Hot Topics: Who will become this season’s top scorer?

Will Stephen Curry or Luka Doncic win the goalscoring title this season?

Each week, NBA.com editors will speak on some of the league’s most important topics.


In Sunday games, eight players are averaging 29.5 (or more) points per game. Who from this group will become the NBA scoring champion this season?


Steve Aschburner: With Election Day still fresh in our minds, I’m going with a little ranked pick voting (this is how the NBA and most leagues determine their annual awards, but not the stat leaders). So I’m going with these as my Top 3:

1. Luka Doncic, Dallas
2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City
3. Steph Curry, Golden State

Doncic has everything in place to clinch his first goalscoring title. He currently leads (33.5 ppg through Monday) the group of them, the Mavericks are built around him like his last name is Nowitzki, his field goal attempts and usage rate are at career highs and frankly, he’s late to lead the league in a traditional category. Also, I assume his 3-point shooting, currently at a personal minimum (28.8%) will regress towards his average, which could add an extra half point to his scoring average the rest of the way.

Gilgeous-Alexander was a meteor across the NBA skies, and I think he’s legit. He’s loving this breakout season he’s having, and aiming for a goalscoring crown is a great way for him to stay focused in what will likely be another long year for (improved but still losing) OKC.

As for Curry, he just scored his sixth 50-point game since turning 30 (11th of his career) and no one can score in clusters like the all-time 3-point king. He already has two of those titles, but by winning one at 35 years, 26 days, Curry would break Michael Jordan’s hold on the top 3 spots as the oldest champion (MJ did it at 35-72, at 34-72 and 33-72 in 1998, ’97 and ’96 respectively). That might appeal to Steph.

Stephen Curry drops 50 points on the Suns.


BRIAN MARTIN: Outside of this field, my top three contenders are Luka Doncic (33.5 ppg), Stephen Curry (32.3 ppg) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31.1 ppg). Of this group, my predicted goalscoring champion is Doncic.

Curry is shooting the spotlight this season: 52.9 percent from the field, 44.7 percent on 3-pointers (on 11.8 attempts), and 90.3 percent on free throws. He could join Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Steve Nash as the only players with multiple 50-40-90 seasons if he maintains that level of efficiency. What hurts Curry is that he has the second-lowest use of this eight-man squad (29.7%) and Golden State needs Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole to get back into the game. playoff table.

Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging a game-high 31.1 points per game (up 6.6 points per game from last season) and is also currently averaging 50-40-90 shooting spreads (although with nearly nine fewer 3-point attempts than Curry). Gilgeous-Alexander has the fifth highest use of this group (31.5%) and averages the second highest number of field goal attempts (21.3), 7.1 more attempts than any teammate from the OKC. However, all of these numbers are lower than Doncic does.

He has a combination of usage rate (37.3%, which ranks third, slightly behind Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant), field goal attempts (league-high 22.8), free throw attempts (11.4, third, slightly behind Giannis and Embiid), and lack of competition for shots (9.1 more per game than any other Maverick) which make him the prime candidate to maintain his current lead and win his first NBA scoring title.

Doncic is not quite at the level of James Harden 2018-19 in terms of use (39.6%), shot attempts (24.5) and shot attempt dominance over teammates (10, 7) when Harden was averaging 36.1 ppg, but the two are similar as the undisputed offensive pivot on their respective teams.

By comparison, Durant doesn’t lead the Nets in shot attempts (Kyrie Irving does); Embiid has the aforementioned Harden and Tyrese Maxey to compete for shots; Giannis plays the fewest minutes of this group and still has the return of Khris Middleton; Jayson Tatum has fellow All-Star Jaylen Brown; while Donovan Mitchell has fellow All-Star Darius Garland in the backcourt and the lowest utilization of any player in that area (29.5%).

Luka Doncic drops a 40-point triple-double to lift the Mavericks over the Trail Blazers.


MEDINA MARK: Mavs coach Jason Kidd has warned that Luka Doncic’s usage rate is so high that “he won’t be human if he makes it through Christmas”. Nonetheless, Dallas seems better at seeing if Doncic can show he’s a machine rather than relying on other options.

Consider the difference between Doncic’s scoring (league-leading 33.5 ppg) and the Mavs’ other double-digit scorers (Spencer Dinwiddie’s 17.1 ppg, Christian Wood’s 16.6 ppg) and 11.5 points per game from Tim Hardaway Jr.). Doncic lifted his teammates enough to rank fourth in the NBA in assists (8.1) in Monday’s games. With Jalen Brunson leaving for New York last summer, Doncic increased his goalscoring load out of necessity. This reality will ensure both Dallas makes the playoffs and Doncic becomes the NBA’s scoring champion.

If team dynamics didn’t apply, Warriors guard Stephen Curry could easily claim his third NBA scoring title. But Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole will knock out some of Curry’s attempts once they land some consistent shots. Warriors coach Steve Kerr will also reduce Curry’s workload, including sitting him out for Monday’s game against New Orleans. Doncic was also rested recently against Houston. But the Mavs don’t have the luxury of managing Doncic this way in the long run..


SHAUN POWELL: Let me first explain who won’t be the scoring champion: neither Giannis Antetokounmpo (the Shaquille O’Neal-style free-throw thrower so far), nor Donovan Mitchell (Darius Garland starts cutting into his attempts), or Jayson Tatum (ditto, Jaylen Brown), or Kevin Durant (Kyrie Irving is back in training—did you hear the news?), or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (has a chance, admittedly), or Joel Embiid (James Harden will need a few shots when he regains his health).

That leaves two-time scoring champion Steph Curry and Luka Doncic. Who will decide this race. And it will come down to this fundamental question: who bears the greatest scoring burden for their team? While Curry is pumped up from depth again (44.7%) for the Warriors, common sense says he’ll get fewer attempts once (and assuming) Klay Thompson gets his groove back. Meanwhile, Doncic is reaching the free-throw line far more, has heavy use, and is central to the Mavericks offense. Also, I suspect Doncic has the Kia MVP award in mind (it’s his turn!) and a goalscoring title will boost his chances (but don’t tell Embiid, who finished first in scores, second in votes of MVP last year).

With Luka Doncic claiming the top spot and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander rising fast, Michael C. Wright breaks down the latest KIa MVP Ladder.


JOHN SCHUHMANN: First, I’ll note that this time last year, eventual champion Joel Embiid (who had only played nine of his team’s 18 games) was averaging just 21.4 points per match, which ranked him 22nd among players who had that many appearances. So maybe this season’s eventual leader is Anthony Edwards, De’Aaron Fox or Trae Young, and not one of those eight guys.

But if I have to choose among the eight, I will favor Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 30.1 ppg even though his shooting (53.6% effective field goal percentage) is down from the last four seasons (59.2%). Khris Middleton will eventually make his debut in the season and reduce the use of Antetokounmpo, but he will also contribute to the effectiveness of Antetokounmpo. (Middleton is the teammate who has helped Antetokounmpo the most, both in terms of total assists and per minute on the ground together, over the past two seasons.) Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have also shot slightly less effectively (on the pitch) they have over the past few seasons, so they should stay at or near the top of the list.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scores a season-high 44 points in a win over the Rockets.

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