Dwight Howard: Hack-a-Howard Won't Keep Working for Opposition
Notice to teams playing the Los Angeles Lakers: Keep using the Hack-a-Howard strategy, but only if you want to lose.
I also know that the Houston Rockets successfully deployed the Hack-a-Howard strategy on Tuesday night, and it resulted in a Lakers loss.
And that there are ugly stats like this (via ESPN's Tom Haberstroh):
Most FT misses in 4Q this season: Dwight Howard, 42. Next-highest? Tyler Hansbrough, 10. ! (via @espnstatsinfo)— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 5, 2012
And this (via Numbers Never Lie):
This season, only 6 NBA players have ATTEMPTED the number of free throws Dwight Howard has MISSED (108).— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) December 5, 2012
But hear me out.
The Lakers, according to Basketball-Reference, are currently 11th in the NBA with an offensive rating of 106.8, which essentially means they are scoring 106.8 points every 100 possessions.
Thanks to the power of division, that comes out to 1.068 points per possession that Kobe Bryant and company are scoring.
Because this is the NBA and there's no such thing as a one-and-one, every time Howard gets hacked, he gets two shots at the line. In order for him to score an average of 1.068 points on every trip to the line, which would count as one possession and mean the Lakers offense doesn't suffer at all, he needs to knock down 53.4 percent of his free throws.
(If he makes a free throw once every .534 times, he's expected to make twice that on every trip: .534 multiplied by two equals 1.068.)
Now, I know what you're thinking. Howard is only making—gulp—46.8 percent of his free throws this season. (By the way, I can't even begin to comprehend how a player in the NBA can't make half of his free throws. No matter how big he is. But that's for another day.)
That is indeed puke-worthy, as it comes out to .936 points per possession, which is just below the offensive efficiency of the mighty Washington Wizards.
Still, you can't expect Howard to keep shooting 47 percent from the line. He struggled last year (49.1 percent) as well, but he was right around 59 percent during the previous six seasons and is at 58.4 percent for his career.
For the life of me, I can't think of a reason as to how an NBA superstar can suddenly forget how to shoot free throws.
Is it the back problems? No, he struggled last year before the injury arose.
Is it the extra attempts? No, he hit 59.6 percent of a career-high 11.7 attempts per game in 2010-11.
In reality, these struggles are just in that big head of Dwight's, and that is something that can be fixed. If the Lakers are smart and work hard at mending this problem, it's expected that the big man would soon regress back to the norm.
Where will Dwight finish the season at the free-throw line?
Dwight doesn't have to suddenly start shooting like Steve Nash. If teams are legitimately willing to foul him on every possession—and this is without taking into account offensive rebounds that extend possessions and other factors like that—he just needs to do what he's done throughout his career.
Actually, not even that.
He only needs to hit 52.4 percent of his free throws for a league average offensive efficiency, and if he somehow finds a way to return to his career average at the line, that would come out to average efficiency of 1.168 points per possession, which is more than the No. 1-ranked Oklahoma City Thunder.
All Howard needs to do is work at this problem.
Despite how horrendous he's been at the charity stripe so far, it will only take a minor improvement to start making teams pay in a major way.
All statistics in this article are accurate as of Dec. 4.
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