This article is part of our Numbers Game series.
By the end of this week, every team will have completed a third of their schedule. With a sizable chunk of the season past, let's look at some of the league-wide trends this season, and look for ways to use them in fantasy.
Observation Set One – Anti-Hack-a-Shaq might be working
One of most anticipated rule changes this season was an adjustment to the so-called "Hack-a-Shaq" rule. The shift was designed to try to limit the frequency with which dreadful free-throw shooters would get fouled away from the ball, slowing the game and subjecting viewers to moments like this.
There is some evidence the rule is working. The league's holy trinity of pathetic free-throw shooters – DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard and Andre Drummond – are attempting a combined average of 4.9 free throws per game, down from 7.3 per game last season. Although some other very bad free-throw shooters, such as Hassan Whiteside, have seen increases in their attempts, those increases have been smaller and mostly have accompanied increased roles on offense. League-wide, free-throw attempts are down slightly, and free-throw percentages are up.
Fantasy Impact: For several years, the worst free-throw shooters were much more harmful than the best free-throw shooters were helpful. It used to take two elites to cancel the effects of the worst free-throw shooters – a nearly-impossible task, since the top four free-throw shooters were first-round-pick-worthy talents. This calculus is now upended. Now, the negative impact of Drummond or Howard can be mitigated