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.

The All Powerful Hawks

Since early January when the Hawks were put up for sale they have been absolutely on fire!  The NBA power rankings have been dominated by the Golden State Warriors all season but recently they have been dethroned by these Hawks.   My first statement is a little short-sighted since technically these Hawks have gone 26-2 since Thanksgiving.  So the question must be asked… What is their key to success?

They lead the league with assists on made field goals at 70%.  This would make us look toward their all star candidate point guard Jeff Teague.  He “only” averages 7.4 assists per game.  With point guards like Rajon Rondo, John Wall, Ty Lawson, and Chris Paul who all average 10 assists per game, it is surprising that the Hawks hold this type of stat.  Teague is assisted (no pun intended) in this area by his front court.  The way that Horford and Millsap share the ball is something not commonly seen in today’s league.  Most big men will post up and either put up a shot at the rim or pass out to the perimeter after the opposing defense proves impenetrable.  Sometimes, commonly seen with the Pacers, you will see the forward halfheartedly roll to the top of the key/elbow area and shoot an 18 foot jump shot.  Horford an Millsap have no problem at mid-range, they can penetrate and drive and have enough basketball IQ to find open shooters and hit people cutting to the basket.  Not everyone is perfect though.  They like to get dunked on:

Kyle Korver has also been big in their success.  Recently he has been nicknamed Threesus because it seems like he just doesn’t miss.  Korver leads the league in three pointers made but ranks 11th in three pointers taken.  That is almost unheard of efficiency and is shown in his 53.5% success rate from behind the arc.  Korver is on track for a historic season leading the NBA in points off of catch-and-shoot opportunities (381), catch-and-shoot field goal percentage (52.4 percent), catch-and-shoot three-point percentage (53.2 percent), and catch-and-shoot threes made per game (2.8).  Korver also owns the NBA record for most consecutive games with a three-pointer (127).  If he keeps putting up numbers like this he will join not only the 50-40-90 club with the likes of Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Dirk, Steve Nash; but he may become the second member of the 50-50-90 club joining only Steve Kerr.

These assists seem to come easy when you have a shooter like this lurking on the perimeter.

Oh, and he can also dunk:

Another thing that is interesting about this team is that they have no players in the top 30 for minutes or points per game.  This team works well together.  They are unselfish.  On any given night any member of the team could have a career game.  Their starters get rest since they have a competent bench.  Defensively they have high motor guys like DeMarre Carroll making energy plays.  With all this going for them, I would be surprised if we didn’t see them in the eastern conference finals, if not the NBA finals.

Junior Bridgeman Linked to Atlanta Hawks

A well-known Louisville name has recently been linked to the purchase of the Atlanta Hawks.  Per a number of media outlets, an investment team consisting of Junior Bridgeman, Grant Hill, and Jerry Colangelo will be making a play to acquire ownership of the franchise.

Bridgeman, who is well known in the area for his playing days at the University of Louisville and with the Milwaukee Bucks, is currently the head of Bridgeman Foods.  The company owns several chain restaurants nation-wide and is headquartered in both Louisville and Milwaukee.  Bridgeman and his company were highlighted in Fortune Magazine just this past July. He has an estimated net-worth of over $200 Million, according to Louisville Business First.

While this news may not directly impact the city of Louisville, it is promising to see a powerful individual with ties to the city showing invested interest in the NBA.