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NBA Hacking is Up

It's not just DJ seeing the free throw line more.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A part of life for the the Los Angeles Clippers is the free throw adventures for DeAndre Jordan. Teams continue to foul him intentionally because Jordan still shoots at an abysmal rate. This year he's shooting at 38.8%. This is a bit below what Jordan's career average is (41.4%), but it's undeniably cringe inducing. To put this in perspective, there are 28 players in the NBA that shoot 3 point shots better than or equal to the rate that DJ is making free throws. (Interestingly our old friend Jared Dudley is 2nd overall in qualifying 3 point % at 47.9%). Stephen Curry is shooting 45.3% on the season with 131 makes out of 289 attempts. Curry could miss his next 49 three point attempts and still have a 38.8% three point average. But I digress.

With the NBA deciding during the off-season to not alter free throw shooting rules (that dissuade intentional hacking only in the last 2 minutes of games), the Association has witnessed an extreme spike in intentional fouls this year. From an ESPN Insider article:

In October and November alone, I identified 105 hacks -- more than in the entire 2012-13 regular season. While I ultimately found 164 intentional fouls during the 2014-15 regular season, the vast majority of those came after DeAndre Jordan was hacked 13 times by the San Antonio Spurs on the first day after the All-Star break. The league didn't hit triple-digit intentional fouls last season until March 27.

We have zoomed past 100 already and, at the current rate, we will end up at more than 400 in the regular season. In the postseason, the rate will likely only grow.

A total of 20 players have been hacked at least once, and 20 of the league's 30 coaches have called for at least one intentional foul.

With more targets, hacking has suddenly become a common occurrence throughout the league. During the 2014-15 regular season, 4.5 percent of games featured at least one intentional foul. That rate has more than doubled to 11.8 percent this season. In fact, games with at least four hacks are now nearly as common as those with any hacks last season.

From this there could be many takeaways; on one hand coaches may be getting smarter; not all hacks are necessarily to force terrible free throw shooters to the line; it can be expected that some are to ensure tying 3 point shots are not taken. Alternatively, coaches  may believe hacking works. Whether that's true or not is evidently irrelevant. Going forward the NBA may be forced to revisit its decision to ignore intentional fouls in the first 46 minutes of a game.