Bucks Diary

Monday, December 08, 2008

A corollary to my last post: Is "Hack-a-Shaq" a smart strategy?


One last point I forgot to make in my last post. If you accept the numbers as given, and you take the NBA free throw average of approximately 0.767, then it follows that the defense is rarely helped by committing shooting fouls.

Shooting fouls afford the offendee two free throws, which have a combined point value on average of roughly 1.53 points. The lone exception to that rule would be if the alternative were an uncontested dunk or layup, which would be worth about 1.91 and 1.73 points per attempt, respectively. In either of those cases you're better off fouling. (But the old basketball saw is correct: never, never, never foul a jump shooter!)

Now, an interesting question raised by the numbers is whether "Hack-a-Shaq" is actually a sound strategy. I guess it depends.

On the one hand, you could argue that the point value to Shaq's team when you deliberately hack Shaq is 1.05 points -- that's based on Shaq's career free throw average of .525 -- and that represents more value than a shot attempt would from 10 of NBA.com's 14 hotspots. From that perspective it seems like a bad strategy.

On the other hand, you could argue that the NBA average points per possession stands at 1.06, and therefore it represents a slightly decent strategy.

But not this season. Shaq is hitting a robust 0.574 from the line, thus making the "Hack-a-Shaq" stupid, because its less valuable to Hack Shaq (1.14 points) than it is to just let Phoenix have their normal possession (1.08 points).

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