Scoring Up — Except At Staples

 —  November 14, 2004

We may only be a couple of weeks into the season, but one early NBA trend is good for fans — scoring league-wide is up.

Nobody appears to be happier about this than Mark Cuban, whose Dallas team has always been more about entertainment than being built to win it all. In his latest blog entry, he gave some telling stats:


Through November of 2003, there were 7 teams averaging 95 points or better. This year there are 19. Last year there were 10 teams scoring under 90 points. This year there are 4. Last year there was 1 team with an adjusted field goal percentage of 50 pct or better. This year there are 7.

Cuban also has a reason for the increase, enforcement of the no contact rule out on the perimeter.

I know that Ronnie Nunn and Stu Jackson put in a lot of hours going through tape, coming to the realization, correctly so, that contact on the perimeter slows down play, impacts shooting percentage and gives the defense an advantage that shouldn’t be there.

Rarely is something like this the cause of just one thing, other factors play in as well, but the change in rule enforcement may be the leading reason for more buckets per game. Of course, defenses will adjust over the course of the season, so this trend is something to watch more closely as the season progresses.

On the home front, my gut reaction is that with a younger, more athletic, ready-to-run team that the Lakers would have been part of the increase. Those bad gut feelings are why I do not make a good gambler.

So far this season the Lakers scoring average per game is down 3 points per contest compared to last season. The main reason for this: The Lakers are averaging two fewer possessions per game than last season. NBA teams on the whole average .94 points per possession (at least last year). Two fewer possessions per game means two fewer points. Add to that a team shooting a few percentage points worse than last year (46% last year, 44% so far this year) and committing four more turnovers per game, and you start to see the points evaporate.

(As a side note, the Lakers are giving up 4 more points per game than they did last year, defense continues to be a concern.)

The fewer possessions per game stat surprised me, with the emphasis on running this year I would have expected more. And, as the season goes on and the Lakers grow more comfortable with each other, this could change. But right now, this Laker team is scoring less and moving more slowly than last year.

NBA fans deserve a return to the fun, fast-paced days of the 1980s, when running was in style and (in 1984-86) the league average was 104.8 points per game. What’s more, we Laker fans would like to see some of that.

Update: The USA Today has a story about scoring being up in the NBA and credits the new enforcement with leading to more free throws, leading to more scoring. The top beneficiary of this: Kobe.