« Micheal Jordan would have led the league in scoring… [possibly] averaged 40 » – Jeff Van Gundy says MJ would have bossed the NBA with today’s rules

Micheal Jordan

Michael Jordan played in an era where the rules of the game gave plenty of leeway to the defensive player. Despite the way the game was played back then, “His Airness” still dominated.


Given the style of play in today’s NBA and the way the game is officiated, it’s always intriguing to think how MJ would have done. Some doubt Jordan’s ability to adjust, particularly with 3-point shooting, as he was a terrible 3-point shooter.

Jeff Van Gundy, who coached against Michael Jordan in the ’90s, had this to say about how the six-time champ would have fared today:

“If you would give the ball to Jordan in his prime with these rules, with all the shooting, and think that he wasn’t going to shoot over 50%? He shot over 50% with limited 3-point shooting, limited space in the triangle offense and the hand check or decapitation defense.

« It was hand checks and at the highest form of physicality, the Pistons or the Knicks trying to take your head off. So there’s no question he would have led the league in scoring.”

Van Gundy added:

“No question he would’ve shot over 50%, lived at the free-throw line and I think he absolutely would have been an outstanding 3-point shooter because of practice, work and it just being a more emphasized point of view.

« He would have averaged 40 [points]. »

Before he retired for the second time, Michael Jordan averaged 31.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.5 steals per game. He shot 50.5% from the field and had a 51.8 eFG% in 930 games.

During that span, he won the scoring title 10x, winning six NBA championships and the Finals MVP in each of those titles. Despite the physicality being arguably at its peak during those years, there was simply no one that was nearly as dominant in scoring.

Because of the rules of the game, Jordan averaged only 8.7 free throws during that stretch. Unquestionably, the defensive player in today’s NBA has been handcuffed, allowing the offense to dictate nearly every possession on the floor.

When James Harden played for the Houston Rockets, with today’s current rules, he averaged 10.4 free-throw attempts from 2012-13 to 2019-20. It significantly helped him to three straight scoring titles, including a 36.1 PPG average during the 2018-19 season.

Michael Jordan, despite the rules aimed at stopping the scorer, had a career-high 37.1 PPG during the 1986-87 season.

Jeff Van Gundy believes Michael Jordan would average 40 points per game in today’s NBA

James Harden and the late Kobe Bryant own the top three scoring averages by a player since the 2000-01 season. “The Beard” had 36.1 PPG in 2018-19 and 34.3 PPG in 2019-20. Bryant averaged 35.4 PPG in 2005-06.

According to Jeff Van Gundy, Michael Jordan would have put a stranglehold on the NBA’s scoring title:

“Now, like that being said, would he average 50? [Jordan’s] not averaging 50 but would have averaged 40.”

A big part of today’s scoring splurge is the ability to hit 3-point shots. Jordan’s maniacal work ethic and unrelenting desire to be better would have made him at least decent from beyond the arc.

It’s not impossible for perhaps the game’s deadliest and most devastating mid-range scorer to extend his range and maximize his impact.

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