To the delight of many, the NBA has announced a rule change that will limit off-ball intentional fouls.
This strategy of committing intentional fouls, often referred to as Hack-a-Shaq, has been used frequently on poor free-throw shooters such as DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond. The strategy was originally implemented by teams to slow down Shaquille O'Neal. Teams would foul him when he had the ball underneath the basket because he shot a high percentage from under the rim but a poor percentage from the free-throw line.
However, in recent years, the strategy has taken on a life of its own. Most players who shoot under 60% from the free-throw line have seen the strategy used against them at one point or another. Some teams have used the strategy to force a coach to pull his best big man out of the game, while other teams have combined the Hack-a-Shaq strategy with the two-for-one strategy to get an extra possession at the end of quarters.
The rule change will not eliminate the Hack-a-Shaq strategy, but it will limit when the strategy can be used. For example:
The current rule for away-from-the-play fouls applicable to the last two minutes of the fourth period (and last two minutes of any overtime) -- pursuant to which the fouled team is awarded one free throw and retains possession of the ball -- will be extended to the last two minutes of each period.
This means that teams will not be able to utilize the strategy in the last two minutes of any quarter, as the team getting fouled receives a free-throw and the ball. This prevents teams from intentionally fouling to get a two-for-one at the end of quarters.
The league also tweaked how fouls on inbounds plays will be called.
For inbounds situations, a defensive foul at any point during the game that occurs before the ball is released by the inbounder (including a "legitimate" or "natural" basketball action such as a defender fighting through a screen) will be administered in the same fashion as an away-from-the-play foul committed during the last two minutes of any period (i.e., one free throw and possession of the ball).
This will stop teams from intentionally fouling players before the ball is inbounded. However, it doesn’t seem to do much to stop the Hack-a-Shaq strategy, as teams can just wait until the ball is inbounded before fouling if there are more than two minutes left in the quarter.
Finally, the rule change also addressed plays like this one:
This type of play will no longer be allowed.
The flagrant foul rules will be used to protect against any dangerous or excessively hard deliberate fouls. In particular, it will presumptively be considered a flagrant foul if a player jumps on an opponent's back to commit a deliberate foul. Previously, these type of fouls were subject to being called flagrant but were not automatic.
Commissioner Adam Silver knew that a rule change was necessary, and this was the compromise that was decided upon.
This has been a frequently-debated topic over the past few NBA seasons. Some people feel like there shouldn’t be any limits on the intentional fouling.