Lauri Markkanen Showing the Evolution of the NBA

CHICAGO, USA - NOVEMBER 28: Lauri Markkanen (C) of Chicago Bulls in action during an NBA basketball match between Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns at United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on November 28, 2017. (Photo by Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Earlier this week Lauri Markkanen broke the record for least amount of games played to make 100 three-pointers. This is an impressive accomplishment given how many elite shooters have played in the NBA. Markkanen hit the century mark in 17 fewer games than even arguably the greatest shooter of all time, Stephen Curry (though more shot attempts). Markkanen is not on his way to being the greatest shooter of all time, but this statistics shows how different the game has become.

Lauri Markkanen Showing the Evolution of the NBA

Since the three-point line was introduced during the 1979-1980 NBA season, the league has developed more and more into a three-point shooting league. To put this into perspective, the 41 games it took for Markkanen to make 100 three-point shots is 341 fewer games than Michael Jordan himself. Jordan did not make 100 three-point shots until his sixth season. There are not many records or conversations that Jordan is not even considered in. Three-point shooting is one of those conversations.

In Jordan’s first season, he made only 9 three-point shots. Since that point, many players have made more in a single game. Jordan’s most three-point makes in a single season is set at 111. Just over halfway through this current season, ten players have made 111 or more three-point shots. 71 players made 111 or more three-point shots last season. If those numbers are not enough, let us look at some team stats.

This season, the Houston Rockets average 15.7 threes per game on 43.6 shot attempts. Twenty years ago, the Seattle SuperSonics led the league with 7.6 threes per game on 19.1 shot attempts. The 1997-1998 SuperSonics would rank dead last in the league today in three-point shots made per game. In 20 years, the number of threes shot and made has more than doubled. Not only has the number of shots increased, but the overall three-point percentage is better as well. The worst team in the league today shoots 32.9 percent from beyond the arc. During the 1997-1998 season, seven teams shot below that mark.

Is More, Better?

The numbers are all there. The game has changed. But is the change for the better? Some would argue with some simple math, three is greater than two. Others would argue that being closer to the basket is more efficient than further away. The fact is that the points per game league averages have steadily grown over the last 20 years. Most argue that is due to a “lack of defense” but the numbers would suggest it is due to higher quality and quantity of three-point shooting.

It is time for fans to come to grips with the fact that the NBA continues to get better. Players have developed the ability to play inside and outside at an elite level like never before. Records are meant to be broken. However, the fact that a player like Markkanen broke a record by such a wide margin suggests that the rate of growth is increasing more quickly than we have seen in years past. More players like Markkanen will come into the league and continue to show us things we have never seen before in the game of basketball. Fans better believe that, if they want to keep up.


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