golden era or preferred strikers?

Donovan Mitchell, who scored 71 points against the Bulls yesterday, had his biggest performance since Kobe Bryant’s famous 81 in 2006. An exceptional performance therefore, but part of a record season in terms of individual and goalscoring. Which begs the question: are we living in a golden age, or one where attackers are more dominant than ever?

71 points for Donovan Mitchell. 60 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists for Luka Doncic. 54 points for Klay Thompson. 45 points, 22 rebounds for Giannis Antetokounmpo. 47 points on his 38th birthday for LeBron James. 40 points, 27 rebounds, 10 assists for Nikola Jokic.

These are some of the most incredible NBA performances to grace our nights over the past two weeks. A fortnight of all-time performance and statistical insanity obviously makes TTFL players happy, but also… raises questions about the overall direction the league is taking in terms of play, and specifically the offensive-defensive balance.

The numbers speak for themselves: The 2022-23 season is the highest scoring season in modern times (since the 1960s), averaged 113.7 points per team per night. The current campaign also holds the all-time record for offensive efficiency (113.5 points per 100 possessions) and the top 10 most efficient teams in history from 2020-23. ! That’s why we thrive in an era where offense is king today, where points once reserved for All-Star Games are commonplace in the regular season.

Several elements explain this offensive explosion that characterizes the NBA of the 2020s. American basketball today is fast-paced (and therefore multi-possession) and hyper-open, where freedom of movement is prioritized over physicality, and the 3-point shot that has been prominent since the emergence of Stephen Curry’s Warriors in the mid-2010s is too much for forwards. makes room. In such a context, defense has no place, at least in the regular season. (It’s not quite the same in the playoffs). Today’s NBA rules greatly limit the strength of defenders when they go man-to-man, and therefore the overall level of intensity that can be seen from night to night.

“The game in Europe is more difficult than the NBA. Obviously, there’s more talent in the NBA, but there’s also more room. In Europe, everything is more intense. All-area defense, teams, all-area zones, man-to-man defense. “Everyone plays more physical in defense.”

– Giannis Antetokounmpo

All of this is to say that current strikers have thrived in a hyper-favorable context to showcase their skills and scoring qualities. Kevin Durant, one of the best forwards of all time, says it himself: “It’s easier to score 30 points today than it was 15 years ago”. If we have 5 players with at least 30 walks per game this season – which hasn’t happened since the legendary 1961-62 campaign – and if we have at least 50 at 13 this year, maybe it’s the best of all.

Top 5 NBA Scorers of 2022-23 (via ESPN)

Far be it from us to play dumb and downplay current players or question the talent that characterizes the NBA today. The Major League is full of superstars deserving of their status, it’s perhaps never been richer when it comes to skill, we’re seeing more and more crazies push the boundaries of basketball with their versatility, and offenses clearly possess intelligence. But When it comes to comparing current statistics with those of the past, and discussing the level of current goalscorers with those of previous decades, it seems important to consider context. whose characteristics are relevant today.

This NBA focus on insane stats and an offensive show that increasingly focuses on individual and collective records is obviously good for the business of the Major Leagues, but we can still wonder if this constant pursuit of spectacle trumps substance. of the game. it was less so in the open house mode. Where the NBA offers something other than a 120- or 130-point game every night. Where a 50 pawn attack card was a rare event we noted rather than an exploit among others we forgot about the next day.

Today, the NBA is full of events that ignite our nights with their spectacular performances. The plays you need to know how to appreciate at this point are T, but also be patient by zooming in a little and taking into account the current context, which undoubtedly favors offensive bursts.

Stat sources: Basket-Reference, NBA.com, StatMuse

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