Top 5 Scorers: Different Methods, Great Results

03/30/2018 at 07:03pm

By Brian Martin

A look at the league’s top five scorers this season shows five players that dominate the game in different ways, proving that there is no prototypical scorer in today’s game.

From shot distribution to executing specific play types, these five players use a wide variety of paths to achieve offensive greatness.

Today we’ll examine the top five scorers in the league and break down how, where and when they amass their points and how they have set themselves apart from the rest of the league.

All statistics through games played on March 28


1. James Harden: 30.7 Points Per Game

  • After finishing as the runner up for the scoring title and the Most Valuable Player award a year ago, James Harden is the favorite to claim both this season as he is putting the finishing touches on an amazing ninth season in the NBA.
  • Harden leads the NBA in isolation scoring, with over a third of his points coming on isos (11.8 per game). The next closest player, LeBron James, scores 5.5 fewer points per game on isos than Harden.


2. Anthony Davis: 28.3 Points Per Game

  • Davis is one of the NBA’s unicorns - a 6-10 forward with guard-like skills; a player that can hurt you all over the court - big enough to dominate in the paint, skilled enough to score from the perimeter, and athletic enough to get anywhere in between depending on his defensive matchup.

  • A look at Davis’ scoring breakdown by play type illustrates his all-around game beautifully. While other players dominate one facet of the game (see Harden in isolation, Lillard on pick and rolls), Davis has a near even split between his scoring types. While he does not lead a single category, he ranks in the top 10 in four different play types - 2nd on cuts (4.5 ppg), 5th on post ups (4.6), 8th on pick and roll roller (4.3) and 8th on putbacks (2.9). He even ranks 2nd in the miscellaneous category for plays that can’t be fit into a specific category.


3. LeBron James: 27.6 Points Per Game

  • What LeBron James is doing in his 15th season is unlike anything we’ve seen before in the NBA. LeBron has been a model of consistent dominance since the day he stepped foot on an NBA court. And while Father Time may ultimately be undefeated, no player has held him off as long as LeBron.
  • LeBron is averaging 27.6 points per game in his 15th season, which is the highest average that he’s posted since 2009-10 when he averaged 29.7 points in his final season of his first stint in Cleveland. This will be the ninth year that LeBron has averaged at least 27 points and the first time since his final season in Miami in 2009-10.
  • Two key stats illustrate LeBron’s consistency and longevity. First, he is the only player in NBA history to average at least 25 points for 14 consecutive seasons. While he may not have the scoring peaks that some of the game’s greats had (Wilt’s 50.4 points per game in 1961-62, Jordan’s 37.1 in 1986-87), no one has shown this level of consistency. Second, with 10 points in Friday’s game against New Orleans, he will break Jordan’s record for most consecutive games scoring in double figures (tied at 866 prior to Friday’s game).


4. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 27.2 Points Per Game

  • Giannis is the youngest (23 years old) and least experienced (in his 5th season) of the league’s top five scorers. While the rest of the players on this list came into this season with multiple 20 point per game seasons under their belts, Giannis has just one as he’s made huge leaps year over year. After averaging just 6.8 points per game as a rookie, he nearly doubled it to 12.7 in year 2, then jumped to 16.9 in year 3, went up by 6 points to 22.9 in year 4 and is now in the upper echelon of scores at 27.2 points per game.
  • His field goal percentage has steadily risen as well as he is currently shooting a career-best 53.7% from the field, his 3rd straight season over 50 percent. A key to his high field goal percentage comes with his shot distribution. Giannis averages the fewest 3-pointers per game of any player in the top 11 in scoring and the second-fewest among the league’s top 24 scorers. Only four players in the top 40 average fewer than one 3-pointer made per game (Giannis, Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge and TJ Warren).

  • Giannis is similar to Davis in showing balance among play types with the exception of transition, where he leads the league with 6.9 points per game on transition plays. With his 6-11 frame, 7-4 wingspan and incredible athleticism, Giannis is a dangerous man in the open court. How many players other than the Greek Freak can take just one dribble to go from half court to the rim and not travel?


5. Damian Lillard: 26.8 Points Per Game

  • This is the third consecutive year that Lillard has averaged over 25.0 points per game, with this season eerily similar to last season in terms of scoring average (26.8 in 2017-18 to 27.0 in 2016-17), overall shooting percentage (44.4% to 44.1%) and 3-point percentage (37.0% to 36.7%).

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