By Ben Stein ’18
I remember watching the 2004 Detroit Pistons, I remember the 2007 Phoenix Suns, and yes, I remember when watching basketball was rewarding.
In today’s NBA, teams are averaging points in the 100s, and others are giving up 100 or more. Every time someone scores it is just a regular shot, it does not feel as if they have worked for it. During the 2016-17 season the Golden State Warriors averaged 116.2 ppg. I understand that it is not typical for a team to score that much, and the Warriors are also the best team in the league; however, it must be noted that other teams are scoring huge amounts, too. Milwaukee, Sacramento and Philadelphia are all averaging roughly 103 points per game. This dynamic is completely different than the way the league was in the early 2000s.
There are two main reasons why scoring in the NBA has become less rewarding: the lack of defense and the influx of 3-point shooting. It is hard to track how often someone stops a fastbreak or how much time a team takes per possession, thus limiting more possessions for the other team. Still, it is easy to see how many points a team gives up on average. The 2004 Pistons gave up on average roughly 88 points per game, no team would typically score 103 on them, when someone did score on them it was entertaining because it usually involved a lot of ball movement and great clock management. The 2007 Spurs gave up 90 per game. In 2004, the number one offensive team scored 110 points per game, and the second best offense 103. More than half the league that year scored on average less than 100 points, while only one team this year did that. Teams score roughly 10 more points per game now than they did a decade ago.
In referencing the number of three point shots made by a team on average, it is true that every year there are great three point shooters. Brent Barry, Jeff Hornacek, Steve Nash and others were great shooters years ago. Currently, there is Kyle Korver, Steph Curry, Rodney Hood and Paul Pierce. However, teams are shooting more and making more shots. The Houston Rockets, this season, led the NBA in number of three pointers made. The Rockets made on average 14.2 three pointers per a game. That is roughly 42 points a game off of threes alone. In 2005, Phoenix led the league with 10 three pointers made per game and all other teams made a single digit amount with Golden State being second with 7.6 three’s per game. The influx of great three point shooting has made many games end quicker because many teams are often down by 30 at the end of the third quarter. By that time it is no longer a game, it is one team trying to bring the final deficit within 15, while the other team plays their scrubs.
When teams are scoring this much in bunches, and teams like Golden State are scoring 40 in a quarter, it doesn’t feel like a basketball game. Instead it feels as though teams are just vying for more possessions to get a chance to score.
The league is changing… but the real game is no longer valued.