Whether we talk about Donovan Mitchell’s 71-point night, Luka Doncic’s 60-point triple-double, or Damian Lillard tying Mitchell for the season leader with 71 in a game, this year has been highlighted by individual scoring performances.
But, what is the reason for so many this year?
Returning from the All-star Break, there have already been 21 different 50-point games, which is the most since 2019, where there were 23 the whole year.
Since 2019, both 2 point and three-point shot attempts are practically the same league-wide, and free throw attempts, points per game and offensive efficiency are both up just 2.3%.
The only difference this year from years past is the usage percentage of these scorers.
Of the 12 players to drop over 50 this year, (Klay – 26.8, Tatum – 32.9, Siakam – 27.9, Mitchell – 31.4, Lillard – 33.1, Garland – 27, Embiid – 37.2, Doncic – 38.3, Davis – 28.8, Curry – 30.8, Booker – 31.9, Giannis – 39), 8 of them have a usage percentage of over 30%, as the lowest of the group is Klay Thompson with 26.8 %.
That average usage percentage of the 50-point scorers deflates over the years, which if we inflated the players who just missed 50 these past seasons, here is how many players would have passed half of 100.
So, with the NBA already on pace to have 26 50-point games this year, which would be the most since 1965, and the usage rate of the team’s top players continuously increasing since 2018-2019, we could be in store for the bar of a 50-point night becoming as common as a 40-point night.
But, what could this mean in context for the leaderboard of 50-point scorers?
First off, it’s safe to say it will be a while, if not ever, until we see someone come close to Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 118 50-point games, but Michael Jordan in second place with 31 may move down the order soon.
While on the active list, players like LeBron, Lillard, Curry, and KD may be too late in their careers to put together 10-15 more 50-point performances, but younger players further down the line like Giannis, Booker, Tatum, and Doncic have a different argument.
If we took these players at their current 50-point game rate and used the future years of usage percentage inflation of star players, here is how many 50-point games they would finish with if they played the same number of career games as MJ.
While at this current rate, Jordan would still be solidified at number 2, the beginning years of any major trend in sports are tough to predict, as there could be an even faster pace than expected of high usage rate scorers continuing to set new per-game records.