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B/R NBA Digest: Scouring NBA Trade Gossip for Truth – Bleacher Report

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We’ve already witnessed 42 games of 40 or more points from NBA players this season. The league is on pace for 124, which would be the third-most in a season. Only 2018-19 and 1961-62 (a year in which Wilt Chamberlain had 63 by himself) featured more.

So, it may come as little surprise that this edition of “Lines of the Week” will feature a handful of 40-point outings. There were seven this week alone.

   

James Harden, Dec. 13: 36 minutes, 54 points (19-of-31 from the field, 10-of-15 from three, 6-of-6 from the line), seven assists, five rebounds, three blocks, two steals, 46.2 game score.

Two days after he dropped 55 points with only five free-throw attempts, Harden opened this week with a 54-point, six-free-throw performance. Maybe he doesn’t need the charity stripe as much as some think.

What’s really wild here is that it’s Harden’s fourth game of the season with a 40-plus game score (tracked since 1983-84). He had 10 such performances in 2018-19, which is tied with 1988-89 Michael Jordan for the most in a single season. He’s also on pace for 12 in 2019-20.

     

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dec. 16: 34 minutes, 48 points (18-of-31 from the field, 1-of-6 from three, 11-of-16 from the line), 14 rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block, 37.6 game score

What may be most impressive about Giannis’ numbers this season is how little time he needs to get them.

This season, his average game score per 36 minutes is 29.7, which would be an all-time high. And oh, the 2019-20 versions of Harden and Luka Doncic are currently on track to round out the top three on that all-time list.

      

Nikola Jokic, Dec. 14: 35 minutes, 28 points (11-of-14 from the field, 3-of-6 from three, 3-of-4 from the line), 14 rebounds, 12 assists, one steal, 32.4 game score

As noted above, Jokic appears to be back. And with his 32nd career triple-double, he now trails Fat Lever by 11 for the franchise lead in that category.

Those two are head and shoulders above the field. The rest of the list has combined for 29 total triple-doubles.

      

The 40-Point Club

In addition to the Harden and Giannis lines detailed above, Paul George, Jaren Jackson Jr., Trae Young, Luka Doncic and Kawhi Leonard all broke 40 this week. There were three more 39-point games.

Many people point to pace as a possible reason for the uptick in individual stats, but that’s really not it. The current average pace of 100.7 possessions per 48 minutes is still lower than it was in the ’80s.

The real culprit may just be a philosophical shift in how stars are deployed. The top 20 of the all-time leaderboard for single-season usage percentages is packed with recent seasons. There are three 2019-20 campaigns in the top nine.

Superstars now control loads more possessions than they did in the past, even on teams that move the ball pretty well like the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks.

Perhaps there will one day be some regression on this front, but you can’t blame certain teams for leaning into it. As long as they score at rates comparable to the Mavericks, Bucks and Houston Rockets, there’s little reason to deviate.

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