Individual scoring has been going up over the past three seasons. During the 2014-15 season there were only 15 players that averaged at least 20 points per game. Only three of them averaged at least 25 or more. Last season there were 20 players that averaged at least 20 ppg and the top six averaged 25 or more. This year there are 31 players averaging at least 20 points and the top 10 is at 25 or more.
These players are not playing 40+ minutes per game and they are not just attempting more three-pointers or more shots in general. There are no players averaging 39 minutes per game this season. So why are players scoring more this season? Some guys are getting more opportunities but others are being more efficient and have gotten better at drawing fouls.
Let’s look at some point guards. Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker had career years last season. Thomas just edged out Walker for the All-Star nod. For Kemba it was the first time in his career averaging 20 ppg and the first time he shot at least 35% from 3-point range.
This season Thomas’s shooting numbers are up across the board. His scoring average is up from 22.2 to 27.9. He’s only taking two more shots per game but his 3-point shooting is up to 37%. His TS% (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 2-point fg, 3-point fg and free throws) is at a career high 61%. In a game this season he put up 44 points on only 16 field goal attempts. He went to the line and hit all 17 of his free throws.
Kemba is playing fewer minutes and is shooting a career high 42% from 3-point range. His scoring average went from 20.9 to 23.1 this season. His eFG% is over 50% for the first time in his career. This is impressive considering Kemba had one of the worst statistical seasons for a point guard during his rookie year. His eFG% was at 41 and he only averaged 12 ppg.
Point guards are not the only players who are being more efficient and having career years. Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan have increased their scoring average by becoming more efficient players. It’s interesting because neither player is taking or making more 3-pointers.
DeRozan has never been a 3-point shooter but he came out on fire this season. In the first 12 games of the season he had ten 30-point games. In the first game of the season he scored 40 points and he didn’t hit that number last season. He already has more 30-point games this season including three 40-point games. He’s taking more mid-range jumpers but somehow his shooting percentage has increased from 44% last season to 47% this season. He’s still getting about nine free throws a game but his scoring is up from 23.5 to 28.2.
Gordon Hayward is another guy who doesn’t launch many 3-pointers. His shot attempts are the same from last season, 15 and now 15.5. He’s playing a minute less but his shooting percentage has gone up. Maybe getting a few pointers from Kobe Bryant about mid-range shooting has helped him this season. He’s at 45% which doesn’t seem that high but he hasn’t shot that since his first two seasons when he was taking fewer than 10 shots a game. He’s over 20 ppg for the first time in his career and on track to make his first All-Star appearance this season.
Teams are getting more production from their stars. The Cavs, Wolves and Warriors have three guys averaging at least 20 ppg. The Blazers, Bucks, Raptors and Wizards have two guys averaging at least 20 ppg. It has been fun to watch all these guys get buckets. Efficiency matters a lot in this day and age and it shows with the improved scoring all around.