A Strange Thing Is Happening in the NBA

Scoring is off the charts, and some are worried about the integrity of the game
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2024 7:19 AM CST
A Strange Thing Is Happening in the NBA
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic advances the ball up court during a game against the Orlando Magic in Dallas, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The stats coming out of NBA games are staggering. So much so that "it is not hyperbole to say this past week has been consequential to the history" of the league, writes Chris Branch at the Athletic. The issue is scoring, and some say it's time the NBA got it under control.

  • Dallas' Luka Doncic scored 73 points, tied for the fourth-highest total in NBA history, reports Sports Illustrated. A few days before that, Philadelphia's Joel Embiid scored 70. Prior to this month, only six players in history had hit the 70-point threshold, notes John Hollinger at the Athletic, who worries about games devolving into "farce." Meanwhile, Karl-Anthony Towns of Minnesota and Devin Booker of Phoenix each put up 62.

  • The trend: The aforementioned games are not flukes. Scoring is way up in the league, with teams averaging 115.6 points per game, the most since 1969-70, per the Mercury News. The top 20 offenses in history, as measured by points per possession, are all from the last four seasons, notes Matt Moore at Action Network. Consider that the LA Clippers scored a league-leading 107.9 points per game in 2013-14, a mark that would have them 29th in the league this season.
  • Factors: "The way we officiate the game favors the offense in a way that it didn't 15 years ago," Golden State Warriors coach and former Bulls star Steve Kerr tells the Mercury News. He suggests it's time to tweak rules "back in the other direction." In addition to officiating (such as the decision to ban hand-checking), Moore points out that today's players are "extremely skilled" compared to their predecessors. And then there's the "ever-increasing power of the 3-point line," notes Branch. Players have become so adept at the long-range shots it makes little sense to put up mid-range two-point shots.
  • Wilt's mark: All in all, "a faster leaguewide pace, better offensive efficiency, an embrace of 3-pointers, and more offenses that revolve around a single star have combined to set the stage for routine fireworks," writes Zach Kram at the Ringer. His specific focus, though, is on wondering whether Wilt Chamberlain's record of 100 points in a game is in jeopardy. His analysis suggests it is, and he names Doncic as the player to break it.
(More NBA stories.)

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