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Setting The Pick – Where have the points gone?

Nick Nurse Philadelphia 76ers Nick Nurse - The Canadian Press

Since returning from the All-Star Break, scoring is down association-wide by just under eight points per game.

Over the first 55 games prior to All-Star Weekend, the average team was scoring 115.6 points a night.

In the last month, that number has cratered to 111.7.

The topic has garnered so much attention industry-wide that ESPN’s Zach Lowe brought on Senior VP of Referee Training and Development, Monty McCutchen, and Head of Basketball Operations, Joe Dumars, to his podcast.

In their discussion, McCutchen highlighted some examples where defensive players were being whistled for fouls when the NBA rulebook suggests it’s supposed to be a play-on.

Dumars and McCutchen were adamant to note the NBA isn’t intentionally trying to lower scoring; it’s about a continuous process of improvement to call the game as accurately as possible according to the rulebook.

Regardless of their intention, NBA totals have been down across the board.

Digging deeper into the data, you can see a direct correlation between free-throw attempts and scoring.

Teams are scoring 3.9 less points per game.

The average team is taking 2.9 less attempts at the line.

Given this shift in officiating, there are a few teams who seem to be more affected than others.

Here are some players and teams worth monitoring.

Philadelphia 76ers

Pre-ASW: 118.3 ppg

Post-ASW: 101.4 ppg

The Sixers are scoring 17 less points per game since the All-Star festivities, by and far the biggest drop-off of all 30 teams.

The obvious elephant in the room is the loss of reigning MVP, Joel Embiid.

Philadelphia has no replacement for him nor would any other team.

Embiid’s absence is one thing, but this revision in refereeing seems to be having a material impact.

He was injured on Jan 30th against Golden State, but Philly still played eight games prior to the break.

They averaged 115.1 points per game over that span.

Since returning to action, they played two back-to-back away games in Madison Square Garden where they scored 79 points in both.

Even if you remove those from the equation, the Sixers are still scoring just 104.8 points per game post-break.

For bettors, this spells opportunity as oddsmakers aren’t adjusting to their poor play.

Over their 15 post-ASW games, the under has hit 12 times (80 per cent success rate).

Tyrese Maxey has been tasked with shouldering the scoring burden in Embiid’s absence but has been somewhat disappointing.

His scoring remains essentially identical with or without Embiid on the court.

It’s the others like Tobias Harris, Nicolas Batum and Buddy Hield who’ve been unable to pick up the slack.

All five starters are shooting less efficiently with Embiid on the bench.

Less foul shots and less efficiency spells disaster for a team once considered a title contender.

The play: Under Philadelphia team totals, under Harris points

New York Knicks

Pre-ASW: 114.5

Post-ASW: 101.6

The Knicks have played 14 games out of the break and they’ve registered just a single game above their pre-ASW scoring average (119 vs. GSW).

A theme out East, New York has been battling injuries with Julius Randle and OG Anunoby missing games since the end of January.

Like Embiid, these two went down with nine games to go prior to the break.

In those games, the Knicks averaged 110.0 points.

When it comes to New York, their drop in scoring is more than a drop in free-throw attempts.

They attempt 5.2 less a game but that can almost entirely be attributed to Randle, who sits at 6.6 FTA on the year.

What’s interesting about the Knicks is how their offence has grinded to a halt after all their trades.

Their pre-ASW pace – which was already 2nd slowest – dropped from 97.2 to 92.2.

The departure of Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett has resulted in less transition offence.

Even though their defence greatly benefits from Anunoby’s presence, they own the third-best defensive-rating since the break without him.

As a result, their unders have hit in 11-of-14 games.

Missing four of their top five scorers post-ASW, New York is playing at a snail’s pace and still winning games.

The play: Under New York game totals

Toronto Raptors

Pre-ASW: 113.9

Post-ASW: 111.1

On the list of NBA teams, Toronto hasn’t experienced anywhere near the same freefall as the two aforementioned squads.

However, I do want to point out with four of their five starting players currently inactive, now is the time to pounce on their unders.

Toronto’s free-throw volume is down 3.4 attempts a game.

Barrett, Quickley and Scottie Barnes are their top-three foul shooters and leave a major scoring void on the roster.

It’s no coincidence that their current eight-game losing streak began once Jakob Poeltl and Barnes were out of the lineup.

But now that Barrett and Quickley look to be missing extended time, there’s no saving this offence.

The Raptors have averaged 98 points per game over their last four and I expect that trendline to continue.

If you take away Quickley’s FTAs, Toronto has averaged 11.7 free-throws during this stretch.

The team has little incentive to fight for wins and doesn’t have the personnel to make up for the lost scoring.

They’ve missed their team total in four straight games and I’d count on that repeating against the Thunder.

The play: Raptors under team total versus OKC