The NBA is known for impressive scoring performances from the league’s top stars and elite defensive plays. However, in recent years, it seems that defense has taken a backseat to offense.
The fact that 43 players are averaging 20+ points a game is a good indicator of the offensive boom. That’s 12 more than any previous season in NBA history. So, is the offense getting better, or is the defense getting worse? These key factors have the answers we are looking for, our main culprits are analytics, rules, and talent.
Long gone are the days of mid-range shooting dominating the league. The reason is simple, the perimeter is harder to defend and three is more than two. Teams are now relying heavily on data and statistics to make decisions about their game strategy.
For better or worse analytics have changed the game. Analytics have shown that it is more efficient to focus on offense rather than defense, as scoring more points is the key to winning games. As a result, teams are investing more resources into their offensive players and strategies, rather than their defensive ones.
Some of the key giveaways are the number of possessions and the high quantity of three-pointers teams are shooting. Teams are pushing the ball up the floor, taking shots early in the shot clock. This has steadily increased the number of possessions from 96.5 in 2015 to 100.1 possessions per game this year. In 2015 teams were shooting 24.1 attempts from beyond the arc. That number has shot up as teams are shooting 34.2 three-point attempts a game.
RULES on Defense
The rules in the NBA have changed in recent years to favor offenses. The idea behind the rule changes is that scoring is fun therefore more offense leads to a more entertaining product. The league has implemented new rules that make it more difficult for defenders to play tight defense without drawing fouls.
For example, the hand-check rule changed in 2004, makes it harder for defenders to use their hands to impede the progress of offensive players. The league wanted more offense and eliminated a tool that allowed defensive players to keep opposing ball-handlers in front of them.
Not only has the league made it easier for offenses to score but they are calling more fouls on defenders. Making the game riddled with fouls and free throws. It’s not like teams are not trying on defense, they are struggling to get stops.
Teams are taking 23.7 free-throw attempts per game, and committing 20.3 fouls per game, both high rates. The refs get most of the blame, but putting the game in the hands of the refs is a lose-lose for everyone involved.
The biggest issue with the rule changes is that it never accounted for the increase in players’ skills. We can be nostalgic all we want about the old days, but the reality is that the league is more talented than ever. The talent level in the NBA has increased dramatically in recent years.
The league has some of the most talented players in history at every position, many of whom are offensive specialists. Every coach is game planning to use their talents and take advantage of certain rules.
With so much talent on the court, it can be difficult for any team to shut down their opponent’s offense completely. Teams are now focusing on outscoring their opponents, rather than trying to stop them from scoring altogether.
The goal is to slow them down just enough. Therefore players that are even remotely close to being good defenders are finding ways to get consistent minutes on the court. The ability to play defense has become one of the most coveted skillsets in the league and every team serious about contending team needs it .
In conclusion, the lack of defensive plays in the NBA can be attributed to a combination of factors. Between the rule changes, analytics, and the talent explosion, the offensive players have all the advantages.
While some fans may lament the lack of defense in the game, teams are simply adapting to the changing landscape of the league. As the NBA continues to evolve, it needs to find the right balance to further improve its product. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how teams adjust their strategies to stay ahead of the curve.
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