Offense Is Booming in the NBA Today
NBA fans, enthusiasts and analysts alike are well aware of the recent emphasis on three-point shooting and efficiency on the offensive end of the floor. It's actually quite visible on a nightly basis.
With that in mind, what particular trends have we seen appear over the course of the past four-plus seasons? And how has the analytics age arrived at the point it's at today?
Picking up the Pace
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know the NBA's pace of play has been quickening over the last few years. Just four seasons ago, the league-average pace was 92 possessions per 48 minutes of play (according to Basketball Reference). In the two years following, that number rose to 93.9.
Then, in 2015-16, pace jumped nearly two possessions per game to 95.8 per 48 minutes. The league hasn't experienced the same type of change through roughly 30 games this year, yet pace has still increased to 96.3 possessions. It's the first time since 1992-93 the average pace has met or exceeded 96.
Not surprisingly, the average points per game (104.4) is the highest it's been since the 1992-93 season.
Valuing the Rock
A faster average pace means a higher volume of possessions. That does lead to more points, but it should also result in more turnovers, on average. Yet, while the league-average assists per game has leveled off at roughly 22, the same can be said for turnovers, which hasn't exceeded 14.6 or fallen short of 14.1 per game in the last five years.
What's even more telling is this:
Turnover percentage (TOV%) is an estimate of turnovers per 100 plays. It accounts for turnovers in relation to field goal attempts and free throw attempts over that span.
In spite of the fact that there's been a negative change of just .8% from 2012-13 to present, there is a transparent trend downward through the past five years. As a matter of fact, the league-average mark of 12.9% is the lowest it's ever been since the stat first became available in 1977-78.
So, it's not all about scoring and pace. The ability for teams to take care of the ball helps create more possessions and a better game flow.
Chucking Up Threes
Undoubtedly, though, the most influential piece of the NBA's evolution has come via the three-point shot.
At first glance, it's odd to see that three-point percentage has basically stayed the same. It's actually worse than it was back in 2013-14, but 35.5% is the 12th-best conversation rate of all-time. Understandably, though, that doesn't tell us everything we want to know.
Three-point percentage is a product of a combination of things, including the simple fact that bad three-point shooters are always going to counteract those elite ones we see more of in this day and age. The better indicators are the three other stats, most notably three-point attempt rate (3PAr), which is the percentage of field goal attempts teams attempt from three-point range.
This number has increased quite drastically since 2012-13, when just over a quarter of attempts were coming from deep. Now, over 30% of attempts are three-pointers, while three-point makes and attempts per game are at an all-time high.
As a result, effective field goal percentage (eFG%) -- a statistic that adjusts for a three-pointer being worth one more point than a two-pointer -- is also at an all-time high. The league-average of 50.7% is .5% higher than a year ago, and the last two seasons, in addition to the 2013-14 season, make up the top three effective field goal percentages in NBA history.
Once again, a direct effect of the three-point ball.
From three-point shooting to effective field goal percentage to offensive rating -- usually, that's how it goes. Offensive rating is a better measure of efficiency than points per game because it accounts for pace. Taken over 100 possessions, the league's average offensive rating is 107.5.
The last time it was at this mark was back in 2007-08 and it's the 14th-highest rating of all-time.
For this reason, the NBA is as fun as it's ever been to watch. A fast pace, long shots and efficient offense -- what's not to love!
And that's why business is booming.