surprise that teams are focusing in on him.  If you foul him, you're going to give up 1 point (50% of two throws), and likely get possession of the ball back.

The worst free throw seasons since 1990 for players with 100 or more attempts:


Players with no risk of being "Hack'd"

Here are the top 10 Free Throw % seasons since 1990 for players that have had a minimum 100 attempts:


There have been rumors for years that NBA commissioner David Stern wants to eliminate this strategy because it highlights and arbitrages poor play.  There's also the question on whether it's sportsmanlike.

It'll be interesting to see how it plays out, and what rule changes the league could implement, but in the meantime...more of this:


Related: NBA Free Throw Statistics 1990-current

 


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