Does the "Hack-A-Whoever" Stragegy Work?

Discussion in 'Pistons and NBA' started by Pwn Toney, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. Pwn Toney

    Pwn Toney All-Star Forum Donor

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    OK.

    Here's the debate:

    Does hacking the other team's poor FT shooter ACTUALLY work? Does it produce wins? Is it only viable on paper or in theory?

    Notably, Shaquille O'Neal (Career 52%FT) started the trend and opposing coaches saw fit to follow through with our own Ben Wallace (Career 41%FT). But, does it work?
    We're currently seeing a resurgence of the strategy with our new prize Andre Drummond. Due to the fact that it's largely impractical to try to go back and catalog every use of the Strategy during the other two All-Star's careers, this is where we can take a look at its usage and try to answer the age old question.

    Let's spend this season tracking its usage against Andre Drummond and find out if it's actually resulting in victories for the teams that employ it. Let's do this!
     
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  2. Pwn Toney

    Pwn Toney All-Star Forum Donor

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    Please feel free to add any other information/data you'd like to help track the effectiveness of the strategy and we can solve this once and for all. :)

    So far, I have the following:
    Dec 1, 2013 vs PHI - Hack Employed - Result: Failed (note: 20+ pt lead cut to 10 AFTER Drummond was pulled)
    Dec 4, 2013 @ MIL - Hack Employed - Result: Failed (No appreciable decrease in lead)

    As of Dec 6th, 2013
    Hack-A-Drummond = 2 Games Employed / 0 Wins
     
  3. TaS

    TaS All-Star Forum Donor

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    Of course it doesn't work very often. When teams do it, they are in a long odds situation. We are talking about improving their odds from 1 in 100 to 1.5 in 100 with a tactic like this. Down 15 with 4 minutes to go for example. You may think that a comeback from that situation is possible because you remember a few, but they are extremely rare.


    Let's look at the 2 examples that you bring up from this season with Dre.

    A) against MIL. The Bucks only intentionally fouled Dre 2 times at the 2:28 mark and at the 2:08 mark. That is an example of this strategy failing to result in a W? That is 2 possessions out of 100.

    B) against PHI. PHI tried it from 4:47 left in the 3rd quarter until Det pulled Dre with 4:07 to go in the 3rd quarter.
    When they started doing it, they were down 19 points and desperate to change the momentum of the game.
    possessions:
    1) Dre hacked. 0-2 from the line.
    1b) PHI turned it over
    2) Dre hacked. 1-2.
    2b) PHI scored 2 points
    3) Dre hacked. 1-2.
    3b) PHI scored 2 points
    4) Dre hacked. 0-2.
    4b) PHI turned it over. (Det intentionally fouled PHI and yanked Dre. Then PHI turned the ball over).

    In all, PHI scored 4 points and gave up 2 in 40 seconds. With no fouls, they would have only fit 1 possession in during that timeframe. +2 per 40 seconds would equate to a 144 point victory if they could have continued it for 48 minutes.

    At this pace for 48 minutes, the score would have been 288 to 144 in favor of the 76ers.

    PHI ramped up the variance factor. If they would have scored 3 points per possession, they could have outgunned us 12-2 over this span. i.e. their catch up potential greatly increased.


    Further arguments:
    Transitive theory
    - there are hundreds of examples of pro and college teams catching up and winning in the last few minutes by fouling on one end and quickly scoring on the other. In these examples, they are generally fouling the guy with the ball, who is generally a high percentage shooter (because their coaches play the game on paper and try to make sure that the high percentage shooting guys keep the ball in their hands).
    - fouling a sub 40% FT shooter would be more optimal than fouling a + 70% FT shooter.
    - therefore it is reasonable to conclude that games would be won by fouling poor FT shooters if it were employed more often and more aggressively.

    Coaches are smarter than us theory:
    - every NBA team has multiple quant analysts
    - some of the greatest coaches in history have used this strategy (Popovich, Jackson...)
    - some of the greatest coaches in history have taken out their poor FT shooters after the pattern sets in where they are getting hack-a-blanked (Popovich, Jackson, Cheeks)
    - Jackson even used this strategy to hack Bowen.

    The slap in the face theory:
    - Dre called being intentionally fouled a slap in the face
    - Chauncey Billups would not feel that way if he were intentionally fouled. He would feel like he was slapping them in the face.
    - Truth hurts and Dre knew it.

    Other data points:
    - the NBA restricts the ability to do this in the last 2 minutes. Why did they bother?
    - Lack of track record: On paper, this strategy has a positive EV (not just a higher variance) when the target shoots substantially less than 50%, since the EV of a normal possession is close to 1 point. Not many players in history qualify for this and usually their coaches benched them as soon as the tactic began to work for the fouling team. The number of games in NBA history where a Dre-like shooter was repeatedly fouled for an extended period of time is pretty low. We're talking Ben Wallace and Dre basically. So, the usual tactic historically is to increase variance without giving up increased EV to the opposition. Now, our opponents finally have the opportunity to increase variance WHILE decreasing Detroit's EV. Double whammy.
     
  4. The Panda

    The Panda Garbage Post All Star Forum Donor

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    Just going to say, coaches wouldn't do it if they didn't think that it could help them win.
     
  5. raxrets

    raxrets Team Captain

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    there is a big difference between " winning strategy" and desperate "do something..maybe it works "
     
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  6. TaS

    TaS All-Star Forum Donor

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    Is a hail Mary a winning strategy? Is a half court heave? What about pulling the goalie? They all beat the next best option in those situations.
     
  7. J-Train

    J-Train Team Captain Forum Donor

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    My gut reaction, without any statistical analysis, is that the Hack-a-whoever strategy works, as long as you know exactly whom it will be shooting the free throws. At the end of the game, you can put one guy at the line. In the middle of the game, you put the entire team in the bonus.

    I remember teams intentionally putting Shaq on the line in the second quarter, but usually towards the end of the quarter, so that they didn't have to deal with the bonus.

    You could also make the argument that the strategy is like the clinch in boxing. You're not going to win by clinching, but for a while it can stop the beating, and change the fight. Larry Holmes, Holyfield, and Old Ali all used it well for brief periods.
     
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  8. Pwn Toney

    Pwn Toney All-Star Forum Donor

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    Read: Useless


    Which is impossible because they couldn't.

    Again, impossible. Even if it's a 48 minute average, you don't get additional WINS for numbers that stack up across games. It has to be effective enough to win the individual game you are playing that night.

    Yet, this did not (and does not) happen.

    Again, all theories. Hence, my point.

    1. The NBA also realizes that this is not a viable strategy for winning games and essentially ruins the competition and needlessly slows the game to a crawl for a cheap theory that doesn't produce tangible results.
    2. Games, again, are not played "on paper." The end result of doing this DURING the current game is an attempt to outscore the opponent with all these "extra possessions" for your own team while forcing "empty possessions." This also requires you to have flawless execution and a near perfect success rate on your possessions. Judging by the fact the opposing player has been dominating you and you're already losing, your team clearly has not shown the ability to run flawless offensive possessions throughout the course of the game. Now, you're going to magically become the Dream Team over a 3 minute span and send the other team home with a loss?
     
  9. Pwn Toney

    Pwn Toney All-Star Forum Donor

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    Coaches don't call Hail Marys or half-court heaves for every possession during a 3-4 minute stretch in the 3 and 4 qtrs of games over and over again. Solid defense and offensive execution are much more likely to get you a comeback victory in any game than thinking you're going to score while they get nothing if you keep fouling. Nevermind the fact you're losing your players to additional fouls and also needlessly putting your own team in the penalty which then sends ANY of the other team's shooters to the FT line the minute you make a mistake anywhere else on the floor.
     
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  10. TaS

    TaS All-Star Forum Donor

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    Goalies can be pulled for 3 minute stretches. Hail marys can be attempted multiple times in a row. And those are plays that are worse than average. If they were better than average, it would last the whole game... as would fouling dre if there were no limit on fouls.
     
  11. The Panda

    The Panda Garbage Post All Star Forum Donor

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    Games are far more often decided by <5 points. Sure, if its a blowout it won't make sense. But if you are playing a one possession game with only 30 seconds on the clock, it makes sense to play the numbers at the FT line and get the extra possession, over watching the opposing PG dribble out the clock. I feel like you are arguing against the theoretical aspect, but you aren't providing practical examples or even theoretical evidence. Saying something is useless is very different from it actually being useless.


    Improving the aggregrate expected value over that of your opposition is not a theory in the sense of 'I have a theory about JFK', its a theory as in 'Theory of Relativity'. Games aren't played in number but by gosh they provide a really good way to examine outcomes and develop strategies. That's why you want Ray Allen shooting threes and not Josh Smith.



    1. What is your evidence that it doesn't work?
    2. Games are analysed on paper. Strategies are formed using this information.
     
  12. coynejeremy

    coynejeremy All-Star Administrator 1x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    By the same token, you could just as easily say that Mo Cheeks' pulling Drummond after the opponent started hacking him is what preserved the win.
     
  13. TWOTIMESRALPHI

    TWOTIMESRALPHI Team Captain 3x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    on another side; how in earth is it possible that pros fail so miserably at shooting ft's? I mean, no one has to be Mark Price, but shooting below 50% is simply an embarrassment for a professional basketball player. It must be shameful to realize that another team is hacking you because your free throw shooting is so bad.
     
  14. TaS

    TaS All-Star Forum Donor

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    Bulls lost the game last night by simply refusing to foul dre! Another loss by that strategy.
     
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  15. max

    max All-Star

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    interesting to track. I think its a desperate move. Even if the guy makes 1/2 of his FT's its effectivly giving your team a 50% shooting pct. Plus it gets guys in foul trouble and nullifies fact break opportunities making runs more difficult. Fouling team is pretty much hoping to make all their shots from a set half court offense.
     
  16. TaS

    TaS All-Star Forum Donor

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    Pop did it while they were winning though.
     
  17. BillLaimbeer

    BillLaimbeer All-Star 4x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    Actually, the hacking team can still fast break off free throws (make or miss). The team getting hacked loses all their fast break opportunities. Advantage: Hack-A-Whoever
     
  18. TaS

    TaS All-Star Forum Donor

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    Pop was also using it to generate last possessions at the end of quarters.

    Imagine that det gets the ball with 24 seconds left at the end of the 1st quarter. Our expected value is approx 1 and pop probably won't get the ball back. If they hack dre, we get about .7 points and they get about 1 to end the quarter. Net, they pick up about 1.3 points every time they do it vs not doing it.

    That strategy would make sense even if the ft shooter averaged 90 percent in theory. It's a no brainer if there is a 37 percent guy out there.

    Dampening the effectiveness is that teams probably don't expect 1 point per possession if they are holding for last shot. Even so, there is clear benefit for the fouling team if you lower that expectation still.

    The nba would have to expand the 4th quarter/ ot rule to stop it. Any other rules different depending on the quarter? Seems impure.
     
  19. BillLaimbeer

    BillLaimbeer All-Star 4x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    The clock stops on a made basket in the last minute of quarters 1, 2, and 3. In the 4th quarter, the clock stops in the last 2 minutes on made baskets.
     
  20. Laimbrane

    Laimbrane All-Star Forum Donor

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    There are several issues at play here.

    Right now, it feels like there is a big rift between the data analyst types that are trying to min/max every point and possession, and the old-school types that have driven the game for 80 years. Exhibit: Lionel Hollins getting fired in Memphis. Does it make mathematical sense to foul a bad free throw shooter a lot more than teams do? Yes. Does that mean they should do it? It's debatable.

    Let's take a standard 50% free throw shooter. If he's fouled and goes to the line, he can make 0, 1, or 2 points. Ignoring all other variables, here's your probability breakdown:
    P(0 points): 25%
    P(1 point): 50%
    P(2 points): 25%

    Expected value of trip: 0.25(0) + 0.5(1) + 0.25(2) = 1 point.

    Simply, if your team averages more than one point per possession and the shooter averages less than 50%, then it makes sense - mathematically - to do it. If you were to use the maximum amount of fouls you have allotted per game (67, which would leave 5 guys with 5 fouls on the court and 7 guys fouled out) without leaving only four guys on the court, and if Drummond shot, say, 40% for the game, then you're netting yourself 13.4 points on those 67 possessions compared to if Detroit averaged 1 point per possession. That is, of course, if this were a mathematically ideal world.

    Unfortunately, it's not a mathematically perfect world, and there are other, important considerations.

    1) As a coach, egos come into play. If you have your team foul, you are essentially telling your players that you do not trust them to get a stop. A single stop. A lot of players would take great offense to that; do it enough and you ruin your cred with the players. Ruin your cred with the players, and you're suddenly finding yourself in Flip Saunders territory. This, I believe, is the single biggest reason it doesn't happen much. The very good coaches can get away with it because they've built up enough confidence in their players. Lawrence Frank and John Kuester could not.

    2) Intentional fouling sucks to watch. Even the fan base of the team that's doing it kind of wants it to fail because they don't like to see the game slowed down to one millionaire doing what he's worst at. A coach that did this too much would find himself hated out of a job in short order.

    3) It could backfire. Over the course of a game, the odds of it backfiring are extremely low (if you used 67 fouls on Drummond, the odds of him making more than 67 FTs is nearly zero). However, over a dozen or so FTs, he could get lucky enough to hit 8 of them, and that makes the coach look like an idiot. Even though it was the right call, simple probabilistic realities mean that sometimes you're going to get burned by it, and those are the times that everyone remembers.

    4) The fouls do add up. Now, every team has a guy like Jorts that's at the end of the bench primarily for the 6 fouls that he provides the squad, but then you have him on offense, too, which reduces YOUR points per possession.

    The question could be "WILL it help?" The answer to that, however - "Maybe" - is unacceptable to a lot of people. It might help, and it might hurt. That's why it's only used in certain situations, when the probability and damage from it hurting the team are far enough outweighed by the possibility of helping your team. Those situations are relatively uncommon, but they do happen.

    If the coach is calling for the Bang-A-Drum strategy, it's probably the right call, even if it doesn't end up working.
     
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