The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

NBA should give defense a chance

In the wake of a 73-point performance by Luka Doncic, a 70-point performance by Joel Embiid and a 62-point performance by Karl-Anthony Towns, the NBA has witnessed a historic boom on offense as defenses around the league struggle to catch up.

After several rule changes like banning hand checking led to a lull in scoring in the 2000s, offense has been on the rise partly due to Steph Curry and other sharpshooters changing the game with volume shooting from deep.

Overall, many have argued that the league favors the offense to provide high-scoring superstars and an exciting product for the fans. I think this push for scoring has created a worse product and the NBA should get back to a gritty, defensive-minded game.  

Although this offensive boom may seem as simple as the ball going through the basket more, many factors have changed dramatically in the past few seasons. Three-point attempts have increased, usage rates of superstars have skyrocketed, and the mid-range shot has almost disappeared. 

It is a well-known fact that ratings have been dropping since the 90s in the NBA. Ratings peaked in 1996 with 2.99 million viewers while viewership was down to 1.59 million in 2023. Filled with stars like Michael Jordan and rivals like the Bad Boy Pistons, the league garnered the most success in its history.  

Mid-range shooting was a staple in the game of many legends like Jordan or Larry Bird. Current sharpshooters like Curry or Damian Lillard wouldn’t dare shoot a mid-range shot when they could step back and go for the three. The analytics movement have taken over the league and coaches are beginning to take notice. 

Analytics have fundamentally changed the game from the ground up. Many treat analytics as the boy who cried wolf; brought up repeatedly but never making a noticeable impact. 

Stars are being utilized more than ever. Players like Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo have figured out how to get to the free throw line as much as they can. Usage rates are as high as they ever have been and the best shot to take is an unguarded one directly in front of the basket. 

Embiid leads the league shooting over 12 free throws a game and, as a result, leads the league in scoring. Free throws are the most efficient way to score and this season, 43 players are averaging 20+ points a game, 12 more than any previous season.  

Embiid and many stars alike have found easy ways to get the referee to blow the whistle. Referees are rewarding the players with the ball in their hands, calling less travels and carries while also calling more shooting fouls. Almost any all-star caliber player can run at a defender and guarantee a trip to the line. 

It is not only a conspiracy that the league is pushing an offensive agenda. NBA Executive Vice President Evan Wasch has admitted to their goals. 

“We’ve even done dial testing, where fans are literally sitting watching games with kind of a dial … and turning it up or down based on whether they enjoy what they’re seeing,” Wasch said. “The overwhelming response in all of that research is that fans like the high scoring.” 

The NBA wants high scoring and for good reason. During the pandemic, the NBA played in a bubble in Orlando and witnessed all-time low ratings. Ratings have been rebounding back up but are not as high as in the past. From 2012-13 to 2022-23, regular season viewership fell 26% and primetime viewership fell 43% in the same time span. 

The NBA has given so much freedom to their stars to create a better product for fans, that they overdid it and overstepped their boundaries. Referees interfering in the games this much create a much slower game riddled with whistles and free throw shooting. The defense needs the ability to fight back and make a product that everyone will enjoy watching. 

This column was written by Conor McPherson. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X 

Story continues below advertisement
Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Marquette Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *