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The NBA Might Be Doing The Unthinkable And Scaling Back Bumper Bowling Offense Thanks To The Referees

The 2024 NBA All Star Game might have actually been the rock bottom moment the NBA so desperately needed. After Adam Silver was made into a fool of fools for touting that players were going to actually try in the All Star Game, there's growing evidence suggesting he saw how awful the product is in it's current state and actually did something about it. 

All credit to Ryen Russillo for noticing that ticky-tack calls seemed to have been noticably curtailed since the break. And given my open stance on wanting defensive reform in the NBA I had to dig into the numbers myself. Russillo is absolutley right. It's not enough to fix the game's problems entirely but hey, gotta start somewhere. 

Let's look into a few stats. My data shows teams averaged 116 PPG up to the break and just 112 after pretty much matching what Russillo cited. You can see the trend in the graph above showing average points in a game (both teams combined). 

How about overall offensive efficiency? Below I filtered to every player who played at least ten minutes in a game and averaged the offensive efficiency of every qualifying player on a given day. Some days still produced outlier results - like January 16th being over 130 - but the recent downward trend is what matters. 

OK! This is a good sign. And certainly something you'd expect given what we know about PPG being down. But just to be sure this isn't some freak Monstar league-wide shooting issue, let's make sure free throws are down to show quantitatively some measures are being taken to combat the freebie free throw cop out everyone seems to pull by driving shoulder first into a defender for a "foul". And for the record, this pull was done at the team level. 

At first glance, it doesn't seem like much of a difference over time. 

But zoomed in a bit you can see there's at least some progress is being made. 

All in all, that's about three less free throws per team so six-fewer per game which isn't anything to marvel at but you gotta start somewhere. 

This will be something to monitor as we near playoffs. I hope all of these stats keep going down. Gimmie my 90s basketball back. Or at least somewhere towards that direction. Heck with it, someone try hand checking and see what happens. Make defense matter again. That way the actual offensive stars can shine in comparison to the role players. 

Keep it up!