Sure it's not basketball, but the Hack-a-Shaq works

Ideally, the NBA would do away with intentional fouls as a strategy, a case I made today. As long as the rules do permit fouling players without the ball before the last two minutes of the fourth quarter, however, coaches have to figure out how to best use the "Hack-a-Shaq" to their advantage. In this case as many others, they would do well to follow the example of five-time champion and three-time Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich, who has hacked more frequently and more successfully than anyone else in the league.

Hack-a-Shaq in practice

The merits of intentionally fouling have been broken down in theory repeatedly, perhaps in most detail last year by former Phoenix Suns consultant John Ezekowitz for FiveThirtyEight. While Ezekowitz was able to use some observed results like the L.A. Clippers' offensive rebound percentage on DeAndre Jordan's missed free throws, to my knowledge no one has ever publicly analyzed the full outcomes of actual attempts to Hack-a-Shaq. So I set out to do just that.

ESPN Stats & Information compiled a list, cross-referenced with Basketball-Reference.com, of every foul this season recorded in the NBA's play-by-play as an intentional "take" foul. I then whittled down that list to only fouls strategically given to send a bad shooter to the line, adding a few fouls that weren't listed on the play-by-play. I came up with 222 total intentional fouls this season on 23 different players -- nearly half of them (109) sending Jordan to the line.

Each time a player got hacked, I recorded the results of all possessions by both teams, so as to capture the effects on the hacking team of playing against a set defense after free throws. The results were surprising, to say the least.