The Whiteboard: Breaking down the race for the NBA scoring crown

We’ve seen an unusually high number of 30-point-per-game scorers this season. Who is in the lead for the NBA scoring crown?

As of today, there are six players averaging 30 or more points per game and another, Kevin Durant, at 29.9. On the same date last season, exactly zero players were averaging 30 or more. Over the past three seasons, seven players total have finished the season averaging 30 or more.

Things may mellow out as the season goes along but suffice it to say, we’re experiencing something of a revival for high-volume scoring. With so many 30-point scorers at this point in the season, the scoring crown seems wide open. Here’s how I see the field at this point, including their betting odds.

Who is leading the race for the NBA scoring crown?

Luka Doncic — 33.4 points per game — +550 odds

If you made this bet before the season, you have to be feeling pretty darn good right now. Doncic has a 1.5-point-per-game lead on the field and endurance seems to be the only thing standing between him and the scoring title. There is no one else on the Mavericks who is likely to cut into his scoring load and the Mavericks don’t seem likely to make a trade that affects things either. This really looks like his year.

Giannis Antetokounmpo — 31.9 points per game — +275

Giannis has been phenomenal and if he keeps up this pace he’d finish two points per game higher than his previous career high. What’s incredible is that he’s doing this with shooting percentages a far bit off his career highs. Even some progression to the mean in his free throw shooting could close the gap with Doncic. However, the return of Khris Middleton could also lighten his load and push things in the other direction.

Joel Embiid — 31.9 points per game — +200

Embiid won the scoring title last year and is ahead of that pace, looking to average 30+ points per game for the second year in a row. He was the preseason favorite but seems like he might be the most likely player in this group to fade a bit. Injuries are always a concern and having James Harden back in the lineup could put a dent in his opportunities.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — 31.4 points per game — odds unlisted

Gilgeous-Alexander came out of nowhere, with odds that weren’t even included on Odds Sharks preseason board. He’s scored 30 or more points in 17 of his 22 games this season and his shot-making has been off the charts. This has the makings of a special season for Gilgeous-Alexander and there’s no reason to think he’s going to slow down, even though it may take some serious work to catch Doncic.

Jayson Tatum — 30.8 points per game — +1200

Tatum’s scoring explosion has been a big part of the Celtics’ historic offense this season. He’s never been better on long mid-range shots and he’s taken more 3-pointers than ever before. He’s also clearly benefited from the growth of Jaylen Brown and the addition of complementary pieces like Malcolm Brogdon. I don’t know that he has it in him to catch Doncic but just breaking 30 points per game for the entire season would be a huge accomplishment.

Steph Curry — 30.0 points per game — +2800

The thought was that Curry might be prepared to take a bit of a step back this season with the younger Warriors more ready to help on offense. That hasn’t happened at all and he’s on pace to average 30+ points per game for the third time in his career. However, the impetus for Curry to push for a scoring crown just isn’t there and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him fade back a bit as the season goes along.

Kevin Durant — 29.9 points per game — +650

Durant is threatening to average 30+ for the third time in his career and the first time since 2013-14. He also finished at an identical 29.9 points per game last season. Durant seems like someone who could increase his scoring a bit as the Nets push for the playoffs but, like others on the list, may not have enough to catch Luka Doncic.

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Trae Young says things are fine with the Hawks, is he right?

Trae Young says that he and Nate McMillan have resolved the disagreement that resulted in him not attending last Friday’s game. But rumors say things are still rocky. Here’s what you need to know:

  • How did it start? The Athletic reported that McMillan and Young disagreed about a shootaround last Friday — Young wanted to receive treatment on his shoulder, McMillan wanted Trae to participate and get treated later. The end result was Young choosing to miss the game entirely.
  • Trae says it’s over: On Monday, Young told reporters (per ESPN): “I mean, it was just a situation. I mean, we’re all grown men here and there’s some times we don’t always agree. And it’s unfortunate that private situations and private conversations got out to the public. But I guess that’s the world we live in now.”
  • But he might be wearing on his teammates: On an episode of The Ringer NBA Show, The Athletic’s Sam Amick (who made the initial report) said: “I think the answer’s pretty clear that the players — if they were picking sides on this — to be honest with you, they’d be on Nate’s side.”

Andrew Nembhard likes the spotlight

The Pacers’ rookie filled in for Ty Haliburton and helped lead the Indiana Pacers to a huge win over the Golden State Warriors. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Getting the better of Steph: Nembhard went off for 31 points, 13 assists and 8 rebounds on 13-of-21 from the field. This included a step-back 3-pointer over a stumbling Curry to help ice the game.
  • Remember what he did to the Lakers? This was just a week after Nembhard finished with 12 points and 4 rebounds in the Pacers’ monumental fourth-quarter comeback over the Lakers. In that game, he nailed a game-winning clutch 3-pointer, over LeBron.
  • Finding his groove: Nembhard has been a part of the Pacers’ rotation pretty much since the beginning of the season, averaging 9.1 points, 4.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game, shooting 42.9 percent from the field.
  • Praise from Rick Carlisle: After the game, Carlisle said, “I’ve been saying that down the line when Hoops Hype does their re-draft of the 2022 draft. I’m elevating that to top 10. He really is a special player.”

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