Average individual and team scoring in the NBA significantly have declined this season, as the league lacks a single player pouring in 30 points a night, while only 11 squads record more than 100 points a game.
Team scoring often is cyclical and prone to follow fads. Just 14 clubs averaged at least 100 points during a four-season run from 2000-04. But after ex-Phoenix and current New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni started squeezing the shot clock in 2003, 13 teams passed the 100-point plateau in 2007-08 and 18 jumped it last season.
Individual scoring often remains unaltered, though. While the days of Michael Jordan pocketing 37.0 points per game for Chicago in 1986-87 belong to a different generation, the league has been able to generate at least one player during nine out of the last 11 seasons that has elevated above 30 points a night.
Not this year.
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant tops the NBA with a less-than-staggering 28.2, followed by the Knicks' Amare Stoudemire (26.3) and Miami's LeBron James (25.3).
To the Jazz's Deron Williams and Raja Bell, the fact that Durant and James who finished No. 1 and 2 in average scoring last season have seen their average numbers drop while their teams continue to pick up victories says everything about a league that is increasingly relying more on teamwork and shared roles than a single-player theory.
James willingly sacrificed gaudy numbers for the opportunity to play with stars Dwayne Wade (sixth in the league at 24.9) and Chris Bosh in Miami, while Durant is backed by a much-improved Russell Westbrook, who ranks 12th in the NBA with 21.9 average points.
Moreover, almost every player ranked in the top 10 has at least one premier second option, while the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Chicago's Derrick Rose, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and Denver's Carmelo Anthony lead top-loaded teams that feature multiple big-name scorers.
"Everybody has somebody with them now," Williams said prior to practice.
Bell, who sprinted with the Suns from 2005-08, said that the game has not slowed down. He does believe, though, that the league's biggest names have finally realized that leading the NBA in points does not necessarily provide a championship ring.
"People are starting to figure out that going for 30 doesn't always mean winning," Bell said.
He added: "I think Amare learned that in Phoenix. The nights when he tried to score 50, we lost. The nights when he let other people help him and he used his other players, we were a better team. … If you're going to play one-on-one, you better score 60."
But while many of the league's elite players are passing more and scoring less, Williams has been forced to carry a larger load for Utah this season.
The Jazz's Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson have filled in admirably for Carlos Boozer, providing the team with a strong 2-3 punch that complements Williams' rare ability as a No. 1 player to knock down shots and dish out assists with the best in the league.
But Utah relies on a precise offensive system that prizes open shooters above star power. As a result, Millsap and Jefferson occasionally endure long stretches without being a scoring focus, while Williams is sometimes asked to be more of a shooting guard than a point guard. This, combined with Boozer's departure to Chicago, has Williams on the verge of cracking the league's top 10 in scoring for the first time during his six-year career.
He ranks 13th with 21.8 points, which is 1.4 more than his career high (19.4 in 2008-09). In addition, Williams is averaging a career-high 15.1 field-goal attempts, eclipsing his 14.4 mark from 2008-09. The extra points and increased shots look great on paper. But Utah's All-Star guard and team leader said that he will trade a slick pass for a buried basket any day.
"I'd like to get three or four more assists than get two or three more shots," Williams said. "We're more successful [then]."
2010-11 average scoring leaders:
Player Team Pts
1. Kevin Durant Oklahoma City 28.2
2. Amare Stoudemire New York 26.3
3. LeBron James Miami 25.3
NBA's leading scorer since 2004-05
Year Player Team Pts
2009-10 Kevin Durant Oklahoma City 30.1
2008-09 Dwayne Wade Miami 30.2
2007-08 LeBron James Cleveland 30.0
2006-07 Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers 31.6
2005-06 Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers 35.4
2004-05 Allen Iverson Philadelphia 30.7
Did you know?
The NBA has had at least one player average 30 points since 2004-05. The last player to lead the league in scoring and not hit the mark was Houston's Tracy McGrady, who averaged 28.0 in 2003-04. That season was an anomaly, though. Only two players (McGrady, Shaquille O'Neal with 29.7 points in 1999-2000) have led the league in scoring during the last 11 seasons and not hit the 30-point barrier.
Knicks at Jazz
P At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • Wednesday, 7 p.m.
TV • FSN Utah
Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 AM, 98.7 FM
Records • Knicks 21-15, Jazz 25-13
Last meeting • Jazz, 103-98 (March 29)
About the Knicks • New York had shown a six-game improvement compared to last season heading into a road game Tuesday night against Portland. … Point guard Raymond Felton leads the Knicks in average assists (8.7) and steals (1.9), ranks second in points (18.2), and is shooting 87 percent from the free-throw line.
About the Jazz • Center Mehmet Okur (lower back strain) is a game-time decision. He said he plans to play, though, ending a six-game absence. … Utah leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.74). … The Jazz are 1-2 in their last three games and 10-8 since a home loss to Dallas on Dec. 3.