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COLUMN: NBA is undergoing a scoring boom, college hoops could follow suit


Freshman Duke University forward Zion Williamson, left, gets the ball away from senior Juwan Morgan, right, to score Nov. 27 in the Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. Duke defeated IU, 90-69. Anna Tiplick Buy Photos

In week one this NBA season, we saw the Minnesota Timberwolves score 136 points in regulation. Karl-Anthony Towns put together a 31-point performance, Derrick Rose pitched in 28 points off the bench, but Minnesota lost to Dallas.

If you’ve been keeping up with the NBA this season, you know that you’re bound to see some startling final scores on any given day. The Timberwolves stunning four-point defeat marked the first time a team had scored that many points in a regulation loss since 1992.

It’s no secret that teams are scoring more than ever. In fact, every team in the league is averaging more than 100 points per game, even the 5-18 Cleveland Cavaliers. Four seasons ago, just half of the league was scoring at that rate.

It didn't happen overnight. League scoring averages have been on an upward trend since the late 1990s and early 2000s, when points came at more of a premium than today. 

A catalyst to all of this has been the last six seasons, specifically from behind the arc. Since 2013, league records for three-point field goals attempted and made have been shattered by the end of each season. 

People are wondering where all these points are coming from because league average shooting percentages are down since last year. The driving factor behind this scoring boom is pace, which measures a team’s estimated number of possessions over 48 minutes.

The current league average for pace is at 100. Should that triple-digit figure remain in tact at the end of the season, it would be the first league average more than 100 in 30 years.

It’s not necessarily that the NBA is becoming more talented from top to bottom, but rather that teams are moving the ball up the court quickly and wasting less time before shooting. Today’s coaches instill a certain mindset in their players that, like the ball, they should always be moving. 

The league average for offensive rating, points scored per 100 possessions, is currently at 109.7, which would be an all-time high spread across a full season. The three most efficient offensive seasons in league history have taken place in the last 10 years. 

What’s most interesting here is that the best teams in the NBA struggle to defend against their opponents. The Milwaukee Bucks are leading the league in scoring with an astounding 121.4 points per game. Even with their 15-7 record, they manage to allow 111.3 points per game. 

If we are to call anyone pioneers of this movement, it’s former most valuable players, James Harden and Stephen Curry. Over the last three seasons, they have the two most three point attempts in the league. The pair of guards have seen early success this season averaging 30.6 and 29.4 points per game, respectively. 

In a matter of months, we’ll most likely bare witness to the rookie debuts of future stars Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and other members of the 2019 draft class. According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, next year’s top seven draft prospects are all current freshman, including IU’s Romeo Langford.

This freshman class is already tearing up the NCAA. Ninety three Division I teams currently have an offensive rating over 110, one season after just 64 teams finished at that mark. 

No. 3 Duke is at the center of it all. In their first game of the year, the Blue Devils trounced the then-No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats 118-84. In the first half, RJ Barrett splashed home a deep three to give Duke a 21-point lead less than nine minutes into the game. 

The Blue Devils are no stranger to success in March, but their squad has the potential to do serious damage this season. Just last week, Duke’s freshman class outscored all of IU’s team en route to a 90-69 win as a part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. 

Teams are scoring at monumental rates in the NBA, and the league’s talent has never been distributed more evenly. Williamson is taking the NCAA by storm as one of the most explosive college athletes of our generation. There’s never been a more exciting time to watch basketball than right now.

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