Unbelievable, isn’t it? Before this season, the all-time NBA record for most players averaging 20+ points per game was 31. Nowadays, there are currently 42 players holding this stat to their names.
Just 10 years ago, during the 2012-13 season, the number of players averaging over 20 points were only 9, one of the all-time lowest. Back then, only players with the caliber of Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade were sharp enough to enter this select group of athletes. Nowadays, even the likes of Franz Wagner has made the mark averaging 20.2 points per game this year with the Orlando Magic.
Senior basketball journalist Kevin O’Connor tweeted the whole list of the record in the past decade:
There are currently 55 players averaging over 20 points per game. The all-time NBA record is 31.
The number of qualifying scorers to log 20+ PPG in recent seasons:
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 11, 2023
What could be the reason for such an impactful change in the NBA’s scoring dynamic? Below, we’ll analyze the possible causes for this drastic shift in player and team offensive stats:
This tournament has been the first since the NBA legislated to favor offensive plays with its ‘take fouls’ initiative back in July. The basketball organization defines a transition take foul as “an intentional foul committed by a defender to deprive the offensive team of a fast-break opportunity.” The NBA would then excuse enforcing this law by stating it was destroying opportunities to witness athletic finishes at the rim.
Here is an example of a ‘take foul’:
So, yes, the truth is we have seen more points, dunks and sport entertainment ever since the new rule was applied. But, are referee’s making it too easy for offensive plays to thrive? Nowadays, it seems almost impossible to defend without committing fouls. Should there be given more advantages for guarding and defensive strategy?
Even some players in our league have noticed the huge advantage these rules help offensive plays. Not too long ago, we wrote an article about how Dallas’ star Luka Dončić prefers to watch the Euroleague than the NBA, because he considers the rules in Europe entail more team effort to win games than in the United States. ”In Europe it’s more team basketball, it’s more tactics basketball”, he said in an interview. ”I would say scoring is easier in the NBA because of the rules.”
2. Welcome to the 3-point era
Basketball has been a sport in constant innovation throughout the years, just as the leagues have become more professional and its industry more lucrative. Strategy has also been revolutionized, as most teams have slowly drifted into 3-point offensive mindset while producing players with incredible shooting abilities, and less dependable of the creativity and depth of their attacks through center position and fowards.
Let’s take 2015-16 season as an example. Back then, only six teams in the whole league took at least 1/3 of their shots from 3-point range. If we compare it to the 2021 Championship, it was 28 teams over the 33.3% mark. The only two teams who didn’t were the Washington Wizards (31.9%) who barely qualified to those playoffs as they placed 8th in the East, and San Antonio Spurs (31.4%), who didn’t qualify at all that season.
The best way to describe this new three-point era is through players like Stephen Curry, who absolutely stirred up a revolution in the NBA, winning the the league’s Most Valuable Player twice and guiding the Warriors to four championship titles basing a team strategy that mostly revolved around his skill as a shooting genius. The Golden State domination of professional basketball in the United States during the past decade is probably the greatest example we can find, and can already see how its’ revolution incited every team to adapt to their philosophy.
I believe it’s fair to say that this intense scoring proliferation in the current NBA season is also because of improvement in quality, training and talent. Why not? Today we find more versatile players and overall more complete athletes. It has become more common to see 7ft shooters who can also dribble, pass, defend, etc. What better example than Nikola Jokić? The two-time MVP winner is almost as tall as Shaquille O’Neal and as smart as Steve Nash.
The industry around the league is growing at an unstoppable pace. Contract and salary numbers are shooting through the roof, and this is gradually producing an effect over society. Not only is this a huge motivation to play in the NBA as a foreigner, but also more parents in the United States are raising their children to become athletes as a solution to strive in the modern world.
Basketball is definitely changing and we hope it’s for the best of the sport and its fans. The amount of talented players, the high level shooting and strategy, and a more permissive rule book to allow more offensive plays are definitely part of the root cause for this new era.