Offense is down across the board in NBA
Updated: Friday January 12, 2001 1:25 AM
By Desmond M. Wallace, CNNSI.com
Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Chris Webber and a handful of others are lighting up NBA scoreboards this season. Each is well on his way to establishing career highs in scoring. But what gives with the 300 other players and the 29 NBA teams?
The fact of the matter is that NBA point production is teetering near all-time lows, with teams averaging just 93.8 points per game. Through Jan. 10, only the world champion Lakers were averaging more than 100 points.
It was just 11 seasons ago that NBA clubs routinely scored 107 PPG, nearly 13 more points per contest than they do now. Remarkably, that year only the expansion Timberwolves averaged less than 100 PPG (and Minnesota's 95.2 PPG were still more than the average NBA team today).
So far this season, the league has produced some of the most frighteningly low scores in history. The Bulls have authored two performances in the 60s. The Grizzlies have already posted 10 scores in the 70s. On Dec. 20, the Hornets and Heat combined to score 121 points between them -- the second-lowest point total ever for a regular-season game.
So what is to blame for all of this? Several factors. Teams definitely stress more defense today. The days when the 1984-'85 Lakers won an NBA championship despite allowing 110.9 PPG are long gone. Opponents are also scouted more thoroughly than ever. In fact, many NBA teams employ four assistant coaches and a bevy of full-time advance scouts. Legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach won nine NBA titles through 1966 without ever employing a single assistant. Not one.
In addition, the typical player nowadays generally dedicates more time to weight training, perhaps to the detriment of additional shooting drills. And never since the NBA added its 3-point line back in 1979-'80 have treys been hoisted more frequently by more pedestrian shooters, driving down shooting accuracy league-wide. Perhaps the best evidence of this is that Boston's Antoine Walker -- a post-up forward to be sure -- has attempted more three-pointers this season (196) than all but two players in the entire league.
Also factoring into the decline in offensive output is the increase in college underclassmen -- many of whom arrive at the "Next Level" ill-prepared with solid basketball foundations. In the five NBA Drafts between 1986 and 1990, 58 underclassmen declared themselves eligible. In the NBA Drafts from 1996 to 2000, the number rose to 153. Perhaps not coincidentally, three of the four-worst league-wide shooting seasons in history occurred in this span.
So where have all of the shooters gone? Some are still around. But with the muscle-bound bricklayers lining NBA lanes and stuffing the box scores, those good shooters may just be harder to find.