Kevin Durant’s historic scoring season just bested Jordan!


As the season winds down, there is a lot of focus on the scoring race between Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. Don’t be fooled! Durant has already won this race handily. What’s more, Durant is scoring at a historic level.

One of the greatest seasons ever

Like all NBA fans, I acknowledge that points, particularly a lot of them, are important. However, unlike many fans, I also include shot attempts in my calculations. When we do this, we get what I call “Net Points”. Here’s the formula (astute stat fans will recognize it as a variant of True Shooting Percentage):

[Net Points] = Points - [Field Goal Attempts] - 0.44 * [Free Throw Attempts]

Using this metric, Durant’s net points for the season are at 492.8, to put this in perspective, this is the the 5th best season of all time! Here’s the top ten list:

  1. Adrian Dantley (1983-84) – 563.8
  2. Charles Barkley (1987-88) – 562.6
  3. Karl Malone (1989-90) – 511.3
  4. Adrian Dantley (1981-82) – 511.1
  5. Kevin Durant (2012-13) – 492.8
  6. Michael Jordan (1987-88) – 491.6
  7. Michael Jordan (1988-89) – 489.1
  8. Charles Barkley (1989-90) – 484.6
  9. Michael Jordan (1989-90) – 480.9
  10. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1971-72) – 480.0

Tonight Durant jumped Jordan (twice!) on list of greatest scoring seasons! While Dantley and Barkley’s amazing seasons are out of reach, with four games left, it’s not unreasonable for Durant to make it to the third best scoring season of all time!

Multiple Scoring Titles

As the NBA uses per-game scoring as their metric for this, let’s also put Durant’s per-game scoring in perspective. Again, here’s our top ten list, but by per-game

  1. Adrian Dantley (1983-84) – 7.1
  2. Charles Barkley (1987-88) – 7.0
  3. Adrian Dantley (1981-82)- 6.3
  4. Kevin Durant (2012-13)- 6.3
  5. Karl Malone (1989-90) – 6.2
  6. Kevin McHale (1986-87) – 6.2
  7. Charles Barkley (1989-90) – 6.1
  8. Adrian Dantley (1985-86) – 6.1
  9. Michael Jordan (1987-88) – 6.0
  10. Michael Jordan (1988-89) – 6.0
  11. Adrian Dantley (1980-81) – 6.0
  12. Charles Barkley (1988-89) – 6.0
  13. Amare Stoudemire (2007-08) – 6.0

There’s still room for Durant to move down or up a bit. That said, his stats for this year’s scoring title also put him in all-time range [side note: remember when Amaré used to be good?]. Durant is a lock for this year’s Net Points scoring title and it will actually mark the third time he’s earned this award. This puts him in unique company as well.

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar  – 5
  2. Karl Malone – 5
  3. Adrian Dantley  – 5
  4. Oscar Robertson  – 5
  5. Shaquille O’Neal – 5
  6. Kevin Durant – 3
  7. Amare Stoudemire – 3
  8. Jerry West – 3
  9. Michael Jordan – 2
  10. Charles Barkley – 2
  11. Bob McAdoo – 2
  12. Neil Johnston – 2
  13. Ed Macauley – 2
  14. Kenny Sears – 2
  15. Alex Groza  – 2

Including this year, Durant has earned the scoring title honor three times now. It could take a few seasons but he could easily match or surpass the five players in front of him.

A note on history

I feel compelled to note a few things. First, Michael Jordan “only” earned the scoring title two seasons. The key reason was his competition at the time. Notice that Jordan had the 5th best scoring season ever in 1988, and he came in second to Charles Barkley. He also played in the same era as Karl Malone, who holds many scoring titles as well. Career wise, Jordan is the 7th best scorer of all time. He just happened to play in an era with other great scorers.

The second thing to note is that Durant plays in the three point era. Prior to 1978, the NBA did not have the three point line. Durant has benefited greatly from this. In fact, it makes Oscar Robertson that much more impressive in hindsight.

A last note is that Durant is nowhere close to an all-time scorer yet. Of course, he hasn’t even cracked 500 games. He’s just entering his prime and is already scoring at historic levels. If he keeps this up for a a few more seasons, he could very well end his career as the greatest scorer of all time.


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