Community Shootaround: NBA’s Scoring Increase

Eight days into the 2018/19 regular season, it’s hard to draw many conclusions about teams’ win-loss records, but a broader NBA-wide trend has raised eyebrows around the league. As Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press writes, scoring is up so far this season — way up.

Here are a few stats, via Reynolds, that help illustrate the NBA’s scoring increase:

  • NBA teams are averaging 113.4 points per game, the highest rate in nearly 50 years. Last season, teams averaged 106.3 PPG, which was the highest mark since 1990/91.
  • NBA teams are on pace to break the records for made 3-pointers per game (11.3 so far) and 3-point attempts per game (31.6) for the seventh straight year.
  • Teams have reached the 100-point mark 88.2% of the time so far. As recently as 2014/15, teams reached 100 points 51.5% of the time.
  • The Timberwolves scored 136 points in a non-overtime game and lost, the first time that has happened since 1992.
  • The Lakers are averaging 125.3 PPG (second in the NBA) and have yet to win a game.

While it’s possible that these numbers will regress a little as defenses tighten up and the season wears on, there are a number of reasons to believe the league’s scoring increase is here to stay.

For one, teams are playing faster than they have in several decades, and more possessions per game result in more points per game. Per Basketball-Reference’s data, the average possessions per 48 minutes is up to 101.8 this season. By comparison, it was 97.3 last season, and 91.3 as recently as 2011/12. The league hasn’t played at its current pace since 1985/86.

According to Tim MacMahon of, heading into Monday night’s games, two-thirds of the league’s teams were averaging more possessions per game than the 2017/18 Pelicans, who led the NBA in pace last season.

Minor rule changes, such as resetting the shot clock to 14 seconds instead of 24 seconds after offensive rebounds, have also contributed to the league’s increased scoring and pace, though it’s another rule change that has made a bigger impact.

As Reynolds details, the NBA’s officials are emphasizing “freedom of movement” this season, which means they’re being less forgiving of defenders who are grabbing, holding, or bumping offensive players to hinder cuts and other moves. Fouls per game are up from 19.9 last season to 23.1 this year, partly as a result of those tighter calls.

According to Sam Amico of and J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star, many NBA coaches and executives aren’t fans of that emphasis on “freedom of movement,” arguing that it makes it virtually impossible to play strong defense. Still, as Reynolds notes, despite a modest league-wide increase in free throws attempted and made, those extra fouls aren’t nearly enough to account for the spike in scoring on their own — they’re just part of the equation.

What do you think of the offensive explosion we’ve seen during the first week of the NBA season? Do you expect this scoring surge to continue, or is it an early-season aberration? If it keeps up, is it good for the league, or would you like to see the NBA take steps to help out defenses and limit the number of shootouts we see on a given night?

Head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

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5 thoughts on “Community Shootaround: NBA’s Scoring Increase

  1. Dionis

    Zach Lavine and Jabari Parker are trash on defense, they don’t belong in the NBA. Forman needs to forfeit his job.

  2. Nebrasketball

    The games are far more watchable when players are in the flow.

    Still a bit herky jerky with the extra foul calls – but I assume the players will eventual adapt.

    Even with the extra scoring, there’s been some great defensive plays too.

    So far so good.

    • Dionis

      I can’t watch a full NBA game, it can get quite boring unless it’s the playoffs.

  3. x%sure

    The emphasis on 3pt% leads players into a lousy-defense attitude to the game. The pace-and-space has gotten to the point where players have changed mindset.

    To shoot 3s optimally, and thus increase your status & paycheck, takes a calmer approach that does not work at the other end.

    I compare it to when a team shifts from man-to-man to zone D… they just loose toughness & hustle. Even though a zone makes more sense, it has negative long-term effects. (Ask Bobby Knight!– this was a key issue of decades ago.)

    Also there are fewer bigs on the court to challenge drives. It is difficult for any one player to stop another player… and the article says it is even harder now with officiating changes! I did not notice that, but there is a kind of oh-well approach to defense that is more like one sees in allstar games (BTW, ugh).

  4. formerlyz

    Not surprising. Called it ahead of time. Scoring is up b/c the pace is up, as teams are more frequently using correct lineups, and playing a better style

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