So I was watching the highlights of the game last night between the Pistons and Hawks in Atlanta. Hawks coach, Mike Budenholzer, employed the infamous “Hack-a-___” strategy on Pistons center Andre Drummond. For those of you new to basketball, this strategy is used when a team has a poor free-throw shooter. The idea is that before the 2 minute mark in the quarter, you can intentionally foul a player who doesn’t have the ball. The fouled player will then go to the foul line. The desired outcome is that the player will miss the free throws, therefore eliminating their offensive possession. It was originally used against Wilt Chamberlain, but wasn’t a consistent strategy until Shaquille O’Neal was a force in the league. It was later dubbed the ‘hack-a-Shaq’.
I think that the strategy can be a good thing. It does eliminates possessions for opposing teams, and at the least, forces big guys (who are the usual targets for hacking) to develop their foul shooting. I agree that it it is a good idea late in 4th quarter, but doing it early in the game like the Hawks did last night is downright pathetic. It is sending the message that you cannot handle the player’s offensive game and are taking the easy way out. He should be a better foul shooter? Yes. Your team should suck it up and defend? Also yes. It is bad for the league and takes emphasis away from the ball. The upside is that with under two minutes to go, the player must have the ball in order to be the shooter, if not, then the opposing team may choose their shooter. I would employ double-teaming from the middle and force the player to turn to the baseline, which is surprisingly uncomfortable for a lot of big guys in today’s game. You could also front him with his defender and provide backside help and essentially ‘sandwich’ him.
In the end, it is a good strategy, but again, NOT until the 4th quarter. It really shows weakness. If Drummond had not been sitting most of the night, the Pistons probably would have won the game due to his dominance in the paint and the Hawks’ bigs lacking athleticism to keep up with him.