A Changing NBA: What Exactly Are We Witnessing?

The NBA game is constantly changing. It’s easy to look back through the history of the league and see the not so subtle differences in style of play, defining moments/players, etc.

The 1960s NBA was defined by pure finesse; a ballet of offense which produced league averages of over 115 PPG.

The 1970s was defined by the NBA/ABA merger.  An era that introduced raw power and athleticism into the league.

The 1980s were defined by showtime.  Magic Johnson and the Lakers brought us a brand of basketball that broke all the rules.  Later in the decade we saw teams who couldn’t play showtime basketball adopt quite the opposite style; a bruising, defensive, and borderline dirty style of play.

The 1990s were defined by Michael Jordan. And only Michael Jordan.

The 2000s were also defined by Jordan in a way.  Teams were desperate to find the heir to the Jordan throne, drafting young upside guys straight out of high school.  This greatly diluted the talent in the NBA as a whole, and the league suffered to an extent. That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots though – the Kobes, Garnetts, and TMacs.

But what era are we currently in?  What is the state of the current NBA? And what will define the basketball we are watching right now?

To me, that answer is obvious.  Today’s NBA will be defined by the 3pt shot.

(Let me note that we have also been witnessing a clear-cut top 3 player to ever play the game in Lebron James.  I don’t mean to downplay his greatness during this era in any way.)

Shooting.  The best shooter of the era, Ray Allen, is without a doubt the best shooter of all time.  That being said, when it’s all said and done he probably won’t be.  With guys like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kyle Korver ripping the nets at clips never before seen, it’s important to realize the greatness we are witnessing.

Last season, when compared to every league leader in 3 point shooting percentage since the adoption of the line, Kyle Korver attempted more than 100 more 3 point shots than the next greatest ‘attempter’.  And he did this while still shooting 47%.  He is currently on pace to shoot even more 3 point shots this season while shooting 53%.

Korver is doing something very rare.  If he finishes at or above 53% he will hold the NBA record for highest single season 3pt FG percentage.  The current record holder is Steve Kerr, who shot 52% during the ’94-’95 season.  Kerr attempted 170 3pt shots that season.  Korver has already attempted 254 3pt shots this season.  *Mind blown*

What Klay Thompson and Steph Curry are doing with the Warriors (under Steve Kerr nonetheless) is of the same mold.

The duo have been so great many are already pondering whether they might be the best shooting backcourt ever.  Guess what… neither is older than 26 years old.  There are a lot of 3s left in that duo.  If you haven’t seen the two play, I suggest you change that quickly.  They will be two you tell your grandkids about.   Don’t believe me? Watch for yourself.

There is a premium being put on the outside shot in the NBA.  Strictly looking at percentages might not suggest the 3pt shot is any better now than it has been in past decades, but the fact of the matter is players are shooting significantly more and still hitting at an impressive clip.

The aforementioned guys are hitting shots at all-time great levels.  Meanwhile, other top players around the league like James Harden, Kevin Durant, Wesley Matthews, Damian Lillard, and Kevin Love are utilizing the deep ball at an exceptionally high rate as well.  When we look back at this current era of the NBA I think we will say two things:

A) There was all-time great talent. (Lebron, Kobe, KD, possibly Anthony Davis).

B) The 3pt shot was being successfully utilized like we had never seen before and possibly will never see again.

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