NBA – Address at half mast, new guilty balls: and if it was the end of the offensive orgy?


If you are a consumer of NBA matches or if you simply skim through the stat sheets every morning, one number has probably often caught your eye: that of the points scored, abnormally low in view of the frantic forward race that he had known these past years. If the sample is still small to draw up a significant assessment, the trend is large enough for us to note it, and especially for us to be interested in its causes.

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Less than five points on average per team since the resumption, a three-point percentage that goes back more than twenty years, an offensive efficiency that goes back half a decade … The NBA was not ready for that and for cause. Against the backdrop of a three-point shoot revolution, improved offensive patterns and a defense not always involved in the regular season, the big league experienced a constant increase in the indicators used to judge the quality of the attacks.

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The first of them, the simplest: the number of points per team has returned to its 2017/2018 standards. That season, NBA teams scored 106.3 points per game. A figure that would climb season after season: 111.2 then 111.8 and even 112.1 in 2020/201 before dropping to 107.1 this season. More precise, « the offensive rating », which calculates the number of points registered on 100 possessions thus smoothing the differences of pace, also knows the same decrease: 112.3 last season and 110.6, 110.4 and 108 , 6 since 2017/2018. At the start of the season, it drops to 107.1.

Stephen Curry shoots with the Golden State Warriors against the Houston Rockets

Credit: Getty Images

These two indicators are intimately linked to the three-point address. As the teams shoot more and more and better and better from a distance, they have increased their effectiveness in attack. However, the address is also declining. With 34.1% at three points, it is even the worst since the 1998/1999 season when archery was only a little used weapon. The most telling example, Stephen Curry shoots this season 37.4% away, the worst average of his career, six points from his average since his debut in the NBA (43.2%) For this figure, the culprit is everything found: the new balloon.

From Spalding to Wilson, players must adapt to a new ball

First partner of the NBA, Wilson had given way to Spalding as the official supplier of the NBA balls in 1983, after 37 years of good and loyal service. New change this season with the return to business of Wilson. What does not please, for the moment, not many people. « I don’t want to make an excuse but the ball is different. There is not the same touch, the same flexibility as on the Spalding« , Judge Paul George, star of the Los Angeles Clippers. CJ McCollum, president of the players’ union, or Devin Booker also complained. A sling that goes back 15 years, when in 2006 the players had won case against the NBA which had modified its balls without changing supplier.

The league had agreed to return to the old ball. But this year it is about a rebranding. We can therefore assure that players will have to get used to Wilson. Just as they will have to do with the new rules which tend to eliminate the faults obtained by the attackers on so-called « unnatural » movements. A phenomenon far from neutral.

« The offensive efficiency was a little artificially pulled upwards »

It is the offensive arsenal of certain players which is turned upside down. We will obviously quote James Harden, Trae Young and Luka Doncic. But the phenomenon is much broader. Coupled with the change of ball, he reshaped the face of the NBA. « I think it’s important to note that offensive efficiency was a bit artificially upward in recent years. We were shooting so many shots, had so many +1. It was a bit out of control, » notes Steve Kerr, the coach of the Warriors when Mark Daigneault, his counterpart in the Thunder, notes another crucial point.

« If they keep these rules all season, there will be a really big impact since it is the players who are most important for the attacks who are affected.« , he said. Of the top ten scorers last season (Curry, Beal, Lillard, Embiid, Antetokounmpo, Doncic, LaVine, Williamson, Irving and Tatum), those who have walked the floors since the resumption have all experienced a drop in their average points.

« It’s still early in the season. Everyone is still looking for their own rhythm and chemistry, » said Taylor Jenkins, coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. It is true that the season has not yet entered its second month and all of these numbers are likely to increase a bit. Still, seeing them stagnate at lower heights than in previous seasons is a plausible scenario. « The league will adapt. When the attack becomes more effective, you find new ways of defending. It’s a game of ping-pong on both sides of the field, » concludes Mark Daigneault. Would the defense have gained the upper hand over the offense in the NBA?

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