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Scoring Adjusted For Today's NBA Game: Kobe Bryant Would Have Averaged Almost 40 PPG

Scoring Adjusted For Today's NBA Game: Kobe Bryant Would Have Averaged Almost 40 PPG

The NBA today is all about scoring the ball. Thanks to spread offenses and tighter rules in terms of defenders making aggressive plays, NBA stars are finding it easy to score the ball in multiple ways. Firstly, they can attack the basket and realize that defenses cannot be aggressive enough to alter their shots. Not to mention, any sort of contact is considered a foul and players can get to the free-throw line more than ever. Next, the three-point shot is extremely prevalent in the modern league.

Three points are clearly more valuable than two points, and launching enough three-pointers means players can generate points far easier than ever before. Old heads might not like it, but the three-point shot is here to stay. Essentially, the prevalence of the three-point shot paired with the rule changes means offensive players are enjoying the free reign to do whatever they want. It is no wonder why past stars rave about today’s game and wish they could play to score the ball easier and make even more money.

But how would past stars truly fare in the modern NBA? Based on the very intriguing piece by Basketball Forever, we have an idea of how a mix of past and present stars would have fared in the modern game. This is how the best seasons by some of the best offensive players in NBA history would have looked if scoring was adjusted in today’s game. There might be some surprises, and one player stands out in having an incredible offensive season had he played today.


10. Michael Jordan (1989-90) - 34.7 PPG Today

Michael Jordan 1990

1989-90 Season - 33.6 PPG

Kicking off the list is Michael Jordan, widely regarded as the greatest offensive player of all time. The GOAT won an incredible 10 scoring titles in his career, and one of those came in the 1990 season when he posted 33.6 PPG. No player scored the ball as well as MJ during that year, as the shooting guard averaged 52.6% from the field and 84.8% from the free-throw line. Jordan did this without taking any threes when compared to today's players, especially from the best scorer in the game.

Jordan only attempted 3.0 three-pointers on average and made 1.1 per game. MJ would have attempted at least 6 threes had he played today, and would have made at least 2 per game. That would have taken his average up, but it would be more likely that the Bulls superstar would have drawn more fouls in today’s game. MJ averaged 8.5 free-throw attempts in 1990, and he probably would have taken 10-11 free-throws had he played today to take his scoring average up to 34.7 PPG.


9. Kevin Durant (2013-14) - 34.8 PPG Today

Kevin Durant 2014

2013-14 Season - 32.0 PPG

Kevin Durant had arguably his best season in 2014 when he posted 32.0 PPG and won the MVP award for being the best player in the world. The Oklahoma City Thunder star also chipped in 7.4 RPG and 5.5 APG while playing some very solid defense, not to mention he almost made the 50-40-90 club by shooting 50.3% from the field, 39.1% from three, and 87.3% from the stripe. Durant, at age 25, was beginning to stake his claim as the only true threat to LeBron James’ throne, and he was making a very solid argument.

In today’s game, Durant’s efficiency would have gifted him a nice boost in his scoring average. He already won the scoring title in 2014 regardless, but averaging 34.8 PPG would have given the player the boost he needed to possibly win the unanimous MVP award. Durant would have drawn more fouls in today’s game, taking his 9.9 FTA to possibly 12 FTA. Of course, he would have taken more threes because it is far more acceptable in 2022 to average 10 3PA instead of 6.1 3PA as he did in 2014.


8. Kobe Bryant (2006-07) - 35.0 PPG Today

Kobe Bryant

2006-07 Season - 31.6 PPG

Kobe Bryant is one of the most unstoppable players of all time, and he did it through skill and athleticism. Kobe averaged 31.6 PPG in 2007, earning him his second-straight scoring title as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. But in today’s game, Kobe’s 22.8 FGA would have gifted him 35.0 PPG. Bryant would have drawn more fouls for sure, as he averaged 10.0 FTA despite dealing with aggressive double teams in 2007. In 2022, defenses would not have had a shot.

Bryant would have attempted at least 12 FTA and would have taken more than 5.2 3-pointers. Bryant would have taken at least 7 three-pointers, meaning he would have had a nice boost to his scoring average by about 3.5 PPG. That is a big increase, and Bryant would have seen his career-high average boosted as well. Here is a hint, this is not the last time we will see the dominant shooting guard appear on this list.


7. Michael Jordan (1987-88) - 35.2 PPG Today

Michael Jordan

1987-88 Season - 35.0 PPG

The GOAT averaged 35.0 PPG in 1988, in what can be regarded as the greatest regular season by a player ever. Jordan captured the scoring title, steals title, MVP award, and Defensive Player of the Year award. Michael was by far the most dominant player on both ends of the floor during the 1988 season, and he accomplished everything besides winning an NBA championship. He would make up for it in due time, of course, because he retired with 6 NBA rings for the Chicago Bulls. Had Jordan played today, his MVP season would have resulted in similar scoring numbers.

Jordan would have averaged 35.2 PPG in today’s game, which would have still been incredible to watch. It is interesting to see how Jordan’s scoring would not have changed much despite the relaxed defenses and rules. There are two ways to look at it, as most will argue that Jordan did what he did best no matter what the rules dictated. However, some might argue that Michael would not have seen any increase in his FTA (10.5 FTA) considering he was 24 years old and still building his legacy as a superstar. No matter which way you look at, Jordan’s 1988 season was one for the ages.


6. Allen Iverson (2000-01) - 35.5 PPG Today

Allen Iverson

2000-01 Season - 31.1 PPG

Allen Iverson is one of the greatest scorers of all time, as evidenced by his 4 scoring titles and incredible resume with 4 seasons averaging at least 30 PPG. The Answer was unstoppable with the ball in his hands and he destroyed the opposition every year during his prime. In 2001, Iverson averaged 31.1 PPG which would have constituted a 35.5 PPG average had he played today. That is a massive increase, and clearly, the NBA is more geared towards offense these days than ever before.

Iverson ended up winning the scoring title in 2001, so it did not affect his accolades at all. But The Answer had to deal with tougher defense in terms of big men hacking him hard whenever he drove to the lane. Iverson never gave up, taking contact and going to the line on average of 5 times per game which resulted in 10 free-throw attempts. His extra points would have likely come from extra free throws or an extra three-pointer had he played in the modern game.


5. Allen Iverson (2001-02) - 35.7 PPG Today

Allen Iverson

2001-02 Season - 31.4 PPG

Allen Iverson followed up his 2001 MVP campaign with a second scoring title when he posted 31.4 PPG in 2002. The Answer was incredibly dominant, posting those numbers despite shooting under 40% from the field and under 30% from three. Iverson was forced to take a ton of shots to carry a relatively average 76ers team, and he answered the call by playing heavy minutes and taking a ton of shots. That would have earned him the scoring title in today’s game for sure, as he would have posted 35.7 PPG.

It would have been amazing to see Iverson post at least 35 PPG for two seasons straight, but that is how great the guard was on offense. He had the stamina to keep going, the toughness to take hits from bigs, and the skill to create any shot he wanted. The Answer is one of a kind, and his scoring would have been even greater had he played today. Seeing offensive stars scoring the ball today might keep Iverson awake at night because he would have absolutely dominated defenses if he was born later.


4. James Harden (2018-19) - 35.9 PPG Today

James Harden

2018-19 Season - 36.1 PPG

James Harden averaged 36.1 PPG in 2019, an incredible feat by an all-time great offensive player. Luckily for The Beard, the NBA in 2019 was built for him. Harden drew an insane amount of fouls and was constantly at the line to pad his stats. Opposing players and fans hated it, but Rockets fans absolutely loved it. The Beard was an offensive machine unlike anyone besides a prime Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan at the shooting guard position. He was incredibly dominant, and the Rockets won games because of it.

Harden averaged 11.0 free-throw attempts per game, and he also attempted 13 three-pointers per game. That kind of usage and volume ultimately led the player to win his second of three straight scoring titles. In 2022, Harden would have still put up close to 36 PPG although it would be a minor decrease. The NBA introduced some “new” rule changes at the start of the 2022 season, but clearly, it did not stop NBA stars from scoring the ball at a very high rate. Harden would have still scored at an elite level if he was 29 years old just three years later.


3. Tracy McGrady (2002-03) - 36.6 PPG Today

Tracy McGrady

2002-03 Season - 32.1 PPG

Tracy McGrady was considered the best shooting guard in the world alongside Kobe Bryant in his Orlando Magic days. In fact, only McGrady actually had an argument for being on the same level as Kobe since the Lakers guard was in the league. T-Mac was unstoppable with Orlando, posting 32.1 PPG in 2003 in his third season with the franchise. With his explosiveness and shooting ability, McGrady could get any shot he wanted.

Seeing McGrady rise and shoot over defenders was a thing of beauty, and he was at his explosive best at age 23. He would have averaged 36.6 PPG had he played in today’s league, which meant he would have likely won his first scoring title regardless. T-Mac was a monster attacking the paint, so it is no wonder why he would have put up close to 37 PPG in today's game.


2. Michael Jordan (1986-87) - 37.3 PPG Today

Michael Jordan 1986

1989-90 Season - 37.1 PPG

There would not have been much of a difference if Jordan played today at 23 years old in his third season. The data shows that a young Jordan would have still averaged a little over 37 PPG regardless of era. That was because Jordan was unstoppable then as he would have been today, as his athleticism was truly off the charts. No doubt about it, a young Michael Jordan is the greatest athlete in terms of grace and explosiveness that we have ever seen.

Michael shot the ball well in 1987, at over 48%, and teams were still learning how to find a way to slow down the explosive shooting guard. In today's game, Jordan probably would have found a way to shoot the ball a bit better but his average would not have differed that much. The fact that Michael was able to average 37.1 PPG in an era where tough defense was allowed is a testament to his greatness as an offensive player. But one player edges him had scoring been adjusted in today's game.


1. Kobe Bryant (2005-06) - 39.8 PPG Today

Kobe Bryant 2003

2005-06 Season - 35.4 PPG

That’s right, Kobe Bryant would have averaged almost 40 PPG in today’s game had he been 27 years old right now. The Black Mamba scored his 81 points in a terrific season in 2006, and that number might have been even more had he played today. Could Bryant manage to score 100 points in today's game if he really wanted to? Remember, Kobe was simply unconscious during the game against the Raptors, and if he takes 50 shots today, he gets a lot more points.

With scoring adjusted, Kobe averages 39.8 PPG which is higher than his 35.4 PPG average by quite a margin. Bryant would have drawn more fouls, taken more threes, and benefitted from less aggressive defense. With shooters spreading the floor and giving Bryant space, he would have had the best offensive season ever besides the season by Wilt Chamberlain when the big man averaged 50.4 PPG.

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