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What is Effective Field Goal Percentage?
And Why YOU Should Use It

- By

Effective Field Goal Percentage is a measurement of how successful your team is from the field. This metric provides a more complete picture of the game situation than standard field goal percentages because three point shots are given extra weight.


How Do We Calculate It?

Effective Field Goal Percentage, or eFG%, is calculated the following way:

(2pt FGM + 1.5*3pt FGM) / FGA

This means a made three-pointer is worth one and a half times as much as a made two-pointer. A player who shoots 4 for 10 on all two-point baskets has a standard FG% of 40% and an eFG% of 40%. But, if all those makes were three-pointers, that player’s eFG% is 60%, reflecting the extra value of a made three.

In a real game of basketball, what matters is points scored per possession. A player whose eFG% is 60% is scoring at a rate equal to shooting 60% on two-point field goal attempts, a very respectable number.


Why Do We Highly Recommend this Metric?

The Effective Field Goal Percentage can tell you at a glance which team is having more success from the field. The team with the higher percentage is scoring more effectively from the field.

eFG% is what I would call a “high level key indicator”. Other high level indicators include:

  • Field Goal Attempts
  • Free Throw Attempts
  • Free Throw Percentage

If you beat your opponent in all 4 high level key indicators, you will always win. From a winning standpoint, are there any metrics that are more important?

You could argue that eFG% is the most important stat because in a typical game the majority of points are scored from the field. If you have a high eFG% and your opponent has a low eFG%, then both your offense and defense is probably doing quite well. And you have a really good chance to win.

Of course rebounds, free throw attempts, and field goal attempts are all important and affect the outcome of the game. But if I could only choose one stat to be really high, I would choose eFG%.


The Sabermetrics of Basketball

In the book, Basketball on Paper (which is basketball's version of Moneyball and an excellent book), Dean Oliver identified what he called the "Four Factors of Basketball Success":

  1. Shooting (40%)
  2. Turnovers (25%)
  3. Rebounding (20%)
  4. Free Throws (15%)

The number in parentheses is the approximate weight Mr. Oliver assigned each factor. Shooting is the most important factor, followed by turnovers, rebounding, and free throws.

The Four Factors were based on Oliver's extension research of the stats behind winning teams. He claims that shooting is the most important factor. I agree.


How to Use eFG% as a Coaching Tool

One of the simplest ways to effectively utilize eFG% is to look at the differential compared to your opponent. You can look at the differential for a single game, multiple games, or an entire season.

To show you what I mean, here’s a screenshot from our basketball stats app:basketball stats

You’ll notice a differential of +20%. In this case, my team is Iowa and we want positive differentials. A positive number tells me that my team is winning in the statistic. And in this case we’re winning by a significant margin!

This allows you to quickly glance at the differential and you’ll know precisely how your team is performing in that area.

If you are getting beaten badly, then you need to figure out why your eFG% is lower. Then figure how to remedy the problem by making adjustments to your defense and/or offense.

By looking at the eFG% differential, you immediately get a completely objective indication of how you are performing. There is no guesswork. And you can make informed and strategic decisions as a coach.


How Does Your eFG% Stack up to NBA, College, and High School Teams? What Should You Expect?

Just to give you a reference point, here are eFG% stats from various levels...

NBA Stats

In 2013, the average eFG% for the NBA was 49.66%. The Miami Heat has the highest eFG% at 55.24%. Guess who had the second highest eFG%?

The San Antonio Spurs had the second highest at 53.06%. These were the two best teams in the NBA and met in the finals!

Is it a coincidence that the teams with the two highest eFG% also had the best records and made it to the finals?

Seems to me like yet another bit of evidence that eFG% is an incredibly important stat.

Note: I tried to find stats for WNBA but couldn’t find it.

College Stats

In 2012/13 season, Creighton had the highest regular season eFG% at 58.2%. Howard had the lowest at 39.2%

I did a quick search for women's numbers but couldn’t find them.

High School and Youth Stats

Last year I coached a 9th grade boy's team that had a 49.5 eFG% for the season. We were undefeated for the season.

The previous year our 9th grade team had a 41.5 eFG% for the season. We won around half of our games.

Hopefully this gives you a little idea of what you can expect regarding numbers.

eFG% has become an important stat for me as a coach. I hope this article gives you some ideas and might allow you to utilize this simple metric to help you as a coach to win more games.

What Other Stats Do We Recommend?

As you can tell, we believe eFG% is one of the most important stats you should use as a coach. But that’s only one stat.

Here you can read about the other stats we recommend and how they can help you as a coach.


Please leave your comments, suggestions, and questions below...


Comments

Brian Sass says:
7/17/2014 at 9:16:00 PM

OK. I like it. It seems that there is a correlative relationship between effective field goal percentage and winning.

Now on to the next question: how do we as coaches use this information in practice, game-planning, and game strategy?

How will this change our game and player evaluations of individual and overall team performance?

I like the stat. How should we as coaches use it?


Jeff Haefner says:
7/18/2014 at 7:20:55 AM

Brian,

Good questions. Below are just ideas. I'm sure other coaches have better ideas.

But we as coaches keep this stat in the back of our minds when it comes to choosing strategy, drills, etc. If a drill doesn't help improve our EFG or lower our opponents, we need to evaluate the drill and determine if it's worth keeping.

At the beginning of the year, we have our team meeting and establish what we'll focus on.

http://jeffhaefner.com/coach/excited-had-our-first-mandatory-meeting-with-the-players-off-to-good-start/

Through some questioning players came up with two things we needed to win games:

A) Take more shots than the opponent.
B) Shoot a higher percentage than the opponent.

Once we established that, we went through an exercise figuring out how to do those two things.

Lots of great ideas came out of the discussion. I wrote down the ideas on the white board as the players came up with the ideas.

Eventually, the players agreed on the following 4 things as being the most important…

1) Defense
2) Rebounding
3) Ball security (minimize turnovers)
4) Offensive scoring skills and fundamentals (shooting, finishing, post moves, screening, etc)

All 4 things have a strong impact on EFG... defense keeps opponents EFG low. Rebounding improves our EFG by giving us easy put-backs and limits the opponents put-backs. Ball handling/security minimizes their easy break away lay ups and is a skill that improves our offense. And of course having a team with good scoring skills will improve your EFG.

After scrimmages and games we look at our EFG as coaches and a team. Then determine if/what adjustments to make in order to keep improving it.

Look at the difference row at the bottom of this article. This is a key report we show our coaches and players.
http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/stats/9_stats_basketball_coach_should_track.html

And last of all. Simply sharing the statistic with your players and coaches will help (Pearson's Law). The law states...

"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates. "

http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/stats/how_stats_help_win_more_basketball_games.html


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