What’s behind the NBA’s scoring boom? | Devine Intervention

Yahoo Sports NBA writer Dan Devine discusses explanations for the explosion in NBA scoring after four players recently poured in at least 62 points in a single game. Subscribe to “Devine Intervention” - part of the “Ball Don’t Lie” podcast - on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Video Transcript


DAN DEVINE: The entire 2022-'23 NBA season produced four 60-point performances. Last week, we had four in four days. Joel Embiid hanging 70, Karl-Anthony towns and Devin Booker both popping for 62, and Luka Doncic becoming just the fourth player in NBA history to score 73 points in a single game. That avalanche of buckets prompted no shortage of chatter around the league about the state of play in the NBA, much of it focused on a pair of questions.

Why are offenses skyrocketing like this? And are all these buckets a feature of a system that's working as intended or a bug that needs to be fixed? The short answer is, eh, it's complicated. For one thing, the average pace of play is the highest that it's been since the early 1990s. And more possessions means more opportunities to score. Today's players, raised in the age of Stephen Curry and Morey-ball, are making the most of those possessions by shooting a ton of 3-pointers.

Long balls now account for more than 39% of teams' total field goal attempts this season, nearly double the share from 2005-2006, which was when Kobe scored his 81. When more guys shoot more 3's more often, and do it from farther away than ever, defenses have to spread out more to cover more of the court. That leads to more open driving lanes for buckets at the rim or more help rotations to stop dribble penetration, which then opens out kickout passes for more open 3-point shots.

Combine all that with rule changes that allow for greater freedom of movement for offensive players by cutting down on clutching and grabbing on the perimeter, which means more trips to the foul line, especially for the league's savvier scorers like, say, Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic, and you've got a recipe for some long nights for the defense. And on the right nights, some historic ones for the offense.