The Evolution of Offense Pushes Defense Off the Court

Anthony George, Staff

NBA fans have loved the game of basketball for as long as they can remember. Rising stars challenge the rules and boundaries of the offensive game, pushing for new techniques and combinations to be created. Spectators were excited whenever an NBA player scored 30 points last season. Anything higher than that was an inspiring display of skill.

In the first week of January 2023, 19 players scored anywhere from 40 to 71 points. These were historic performances, some of which broke records. Why are players scoring this high all of a sudden? The offensive game is dynamic. Players, depending on their skill set, can read the defender and make moves that will end up in baskets. Rebounds and more efficient threes blow stat charts out of the water. According to, the average points per game of the three last ranked NBA teams have
increased by around 24 points in the last 19 years (2004 to 2023). This shows the evolution of offense over time. To put it bluntly: the emphasis on offense in the NBA is at an all time high.

It is possible that people don’t focus on defense because it is based off of instincts, reaction time, and wingspan. These are things that players are born with, so they choose to increase their offensive potential in order to bypass the amazing defenders that exist in the NBA. Three point shots are key to this explosion of points. Players who pose a threat beyond the three point line have more avenues to score. The infinite amount of options the offense has makes the defense susceptible to mistakes, especially in a league when some people can shoot from the logo. In 2004, the defensive efficiency (the lower the better) was more efficient than the current season. This is because nobody was shooting at an extremely high rate in 2004. The game evolved over time to make the jumpshot a viable option for the whole league.

What is best for the fans? High-point games that are exciting for the players and fans alike? Or defense that is absolute and limits the scoring potential of the NBA player? Regardless of the answer, one thing is for certain: the rest of this season will be intense.

(Above) Donavan Mitchell scored 71 points against the
Chicago Bulls. Mitchell was traded to Cleveland this
season from the Utah Jazz. This is the 11th time that
an NBA player has scored above 70 points (as of 2023).
Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers.)
(Above) This graph depicts the average points per game
of the bottom three NBA teams in 2004 and 2023. The
main difference between these seasons is the rate that
efficient three pointers are shot. Graphic courtesy of ( Graphic courtesy of