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Report: NBA Competition Committee reviewing whether game has tilted too much to offense

Brooklyn Nets v Washington Wizards
Brooklyn Nets v Washington Wizards

LeBron James' reaction to 397 total points being scored in a defenseless All-Star Game? "This is what a lot of the [regular-season] games are starting to look like, too."

The NBA scoring explosions is not new. In the 2003-04 season, NBA teams averaged 93.4 points a game and, while some fans wearing Jordan-tinted glasses remember the games of that era fondly, games were by and large a slog. The pace was slow, grabbing and clutching on defense were the norm, and it all kept players from displaying their skill. The NBA has seen scoring increase steadily since the 2004-05 season — the year the league started cracking down on hand-checking on the perimeter, although a lot of other factors played a more important role in the rise — and that has peaked this season with teams averaging 115.4 points per game, the most in more than 50 years. There has been an explosion of individual scoring games as well this season, most notably Luka Doncic scoring 73 and Joel Embiid 70.

There’s a sense among some NBA observers the pendulum has swung too far and that defenses need some help now, too. NBA VP and head of basketball operations Joe Dumas said this to Tim Bontemps and Kevin Pelton at ESPN:

"...the league's competition committee has officially begun reviewing whether the game has tilted too far toward offense and whether changes need to be implemented to achieve better balance." The Competition Committee is made up primarily of coaches, players and general managers.

That echoes what Dumars recently told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.

"The question is posed to each one of those groups: Is the balance out of whack? Do we need to balance this more to allow defenses to defend more, to do more on the defensive end of the court? And by and large, people are saying it wouldn't be bad to have a little bit more defense... You don't want it where the defense can just, you know, grab and hold, and you don't want it when the offense has just this huge advantage, either."

A lot of the reason scoring is up is teams have gotten smarter about offense. Pace is up by nine possessions per team per game since 2003, giving offenses more opportunities and defenses less time to get set (something that started back in 2004-05 when the Mike D'Antoni's Suns burst on the scene). Shooting has been prioritized around the league (especially now among bigs), plus teams moved to run more of their offense through their star players.

Then there's the simple math of teams taking and making more 3-pointers. Modern players grew up taking that shot and are more comfortable with and proficient at the shot than previous generations. Nothing the NBA legislates will change the fact 3>2, in fact 50% greater, which means a rather pedestrian 35% shooter from 3 is scoring at the same rate as a very efficient 52% shooter from the midrange. Put simply, teams have their best players taking more shots from the most efficient spots on the floor for them.

That's not to say things can't be done — but bringing back hand-checking isn't the answer. Expect the league to consider allowing a little more physicality on drivers — offensive players have learned to take sharp angles to the rim, run into defenders, draw contact, throw up a shot and expect a foul. That can be changed, allowing defenders to be more physical with drivers. Which would change drive-and-kick plays to a degree.

The league isn't going to go too far — the NBA is in the etertainment business and scoring is what many fans want. Things will move incrementally, with the league making modest changes and then seeing what happens.

But expect some changes. It feels like the pendulum has swung too far.