Ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff shares their opinions on which player will lead the league in scoring.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I’m going with Bradley Beal.
Beal has already come close a couple of times in his career. In 2019-20, he averaged 30.5 points per game, putting him behind only James Harden (34.3) for most in the league. In 2020-21, he trailed only Stephen Curry (32.0) with a career-best 31.3 points per game.
Once again, Beal faces some stiff competition in 2021-22, but a full season together could take three of the league’s most prolific scorers in Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving out of the mix, while Klay Thompson’s return to the lineup could lower Curry’s scoring enough for him to not go back-to-back. That leaves Damian Lillard, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Zach LaVine and Zion Williamson as perhaps the biggest threats to catch Beal in the scoring column.
Could one of them do it? Absolutely. But helping Beal’s case is that he should get the exact same opportunities that he did last season, if not even more with Russell Westbrook, whose 19.0 field goal attempts per game ranked 13th in the league, no longer on the team.
This feels like Beal’s year.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): My pick for the 2021-22 scoring champion is Luka Doncic.
In the last two seasons, as a 20-year-old (2019-20) and 21-year-old (2020-21), the Slovenian averaged 28.8 and 27.7 points, respectively, which isn’t too far off that year’s scoring champion. And with Dallas’ relatively quiet offseason, Doncic is going to be front and center of everything the Mavericks do this season.
Given the more relaxed nature of the 2021-22 season, with more days off and breaks between games as compared to the curtailed 2020-21 season, hopefully Doncic can stay healthy and maintain a consistent level of elite play all year.
Regarding threats, I believe the soaring numbers of players like Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard over the past couple of seasons have been a product of their circumstances wherein their teams were battling a host of injuries and as the franchise superstar, they had to carry them ahead.
The only legitimate threat I see to Doncic is the reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he could possibly take the regular season lightly in order to conserve his body and mind for the real fight – the playoffs where he will lead the Bucks to defend their NBA crown.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): The fun part about this is there are several legitimate candidates to take the crown, but I’m gonna roll with Damian Lillard.
Over the last two seasons, Lillard averaged 29.4 points per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the field, 39.6 percent from deep (on 10.4 attempts per game!) and 90.7 percent from the free throw line. Entering his age 31 season, much is being made of the Portland Trail Blazers offseason moves, or lack thereof, which I think opens the door for a special year from Lillard.
Yes, Dame shares the floor with a few high-volume guards in CJ McCollum and Norman Powell, but just as each of them will get their fair share of shots up, they also will take away some of the defence’s attention, in turn making things a bit easier for Lillard.
The Western Conference is no joke, and in order for Portland to remain among the top six teams, Lillard is going to have to go supernova. I think this is the year that he does that, scoring north of 30 points per game to claim the scoring crown.
Kane Pitman (@KanePitman): Stephen Curry is going back-to-back.
Averaging 32.0 points per game in 2020-21, Curry picked up his second scoring title after claiming the honour in 2015-16 when he put up 30.1 points per game.
The Warriors are expected to rise in 2022, with Klay Thompson’s imminent return, but nobody is actually certain how he will look when he takes the floor. I suspect early in the season we will be treated to the Curry show once again and it should carry through the season where he may just figure in the MVP conversation if the team meets its expectations.
Curry averaged a career-high 21.7 shots per game last season, with 12.7 of those coming beyond the arc where he buried 42.1 percent of his tries. That average spiked to 14.8 across his 23 appearances in April and May. I really don’t see this trending in the other direction, meaning we could see Steph letting it fly like never before.
I’m not so bullish on the idea that the Warriors are actually going to be a threat to reach the NBA Finals, but I do think we are going to have a whole lot of fun watching Curry score.
Who will lead the NBA in scoring in 2021-22?
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