The NBA is currently going through quite possibly the most dazzling era of numbers and statistics since Wilt Chamberlain regularly put up 50 points a contest. Fans constantly ask, who is the next LBJ and who is the next Shaq; Stop. Let’s take a deeper dive into what these super-stats really mean to data nerds like me.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was unbelievable last year and snatched the MVP over a man who averaged 36.7 PPG over an entire season. Extremely hard to believe, but both of those guys took their game to another level.
In the 1962-63 season, Wilt Chamberlain posted a ridiculous 31.82 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) which was said never to be topped again. The (at the time) Philadelphia Warriors led the league with 111 field goal attempts per game draining 49 of those attempts on average, which led to a brand of basketball where a 7-foot track star dominated every minute of every game. Wilt played in a different era where the pace of the game was at an all-time high, this could never be done again.
Yes, you guessed right. That record Is currently being broken by what seems to be a “modern-day Wilt” in the lengthy and freakishly athletic Giannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” presently has a PER of 33.74 which would shatter the previous record. He runs the floor like a guard and plays the paint like a seasoned big man. The reigning MVP is even threatening to destroy some of Shaquille O’Neal’s best NBA records.
Throughout the 2000-01 season, Shaq shot 77.4% in the restricted area and scored 28.7 PPG. Giannis is currently shooting 76.9% in that area and scoring 30.7 PPG.
Giannis is not the only one re-writing the record books this season either. James Harden and Luka Doncic are also posting nonsensical PER’s right now that both rank in the top 12 all-time. The only other time in NBA history that three players posted a PER all within the top 25 all-time was last season.
The biggest reason for these outrageous numbers all being recorded at the same time is the explosion of the 3-point shot in recent years. GM’s now build their rosters planning to shoot more than 30 three’s a night, coaches game plan to outscore other teams not outplay them. The game was already being played at a relatively fast pace in recent years, but once you add in the factor of all the long rebounds off of those 3-point shots, it creates a shocking number of fast-break opportunities.
This allows teams to put the ball in the hands of their best player to get a good shot more than ever before, hence these preposterous stat lines where a player scoring 40 points seems like an ordinary occurrence in the NBA now.
Sit back and enjoy this season, watch every game you can because history is being rewritten every single time the ball is tipped off.
Credit to basketball-reference.com for all of the information.