Eighteen players scored at least 30 points on Sunday. The first time in NBA history there have been as many 30-point performances on a single day. Six players are currently averaging at least 30 points per game this season and if they had enough games to qualify, another four players would be in that group. The skill level and talent are at an all-time high giving fans parity and what should be an exciting regular season finish.
The Baseline Skill Level Is At An All-Time High
If you’re familiar with this writer’s work you understand why the game is more advanced and skilled than ever before. It’s partly evolution. It’s also the changing dynamics of the game. The game is position-less and everyone, regardless of height, are being taught guard skills and the importance of shooting.
That’s not to say nobody was skilled back in the day. The elite players then would be elite now. The difference is the baseline of skill is far superior. Your league average player today is considerably better today than decades prior.
Scoring is up and teams rely more heavily on tactics than ever before.
Gone are the days of just giving the ball to your best player and having the other players stand around and watch. Some teams do this, but they aren’t among the better teams.
Teams run multiple actions involving their best players forcing defenses into impossible choices. Because you can’t take away everything, you have to give up something on defense. The best teams force you into what your the least efficient at and even then sometimes the offense still wins.
Parity In The NBA
Add in an influx of young talent and combine it with aging superstars, though frequently injured, still playing at high levels and you have parity in the NBA.
Yes, the Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics are the class of the league record-wise. But only a game and a half separates those three teams for best overall record. No doubt they have designs on winning the championship this year. Each team would like home court advantage throughout the playoffs where the margins are razor thin.
In the Eastern Conference, three and a half games separate the third and fifth seed. Having home court in the first round matters to the Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the hottest team in the league the New York Knicks.
The Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, and Washington Wizards are in the play-in range right now. But the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls are only a game and a half behind the Wizards for the last play-in spot.
The back end of the East play-in picture has teams with too many wins at this point in the season to try and tank for presumed No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama. Being in the late lottery isn’t great, so they al might as well try and get into the play-in and give their young teams reps.
In the West the Nuggets won’t be caught for the No. 1 seed. But with all the drama surrounding the Memphis Grizzlies and their young superstar Ja Morant, can they hold off the Sacramento Kings, who are only a game behind them?
Or what about the new-look Phoenix Suns? Only three games back and 3-0 since Kevin Durant has stepped on the floor.
Fifth place to 10th place in the West is only separated by three games. That’s a guaranteed playoff spot on one end and the play-in on the other.
None of the teams in that range are looking to tank.
Three of those teams: the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, and Dallas Mavericks fully intend to compete for a championship this season.
Then there are the Los Angeles Lakers. The most famous franchise in the NBA, with the biggest star in LeBron James. They are tied record-wise with the Utah Jazz for the 10th spot, though the Jazz own the tiebreaker. This team is clearly in we have to make the playoffs mode.
All of these races and the scoring barrages taking place mean we are in for a crazy final five weeks of the season before the play-in and playoffs begin.
All of these teams will need big time scoring nights from their star players and others if they hope to play beyond April 9.