Being one of the best scorers in history and still on top almost fifteen years after his arrival in the NBA, Kevin Durant is rather well placed to talk about scoring. But above all, he now has a longevity that allows him to analyze the evolution of the game, to compare the current era with that of his debut with the greats at the end of the 2000s. A time when attackers were much less at the party than today according to KD.
We have just come out of a historic month of March in terms of individual performances, with explosions in all directions and an accumulation of matches with 50 pawns. In the lot, there are obviously some of the best current scorers like Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan or even Trae Young, but also guys you don’t necessarily expect in this kind of list like Pistons sophomore Saddiq Bey, for example. We also saw a Robert Covington go up to 43 pawns (!) a week ago, and it wasn’t even an April Fool’s joke. All that to say that we live today in an era where offensive cards are commonplace, where attacks have power, where scores easily reach 110-120 points or even more in certain matches. The old heads (hello Charles Oakley) tend to put it down to a League that would have become much softer than in their time, with defenses having less impact due in particular to the evolution of the rules having favored quite a lot attack for fifteen years. But if there is any truth to this, there are also other explanations. It will be exactly fifteen years since Mister Kevin Durant is in the NBA and he admits without problem that it was much harder to score when he arrived in the Big League. Except that the main reason, according to him, is above all the extra space that current players can benefit from compared to those who played at the end of the 2000s (via JJ Redick’s podcast The Old Man and The Three).
“It was so hard to score 30 points. Back then, you had two guys in the racket, and we didn’t have exotic attacks like we do now (laughs). […]
Today you have specialized coaches who try to find systems to open opportunities and create spaces for you. Back then, you had to create your own space from scratch, and mid-range play was key. There weren’t many 3-point attempts, and the racket was bulletproof. To score 30 points, you had to make difficult shots. Today it is much easier. »
Spacing is more than ever at the heart of the game today. With the Warriors dynasty which brought the NBA into the era of 3-pointers, with the development of analytics which favored the search for efficiency above all, with the disappearance of position 4 as we knew it (which plays inside and often with his back to the basket) in favor of a versatile winger, the game has completely opened up to become more dynamic and much faster. If you watch an NBA game today compared to an NBA game from the 2000s, you will feel that the current field is bigger. This spacing, it allows the attackers to have much more freedom and room for maneuver than at the time, and we see the result in the box scores. In a League where there is talent absolutely everywhere and in all positions, offensive explosions are inevitable, even among players not necessarily known to be among the best scorers in the world. All these elements are to be taken into account when talking about current offensive cards and especially when we start to make comparisons with previous eras. Scoring 30 points in 2007 was not the same delirium as scoring 30 points today. So obviously, when you take an all-time player like Kevin Durant who is 2m10 tall and has absolutely every skill in his repertoire, the context doesn’t matter. He’s averaging 30 pawns in 2022, he was already averaging 30 pawns in 2010. But the next time you see a guy like Robert Covington drop a 40-point performance in an NBA game, you’ll think those guys still fell at the right time.
Without taking anything away from the talent of current players, they evolve in an NBA that is perhaps more open than ever and where scoring is generally an easier task than before. Rules, style of play, optimization of spaces, skills on the rise, decline in physical appearance… these are all reasons that explain this observation.
Text source: The Old Man and The Three (from the 53rd minute)