Some might label "Hack-a-Shaq" as an intelligent basketball strategy. By intentionally placing a poor free-throw shooter at the line, you’re eliminating the opponent’s rhythm and decreasing their chance of scoring at an efficient rate.
The counter argument is that it’s the single worst commandment in the NBA, and completely ruins it as an entertainment product.
Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman decided to chime in with his two cents before Monday night’s loss against the Los Angeles Clippers. Here’s what he said, according to The Washington Post:
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“Hey, listen, it’s part of the game,” Wittman said Sunday. “I know it’s a debate and everybody on TV says to get rid of it. But, you know what, now you’re rewarding people for having faults. If you can’t shoot the three-point shot, are we not allowed to guard you anymore? Because you’re not a very good three-point shooter so now we can’t close out on you?
“You can bleed this down to everything so, you know what, someone said it the other day. Kevin Durant or somebody. Get in the gym and improve your free throws if you don’t want to get fouled.”
This completely misses the point and is also wrong. Teams regularly leave opposing three-point shooters wide open on purpose and essentially play them off the floor. The most notable recent example is Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, who was completely ignored by the Golden State Warriors during last year’s postseason. That move catalyzed the eventual champions and helped bring them back from a 2-1 series deficit.
So, yes, not closing out on poor three-point shooters is something NBA teams do all the time, and leaving them wide open is its own kind of punishment.
It’s nonsensical to connect that with intentionally fouling a free-throw shooter, which disrupts the game’s entire flow and is a total bore.
If Marcin Gortat was a 35 percent free-throw shooter, there’s a good chance Wittman would be singing a different tune.