Why is NBA Scoring Up?

Offenses have been insane in the NBA bubble. Before the start of play, the consensus was that things would be exactly the opposite, that the prolonged layoff would mean players were out of rhythm, etc. So what’s going on? I like the pontificating from economist Tyler Cowen here. 538 put up a more nuanced analysis today, which is pretty solid and considers a variety of factors.

One idea that isn’t getting much play (and I’m not sure it should be!): what impact does sound/hearing have on offense? 538 hints at this, saying refs could hear fouls more clearly on quieter courts, leading to more free throws. Players can likely hear their teammates better too. I guess I’m more interested in the mental relationship to sound (or a lack thereof), like those of us who listen to music or white noise while we work. Could the shift in what players are hearing be having an impact? Maybe not as far-fetched as it sounds, given how noise can affect us (think the many uses of muzak in retail and restaurant settings). My analysis here is hamstrung because I can’t find a good confirmation of what exactly the players can hear: I’ve read reports that the crowd noise is only on the broadcast, while others claim it is being heard in the arena. I’m embarrassed that I can’t find out for sure and will update when I do. That said, the one thing I am confident of is that the whatever it is the players are hearing is different than the norm and that shouldn’t be ignored for its possible impact.

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