The dramatic change in the efficiency of NBA offences

Imman Adan and Oren Weisfeld analyze why offences are much better than they were 5 years ago and how the NBA is enabling it. The full episode on modern offences can be found on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.

Video Transcript

IMMAN ADAN: And so you wrote a piece for "The Guardian." Now, I want to talk a little bit about it. You talked about NBA offenses and how much they've changed just even recently, right? You mentioned in that piece-- I'll let you speak to it. But you mentioned that-- you said that the Warriors offense with KD and Stephen Curry, which was, you know, the greatest offense of all time, would be like-- what? What did you say? Top 10, was it?

OREN WEISFIELD: It was 10th. And actually, at the time I wrote it, the Raptors were 10th. So the Raptors had the same offense as the KD, Steph Warriors.

IMMAN ADAN: I mean, I see no difference.


I see no difference between those two teams.


IMMAN ADAN: So what-- you talk about it in your piece, but I'd like to get you to speak on it here as well. What do you think you would equate that to? The fact that, I mean, you have two of the greatest offensive players, you know, period in basketball in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. And now you have a team that struggles [LAUGHS] and yet, still, we're talking about a similar or the same offensive rating at that point. What do you think has changed in the league to make this shift?

OREN WEISFIELD: Yeah, I think it's a lot of things. I think teams are just getting smarter, and this is a lot of, like, analytical stuff, you know, analytical people going into front offices, changing the shot profile. So teams are shooting way more 3's, way more stuff at the rim.

I think players are way more skilled than they used to be, especially bench players. Like, you used to ask bench players in a lot of cases to do one thing, like specialists existed in the NBA. I don't think they really do anymore.

Like, if you can only shoot 3's and you can't play defense, you don't even really have a spot in the league anymore. So bench players are asked to shoot 3's, put the ball on the floor, make plays, play defense. So the skill has just increased a ton. The shot profile has gotten a lot more efficient.

And then-- and then when I got into the piece, it was like with that increase in skill and everything, the NBA has failed to kind of adjust and benefit defenses in the sense of at the same time that the skill increases are happening, fouls are rising more than ever because if you touch someone on the perimeter, it's a foul now. There's really no contact allowed in the perimeter.

And so there's basically, like, this weird thing that's happening where defenses are in an impossible situation. They can't stop these skilled guys from getting to the rim. And therefore, either you foul them and send them to the free throw line. Free throws are up, like, highest since, like, 2000. Or you just let them score, and that's what we're seeing in the NBA. And that's what we're seeing from the Raptors too.

And I know we'll get into it, but the Raptors' defense is predicated on aggression. It's predicated on physicality. I think that's why they brought a bunch of 6' 9" guys into the field. They absolutely have this belief that you foul all game, those fouls are going to stop being called towards the end kind of thing.

They've spoken about it. Other teams have spoken about it for the Raptors. And that's just not the reality, and I think we'll get into this again with the Fred VanVleet conference. I think the Raptors are really frustrated with the way they've been officiated this season dating back to the Philadelphia series last season. They have this aggressive defense, but they're not being allowed to play it to the style they want to because the NBA is encouraging offensive flow and not defensive aggression.

IMMAN ADAN: Yeah, no, and I think that's incredibly well said, and you did put in your piece that, you know, Boston who leads the league in defense right now would be what the worst defensive rating to have ever led the league. And I was looking at the numbers this morning, and the teams that are top seven in defensive rating in the NBA are-- five of those are also in the top seven in personal fouls called.

Just the numbers sort of bear that out that the teams that are still the best defenses play that aggressive style, and so they are going to get called for a lot of fouls, which is why you're going to see not so high of a defensive rating, but also it is interesting that the numbers bear it out, and it's pretty clean and clear to see that your best defenses are also the teams that foul the most and the Washington Wizards for whatever reason. [LAUGHS]

But-- so no, I think what you talked about, and you touched on it already, and the reason why I wanted to bring this up is because a lot of focus this season has been on what this Raptors team looks like, what the build is. In the off season there will be three players that will be unrestricted free agents. And so right now, and I wrote about this as well, I think what the front office is looking like-- what the front office should be looking at is, is this a team that you believe in? Is this a team that you can build? Is this a structure that makes sense together?

And a year ago, I wrote a piece thinking, yeah. [LAUGHS] And that's kind of changed a little bit because, for one, we realize that you need a center. And two, I think we're going to talk about it in a little bit. You need a point guard.

But you can't just have a bunch of guys that are 6' 9". But also, in a league where offense is the star. Offense is the show, right? The NBA makes rules. They made rules like the handshaking rule where-- they apparently made the [? Riptor ?] rule, but they're still calling that the opposite way. So defenses continue to get dinged, whereas offenses continue to sort of thrive in this new NBA.