NBA games are being played in an unprecedented offensive environment.
Which has led to a vocal segment of people complaining about a lack of defense and prevalence of 3-pointers. You might be one of them. Hardcore NBA fans – the type more likely to read this site – tend to have stronger opinions about reeling in playing style.
But that group is the minority.
NBA Senior Vice President of Basketball Strategy & Analytics Evan Wasch on “Thinking Basketball” podcast:
If you ask our fans – and we do, not surprisingly, extensive fan surveying. And we’ve even done dial testing, right, where fans are literally sitting watching games with kind of a dial like you might see during political debate and turning it up or down based on whether they enjoy what they’re seeing. The overwhelming response in all of that research is that fans like the high scoring.
Now, that doesn’t mean that that’s universal. There are certainly those on the other side of that. But the ratio is very high. And it also doesn’t mean that there’s not some theoretical future state where it’s going to cross a threshold where that is no longer the case, right?
But at least kind of where we are now, however you ask the question – Do you like the number of 3s? Do you like the high scoring? Do you think the game is in a better place now than it was five years ago? – all of those come back with these overwhelmingly positive ratios.
This is important perspective for understanding how the league operates. There are so many casual fans who don’t get into online debates about changing rules to curb scoring. Those fans just sit back, kick up their feet and watch the points fly.
There might be limitations on the usefulness of dial testing. While watching a single game, scoring is obviously thrilling. But over the long run, if scoring seems too easy, the effect is diluted.
But it doesn’t sound as if dial testing is the only measure the league is using.
I highly recommend listening to this entire podcast. Host Ben Taylor covers many topics, and Wasch’s responses are reassuring. Agree or disagree with him, Wasch shows the NBA is thoughtfully analyzing these issues.