This article is part of our Numbers Game series.
As the season closes, it is time to review some trends from the year. This week, we will focus on offensive observations.
As many have noted, the NBA is in the midst of a scoring bonanza. But there is more to see here than simply stating, "the scores are increasing." First, these scores are increasing at a pace unprecedented in recent NBA history. Entering this weekend, with 52 games (104 team-games) remaining in the regular season, 2016-17 has almost clinched the most points in the post-strike era (2011-12). For context, the biggest year-to-year change in that time was roughly 8,000 points – the increase this season is on pace to pass that.
Those totals are based on the production of an entire team, but they make a giant impact on the fantasy landscape. The top scorers make up an almost fixed portion of the league's total scoring, so as total points increase, so too will fantasy points. In each of the last four years, the top-25 scorers accounted for 15 to 16 percent of the league's total points, and the top-50 scorers accounted for 26 to 28 percent. Over the span of this inquiry, every single top-50 per-game scorer has been a player owned in almost all fantasy leagues for basically the entire season – that is to say, when these players were healthy, they were almost certainly in fantasy lineups.
Let's take a moment to walk through the impact this shift is having on fantasy teams.