How the Game has Changed

Justis Nieves, Sports Page Editor

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In the NBA today so much has changed in the past few years. Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson have all retired, traditional back-the-basket big men are a rarity now, players are making more money than ever before, and NBA jerseys will feature sponsors on them in the near future. So much has changed. One of the major changes the NBA has seen recently is the way teams play. Not only how teams play changed but, the players have as well. These switches in how teams and players play have directly correlated to the three point shot. The three point arc has become more popular in the 2010s and it has drastically changed the NBA today. The outside three point shot has changed the dynamic of the game and its players.

The highest scoring game in NBA history didn’t occur in this century. The highest scoring game was played on December 13, 1983. The game was played between the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets. It was a triple overtime game with the final score being 186-184 in Detroit’s favor. In that game there were only two three pointers shot. The highest scoring game ever included only two three pointers. Today NBA teams shoot on average 26.8 threes per game. That’s 13 times as much as that December game. It truly shows how much the game has changed.

The way teams play has changed in recent years. Today basketball is played outside in rather than inside out. Inside out refers to how the game once revolved around big men and how they use to dominate games from the post. Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are all examples of how the game was once focused on scoring from the inside. In the 80s and 90s teams ran their offense through these 6’10 giants. In an offense back then the ball would enter the low post first before kicking it back out to a guard for a ball reversal. The mind set 30-40 years ago was to always look to score from the paint first rather than scoring from the perimeter. Teams always tried to pack the paint to look for scoring opportunities. Now the game is spaced out more. In the 2010s NBA teams play a new style of offense. No longer do teams use offensive sets that worked 30 years ago (*cough except for the Knicks and look where that’s gotten them*). Jeremy Platt-Strack ,a sophomore, commented stating that, “I think the NBA is changing from a back-to-the-basket game, to a run-and-gun strategy. More and more, all over the country, 7-footers are shooting more and posting up less. I think it’s something that can’t be stopped, and I personally don’t mind the new game.”

With the three point line becoming so much popular today, it has changed how players develop. Today most players have to be able to shoot the three at a decent rate to receive good amounts of court time. If players can’t shoot the three, they’re cast off to the end of the bench in the last couple of minutes in the fourth. With this revolution in how players perform, traditional back-to-the-basket big men are practically gone. The top centers and power forwards in the league today all have gained an outside shot from 23 feet out. Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Kevin Love,   , and Dirk Nowitzki all have expanded their range. In this new era of “pace and space basketball”, teams need players like these if they want to be successful.

Most successful NBA teams today play a “Pace and Space” offense. This type of small ball play focuses on spreading out the court as much as possible and playing at a steady pace. With Pace and Space, the ball is constantly moving and players are further away from the basket to allow for open lanes to the paint. A key component  to this style of offense is having a big man who can stretch the floor. Pace and Space is most notability used by Greg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs. This type of offense has helped the Spurs win five NBA Championships during the coach Popovich era. Other teams run a similar type of offence the Spurs run. The Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors, and Boston Celtics all play this style of similar offenses.

What we are currently watching is the future of the NBA. For the next decade we will see players who are 6’11 be able to shoot the basketball from 25 feet out. We’ll see how styles of play will change as more and more teams value the point line. Soon we’ll see teams that have five players on the court that can shoot from the three point arc at an above average rate. This is the way basketball is headed. It’ll be curious to see if there will be anymore innovations in the next few years. One thing that will always remain a constant however is this: You can’t win games unless you put the ball through the rim.

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How the Game has Changed