Does hack-a-Steph make any sense as a way to defend Curry?

BY foxsports • February 4, 2016

After Stephen Curry's amazing performance on Wednesday night in the Warriors win over the Wizards, we heard a theoretical plan that has been floated before -- hack-a-Steph.

It came up again briefly on Thursday on ESPN -- the idea that the opposition might actually be better off fouling Curry instead of letting him shoot. In theory, teams would give up two free throws instead of 3-pointers.

Does this actually make sense?

For argument's sake, let's set aside the practicality that Curry moves and shoots so quickly that defenders could well end up fouling him as he puts up a 3-pointer, giving up three free throws, or not get to him before he hits an open teammate for a basket. Or that multiple players might end up fouling out. OK, then let's do the math -- just simple math.

Curry averages 19.4 field-goal attempts (2- and 3-pointers combined) per game. His field-goal percentage is .511. He shoots free throws at a .911 clip. Suppose each one of those attempts from the field instead became a two-shot foul, about 38 free throws per game. At his current free-throw rate, Curry would average 34.6 points per game instead of the 29.8 he's at right now.

But let's try to be somewhat more realistic. Say a team fouled Curry just enough to cut down his field-goal attempts by one-quarter, or about five per game. A bit more than half of his shots are 3-pointers, which he makes at a .458 percentage. Delete those five shots -- with either two or three 3-point tries -- that would yield on average from five to eight points. Except the opponent is giving him 10 free throws, and he's going to make nine. A net loss.

Maybe sophisticated number crunching would make a good argument for hack-a-Steph, but Curry's nearly automatic foul shooting works to negate the concept. So what's the best strategy for defending Curry? How about just hoping he has an off night?