Luka Doncic, Devin Booker and Joel Embiid Lead NBA’s Unprecedented Scoring Wave

As NBA stars like Luka Doncic and Joel Embiid showcase unparalleled scoring feats, questions arise about the role of individual brilliance versus potential rule revisions in the league. Dive into the debate over NBA scoring trends.

If you haven’t been keeping up, NBA scoring has been on a rapid rise.

In a recent showcase, Luka Doncic put up an impressive 73 points, while Devin Booker wasn’t far behind with 62. Just days earlier, Joel Embiid scored 70, and Karl-Anthony Towns notched up 62.

While these individual performances are remarkable, the scoring surge is even more pronounced when looking at team-wide statistics. Last season, the Kings boasted the most efficient offence in NBA history with a 118.6 offensive rating. However, this record is likely to be surpassed this season, as the Pacers, Celtics, Bucks, Clippers, Sixers, and Thunder are all surpassing that benchmark.

This trend extends beyond the top-tier teams. Michael Jordan‘s legendary 1991-92 Bulls, known for their offensive prowess, averaged 115.5 points per 100 possessions. In the current season, an impressive 17 out of the 30 NBA teams are scoring at a higher rate.

The issue becomes apparent when a team like the Nets, sitting eight games below .500, and led by Mikal Bridges and Cam Thomas as their top scorers, outscore every single Jordan-led Bulls team.

The question now is what measures can and cannot be taken to restore balance.

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Scoring in the NBA has seen an increase, prompting discussions about the reasons behind this trend

The increase in scoring in the NBA is a topic of discussion, and one common complaint is that defensive efforts seem lacking. However, this perspective lacks depth.

Defensive strategies in the current NBA are more intricate than they were 30 years ago. The effort required to defend a broader area of the floor has significantly risen compared to the more static defensive schemes of the 90s. Modern defenders are tasked with guarding a dynamic game, where offensive plays cover a wider range.

Take Luka Doncic’s 73-point performance as an example. The Hawks, criticized for their defence, employed multiple coverages against him. These included dropping, playing at the level of the screen, hedging, switching, blitzing, and doubling. Atlanta Hawks coach Quin Snyder mentioned, “We tried everything we could from a tactical standpoint.” Despite their efforts, Doncic’s unique skill set allowed him to make plays in various ways.

While the Hawks displayed mostly solid defence, a single viral play created a narrative that no defence was played throughout the entire game. In truth, they fell victim to an extraordinary showcase of skill, doing everything within the rules, yet still coming up short.

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Lessons the NBA Can Learn from European Rules

If NBA defenders are executing the best possible defence allowed under the current rules and scoring remains uncontrollable, a logical conclusion emerges — the rules need revision.

Luka Doncic himself hinted at this last year during an interview with JJ Redick. He compared European basketball to the NBA and emphasized why it is “100 percent” more challenging to score 30 in a Euroleague game.

Doncic acknowledged the higher skill level in the NBA but attributed the scoring disparity to rules. “It’s very different because the court is smaller. The fouls are different. The rules are different,” explained Doncic.

As for which rules should be changed, let’s explore.

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Eliminate the defensive three-second rule

The most significant rule disparity between the NBA and the Euroleague is the absence of the defensive three-second rule. In Europe, big men can linger in the paint without time restrictions, creating a more challenging pathway for scoring layups.

Luka Doncic argued that eliminating the need for players like Rudy Gobert to clear out of the paint every three seconds could result in “easily 10 more points” in the NBA.

Doing away with the defensive three-second rule appears to be a straightforward decision. Instituted in the 2002 season, it is not a universally followed rule across most leagues. Moreover, its enforcement is challenging, rarely invoked at the end of games, and hampers tactical creativity by complicating the use of zone defences.

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Reduce the size of the court

Doncic also emphasized that the larger dimensions of NBA courts contribute to enhanced spacing and scoring opportunities. NBA courts measure 94 feet by 50 feet, whereas Euroleague courts are slightly smaller at 91.9 feet by 49.2 feet (28 meters by 15 meters).

While the difference may seem minimal, the reduced space to defend makes rotations more manageable and narrows gaps for players to navigate through. Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged the impact of space in the European game, stating that playing with less space helped him adapt and feel more comfortable in the NBA, where he perceives greater room to operate.

Victor Wembanyama, after experiencing his first Summer League, echoed these sentiments, noting the contrast between the more open style of the NBA game and the grounded, physical play in Europe. “The court is more open here,” Wembanyama remarked, highlighting the distinct playing styles between the two leagues.

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Permit increased physical contact

Another crucial rule change the league should implement is allowing defenders to engage in more contact, as seen in Euroleague games where defenders have more control over directing offensive players.

Wembanyama observed that the NBA game is “less physical,” expressing that while he gets fouled often, it’s not as frequent as in Euroleague play. This sentiment aligns with Doncic’s comments on the difference in fouls between the NBA and Euroleague, noting that playing in the NBA presents a greater challenge due to the near-impossible task of guarding certain players.

These proposed rule changes would intensify the defensive aspect of the game, a viewpoint supported by Nikola Jokic in 2022. He explained, “In Europe, you need to have really quick thinking. In the NBA, if you go by the guy, you can see the help is coming. In Europe, the help is already there.”

When stars like Antetokounmpo, Jokic, Doncic, and Wembanyama all concur on the increased difficulty of scoring in Europe, it warrants consideration. Looking overseas for insights might provide valuable lessons for enhancing the NBA game.

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