This morning, coming in to work, the sports radio guys were bitching about how poor the quality of play has been this season in the National Basketball Association. And given the rash of what appear to be “out of shape” injuries, the pair went so far as to question whether it had even been worth it to play the season at all.
Had they read the Courtside Analyst post prior to the season, they would have anticipated the ugly basketball. I wrote back then that in labor shortened seasons NBA Scoring Efficiency averages, meaning the ability to turning scoring attempts (FGs + 0.5FTs) into points has traditionally declined, and I surmised that it would probably decline again this season. It has.
A comparison of all of the per game statistics between last season and this season is listed below.
They are settling for jumpers, and not converting
As you can see, the comparative statistics are fairly equal except for pace and Scoring Efficiency. In 2010-11, the NBA averaged 6.23 points per game more than their combined scoring attempts used. This season the NBA is only averaging 2.70 points per game more than their combined scoring attempts used.
As I pointed out in December, a similar story unfolded during the last abortive NBA season in 1999-2000. Team Win Score average for that season was way down (as it is this season) and the main culprit was the inability to make shots with normal proficiency. Nearly the same story is being told this season.
A possible contributor to the poor scoring efficiency is that players are settling for more jump shots, and not taking the ball to the basket with the same alacrity they showed last season. Last season the NBA FT/FG average was 30.2%, this season it is down to 28.4%. Often when players are not in peak condition, they will settle for jump shots rather than aggressively taking the ball at the basket.
Another factor could be players shooting slightly more 3 pointers, and not scoring them at the same rate as they did last season. Last season 21.7% of all field goal attempts were 3pointers, and the Association average conversion rate was 35.8%. This season, that has increased to 22.3% of all NBA field goal attempts being 3 pointers, yet the Association is only converting 34.5% of those attempts. Clank, clank, clank.
But if history is a reliable guide, the quality of basketball should return next season. Unfortunately we shall have to suffer a lot more missed field goals and missed free throws this season. Suck it up, Association Heads. We can all blame the lockout for that.