In the NBA, getting buckets is the name of the game. We all look to see who is leading the NBA in points per game, though that doesn’t make you a lock to win the NBA. Increasingly, people realize there is more to the game than scoring. And yet, we watch the games to see players score, and dudes who get buckets tend to be really good players. Here are the players with the highest single-season PPG average for all 30 NBA teams. It must be noted that, in order to qualify, a player had to play in at least half of his team’s games.
Since we are talking franchise records, teams that have moved around can be represented by players from bygone eras. Nobody says bygone NBA records quite like Pettit, who played his entire career with the Hawks but retired in 1965. He was one of the best players in the early days of the league, though, and scored 31.1 points per game in the 1961-62 season.
Carter is one of two players on this list to represent two teams. The other one will be less surprising than Vinsanity. While Kevin Durant could end up with this record if he returns to full health, the current Nets record was set back in New Jersey when Carter spent the 2004-05 season averaging 27.5 points.
No Celtics player has ever averaged 30 points per game, but Bird came as close as you can get. If only the third-point shot had been more popular in his day. Instead, Larry Legend had to settle for averaging “only” 29.9 points per game in the 1987-88 season. This was after his MVP, and title-winning, days, but Bird still had some magic left in him.
This might be the first surprise name on this list, though to be fair we are only four teams in. Still, Rice is far from an NBA luminary. Rice made three All-Star Games, but he averaged 18.3 points per game in his career. For one season, though, he was balling out, and Rice set the Hornets’ record by dropping 26.8 points per contest.
There is no surprise in this name, but we have to go back to before the glory days of the Bulls franchise for Jordan’s record-setting season. In the ‘80s, Jordan spent a lot of years carrying the offense for Chicago, and he put up some gaudy numbers. That includes a season (1986-87) where he averaged a whopping 37.1 points per game. That’s the third-highest total on this list.
LeBron is actually not one of the two players to have the record for multiple teams. At least he holds the record for the Cavaliers, though. James had his record-setting campaign in the 2005-06 season, in only his third year in the NBA. LeBron notched 31.1 points a night but would have to wait a couple more years to win MVP (and one more to make a trip to the NBA Finals).
Nope, it’s not Dirk who owns the Dallas Mavericks’ PPG record. It’s one of the few scoring records he doesn’t hold with the franchise. Instead, the record belongs to Aguirre, who did it in the high-flying ‘80s. During the 1983-84 campaign, Aguirre managed to score 29.5 points per game. He had a lot of high-scoring season in Dallas, before making a move to Detroit where he sacrificed numbers for two rings.
The Nuggets in the ‘80s were known for some gaudy numbers on the scoreboard. In Doug Moe’s 10 years as Denver’s head coach, they led the league in scoring six times. English was a benefactor of all that fast-paced action, and that includes a fine campaign in 1985-86 where he put up 29.8 points per contest.
The record doesn’t belong to Isaiah Thomas or Grant Hill. No, instead it belongs to Stack, who joined the Pistons after Hill left for Orlando and was basically given the keys to the offense. Stackhouse was an All-Star twice with Detroit, his only appearances, and everything went right for him during the 2000-01 season. Somehow, Stack managed to average 29.8 points per game that year. He would never average more than 21.5 after that.
Steph Curry can take all the three-pointers he wants. He will never break Chamberlain’s franchise record. The kind of numbers Wilt was able to put up in his day are baffling. The man averaged 50.4 points per game in the 1961-62 season. That’s not a typo. It’s not a clerical error. No other franchise record is within 12 points of that.
He can’t score quite on Chamberlain’s level, but in recent years Harden has been the top points producer the NBA has seen since early in Jordan’s prime. In the 2018-19 season, Harden averaged 36.1 points per game, the highest PPG average since Kobe Bryant put up 35.4 in the 2005-06 season. It’s one of three seasons in which the Beard has led the league in scoring.
Knight may be the least-known name on this list. That may be in part because his franchise-record is only 26.6 points. That’s impressive, but it’s not exactly gaudy. Additionally, the record was set in the 1976-77 season, and the ‘70s were arguably a down time for the league. Knight had averaged 28.1 points the prior season in the ABA, before putting up these numbers and earning his only NBA All-Star Game appearance.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are great players, but they aren’t known as bucket chasers, so McAdoo’s record is probably safe. Oh, the fact that he scored 34.5 PPG in the 1974-75 season also helps on that front. Nobody other than Harden really scores at that level these days.
Yes, even though Kobe scored over 35 points per game one season, and guys like Shaq, Wilt, Kareem, and Jerry West all played for the Lakers, none of them own the record for the Purple and Gold. That honor goes to Baylor, one of the NBA’s all-time underrated players. While Baylor set the record back in the 1961-62 season (when Chamberlain was averaging over 50 points), it’s still impressive that he put up a whopping 38.3 points per game. That’s the second-highest total on this list.
Abdur-Rahim has the distinction of having the lowest average on this list. Surprisingly, no Grizzlies player has ever averaged more than the 23.0 points per game that Abdur-Rahim managed in the 1998-99 season, back when the team was still back in Vancouver. Maybe all that “Grit ‘N Grind” kept the point totals down?
As great as LeBron is as a player, it feels fitting that Wade has the record for the Heat franchise. He’s the face of that team, and that will likely be true for years, if not decades. In the 2008-09 season, a couple of years before James and Chris Bosh made their way down to South Beach, Wade was averaging 30.2 points per game, the only time he crossed that vaunted 30-point threshold.
The year prior to the 1971-72 season, Kareem won the MVP and led the Bucks to their only title to date. That season, only his second in the league, Abdul-Jabbar averaged an impressive 31.7 points per game to lead the NBA. The next year, he upped that to 34.8. That’s a record worth chasing for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Speaking of records within reach, we think it’s fair to say that before he retired Karl-Anthony Towns will have a scoring season better than the one Love had that got him this honor. Will it happen in Minnesota? That’s a different story. Stars don’t tend to stick around with the Timberwolves. Just ask Kevin Garnett or Love, who averaged 26.1 points per game in the 2013-14 season before heading to Cleveland to get a ring.
The Pelicans don’t have a long history, but they do have Davis as part of that history. Though he has since left for Los Angeles, yet another player on this list who joined forces with LeBron to win a ring, Davis had some great years in the Big Easy. That includes averaging 28.1 points per contest in the 2017-18 season.
King is a New York legend, which means we’re all pretty much aware of him because New York is not shy about talking about its favorite sons. To be fair, King was a top-notch scorer with the Knicks, making three of his four All-Star teams and his two All-NBA First Teams in his four seasons with the team. The peak was the 1984-85 season when King managed 32.9 points per game (though he was limited to 55 games that season).
Many high-scoring players have gone through Oklahoma City, including Harden (before his prime) and Russell Westbrook (who has never been shy about trying to pad his stat totals). Still, neither of them could best Durant, a seven-footer with a sweet shot that has helped him dominate the NBA. In his best campaign with the Thunder, the current Nets player put up 32.0 points per game in the 2013-14 season.
McGrady famously lacked for playoff success, but he did not lack for scoring success. T-Max had a five-year stretch where he averaged over 25 points per game each season. That includes the four seasons he spent in Orlando, which was highlighted by a 32.1 points per contest year in 2002-03.
Now you know that Wilt is the second player after Carter to make this list twice. When we mentioned he once averaged 50.4 points per game you may have pieced that together. Chamberlain never did anything that insane with the Sixers. Instead, he “only” averaged 33.5 points per game in the 1965-66 season, which is something 99.9 percent of players could only dream of.
The “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns had some fun offenses, but nobody from that team managed to set the franchise points-per-game record. Instead, that honor goes to the Hall of Famer Chambers. Probably known equally for his time in Seattle and Phoenix, it’s with the Suns that he scored 27.2 points per contest in the 1989-90 season. His career would go downhill after that, but he stuck around to cede the team to Charles Barkley and make a trip to the NBA Finals.
Here’s a nice and fresh one. Lillard set Portland’s record just last season, the 2019-20 campaign. Even with the chaos of the bubble, Dame still managed to average an even 30.0 points per game, thanks in part to his incredible three-point range and fearlessness from beyond the arc.
David Robinson once scored 71 points in a game, so you may have assumed he would have this record. Instead, it belongs to the “Ice Man,” not the “Admiral.” Gervin was no slouch as a scorer, of course. He once dropped 63 in a game himself. Plus, over the course of the 1979-80 season, he managed 33.1 points per game.
Leave it to basketball to stick a man listed as 6’1’’ with a nickname like “Tiny.” During the 1972-73 season, Archibald had a campaign to remember for the Kings, then playing in Kansas City and Omaha. In addition to scoring 34.0 points per game to lead the league, he averaged 11.4 assists per game as well, which also led the league.
As promised, we get back to Carter. The way things ended in Toronto wasn’t great, but man were the good times good. It wasn’t just that one Slam Dunk Contest, either. In the 2000-01 season, Carter averaged 27.6 points per game. You might remember the record he set with the Nets was 27.5 points per game. Give the man credit for consistency.
“Pistol” Pete never played in Utah, but he orchestrated things for the Jazz down in New Orleans. In addition to his spectacular flair, Maravich was a prolific bucket getter from his college days at LSU into the pros. During the 1976-77 season, Maravich put up 31.1 points per contest. Sure, it’s not quite the 45.5 he averaged in his final college campaign, but it’s something.
OK, there must have been something about the 1961-62 NBA season. Four players on this list set their franchise’s record that year. Bellamy is the last of those four. Playing for the then-Chicago Packers in their first year of existence, as well as his rookie campaign, Bellamy averaged 31.6 points per game. Yes, the man who has the record for PPG for the Wizards’ franchise set that record in the franchise’s inaugural season.