9 Stats That Every Serious Basketball Coach Should Track

I'm a big believer that you should track what is important. As a basketball coach, you can't track everything -- so you pick what you believe are the most important stats and focus on them.

Here's what we believe are the most important basketball statistics for a coach...
 


The First Four Stats (Top Level Stats)

The first four stats give you an instant snapshot of what's happening in the game.

If you beat your opponent in ALL four stats, you will always win. Always.

Basketball is really simple! To win you either need to shoot a higher percentage or take more shots than your opponent. That's all you can do. That's the only way to win a game.

Let's take a look at the stats...


Stat #1 - Field Goal Attempts (FGA)

If you can find a way to consistently take more field goal attempts that your opponent takes (take more shots), then you have a good chance to win games. You can even win if your shooting percentage is lower than your opponent (you know... you're having one of those "off shooting nights").

If you're having an off shooting night, you better have a team that is capable of getting more FG attempts than the opponent!

That's why you need to know if your team is getting more FG attempts or not. It's a critical stat.

Now you don't always have to get more FG attempts than your opponent. For example, if you're shooting 93% and your opponent is only shooting 14%, then you probably won't be getting more FG attempts than your opponent (due to fewer offensive rebounding opportunities).

That's why you should look at your FG attempts and then immediately look at the next stat to put things in perspective...


Stat #2 - Effective Field Goal Percentage (EFG%)

Effective Field Goal percentage gives you an accurate reading on who is shooting better... you or your opponent. EFG% gives more credit to made 3 point field goals since they yield 1.5 times the scoring of a 2 point field goal. The formula is... EFG% = (2Pt + 1.5 x 3Pt) / FGA.

If you can shoot a higher EFG% than your opponent, you have a chance to win the game. We all know shooting is important. So it's certainly something you want to track. I like EFG% because it objectively tells you whether you have the shooting advantage over your opponent or not.

EFG% affects many areas of the game. A good percentage will help you cut down your opponent′s fast break opportunities -- which allows your defense to get set and cut down on personal fouls.

If your EFG% is lower or about the same as your opponent, you better be getting more FG attempts and/or winning in the next two stats...


Stat #3 - Free Throw Attempts (FTA)

This stat will tell you who gets to the free throw line more often. Of course you want to get there more often, for a variety of reasons. For one, getting to the line gives you a "free shot".

Defensively, fouling keeps your team from running in transition, can get key players in foul trouble, and thwarts all your hard work on defensive possessions.


Stat #4 - Free Throw Percentage (FT%)

Free throw percentage is the last piece of the puzzle. We don't put a lot of focus on this stat (although we do shoot a ton of free throws in practice), but this final stat gives you the rest of the story and helps you determine where points are coming from.


Comparing to Your Opponent

By looking at these 4 stats and comparing them to your opponent, you can always tell whether you are winning or losing a game. For me, these are KEY Performance Indicators that all coaches should look for each game. (Note: Be sure to look at the summary report at the end of this article to get a better visual of how you can use these stats. )

Again, if you can beat your opponent in the 4 stats above, you will always win the game. It's impossible for you to lose. And if you beat your opponent in 3 out of the 4 stats above, you'll usually win that game too.


Our Goal

So as a goal, we're always trying to beat our opponent in at least 3 out of those 4 stats. That's our goal every time we play a game.

If you're not looking at those 4 stats above, how can you objectively determine what you should be focusing on as a coach? Maybe you're focusing on the wrong things? Looking at stats helps you figure out what you should be practicing and avoid that mistake.
 


The Next Five Basketball Stats

Now after looking at the 4 stats above, you can drill down into the next 5 key stats to get a clearer picture of what's happening. The 5 stats below feed directly into the 4 primary stats above.


1) Turnovers - As a coach, you want to know how many turnovers you commit and how it compares to your opponent.


2) Defensive Rebounding Percentage (DReb%) - DReb% is the percentage of available rebounds the defensive team gets. The formula is... DReb% = DReb / (DReb + Opponents OReb).

As we've explained in other articles, you should look at rebounding percentages instead of totals -- because totals do NOT give a true indication of your rebounding performance.


3) Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OReb%) - OReb% is the percentage of available rebounds the offensive team gets. The formula is... OReb% = OReb / (OReb + Opponents DReb).


4) Fouls - Fouls are the enemy of good defense. Nothing is worse than working really hard on a possession only to foul your opponent and gives them two easy free throws.


5) Attempts in the Paint - This is a critical stat that affects offense, defense, and all areas of the game. We want more attempts in the paint than our opponent.


These 5 key stats have a big impact on the game and have an impact on the "4 top level stats" at the beginning of the article.

For example, committing turnovers will lower your FG attempts (a top level stat) and conversely raise your opponent′s FG attempts.

Also, what happens after most turnovers? They turn into easy lay ups for your opponents, which increases their EFG% (another top level stat).

And when the lay ups are missed, you're very rarely in good box-out position. So the opponent gets more rebounds (thus affecting DRB%). In addition, players often commit fouls trying to make up for mistakes and stopping lay ups in transition. And so on.

So as you can see, turnovers alone affect your FG attempts, rebounding, free throws, fouls, defense, and offense.

And if you examine each of the 5 stats above, you'll see they have a big impact on the game and feed directly into the 4 top level stats.


What Do You Look at First?

I always start by looking at the first 4 top level stats because they are directly related to each other and are what I consider "high level indicators".

Then I look at the bottom 5 stats. As an example, I might see that everything is pretty even except our opponent has 10 more FG attempts than us. I want to know why!!

So I look down and might see that our defensive rebounding is terrible and we have 5 more turnovers than the opponent. Now I objectively know what's happening in the game -- and what's helping or hurting us the most.


How to Make it Easier to Collect and Calculate the Stats

That might all sound great and all of us coaches would love to have detailed stats at our finger tips. So how do you easily keep track of all these stats?

To make it easier to collect and calculate the stats above, you can try our app called Breakthrough Stats. You can download the app in the iTunes store.

The app makes it much easier to collect and calculate all the stats you'll want to improve the performance of your team.

Below you'll see a screen shot of the Key Stats Report. In just a couple taps of the iPad or iPhone, you can instantly calculate all the stats.

This report is the first thing I look at during half time and after the game is over. It gives me a quick and clear story of the game and an objective snapshot of what we need to work on.

You can see the 9 stats above (that we believe are most important) are conveniently grouped into this concise report.

Look at the "Difference" Row

You'll notice the row on the bottom called "difference". I immediately look at the difference to see how our team is doing. If it's a negative number, that means we're not doing good. If it's a positive number, that means we're beating our opponent in that area (and just as importantly I can see exactly how much we're beating them by).

This is a critical report for us and this tool makes me a better coach.

Of course there are other ways to collect and calculate this information. But this app will make it easier.






What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...



Comments

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123 says:
10/21/2019 at 11:34:01 PM

123

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Abel says:
8/7/2019 at 9:11:03 PM

Overall I enjoyed your thoughts, and found them valuable. However, I have one quibble. In an article on statistics, I hate to see an early sentence that isn't true:

"To win you either need to shoot a higher percentage or take more shots than your opponent. That's all you can do. That's the only way to win a game. "

Consider team A that only shoots 2 pointers. They go 20 for 20, scoring 40 points. 100% shooting, and 20 attempts. Now think about team B, that only shoots 3s. They go 14 for 19, scoring 42 points and winning the game. But their shooting percentage is lower (74%) and their attempts are lower as well.

So there is a way to win a game by shooting a lower percentage and taking fewer shots. 10 years ago I would have said this is mostly a mathematical exercise, but given what the Warriors and Rockets have done to the NBA, I see it becoming a practical concern.

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Jeff Haefner says:
8/8/2019 at 7:33:10 AM

Good point. The sentence can be true or false depending on how you interpret it.

If you shoot a higher FT, higher, 2pt, and higher 3pt % and take same number of shots... you're going to win the game.

I kept the wording "shooting percentage" somewhat vague to keep the statement simple. In a sense, it is very simple and that's part of the point we're trying to make...

Stats can be simple but they can also be complicated. I like to keep it simple.

But in reality FT shooting has to be considered in addition to the 2pt and 3pt shots you take.

That is why the article lists the "4 most important stats" to be:
- FGA
- EFG% (which considers both 3pt and 2pt shots)
- FTA
- FT%

I suppose I could reword the sentence you pointed out to say...

"To win you either need to shoot a higher EFG and FT percentage -- or take more shots than your opponent. That's the only way to win a game."

Is that any better? I'm not sure. Again, it depends how you interpret it.

But I don't think that matters. If as a coach, you can find a way to consistently take more shots than your opponent and shoot a higher percentage, you're going to win a lot of basketball games!

If anyone has a better way to convey these ideas or a better way to look at stats, we'd love to hear it. Always appreciate suggestions!

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Coach Drew says:
4/10/2017 at 12:28:13 PM

Great thoughts. I love the simplicity of your level 1 stats and the breakdown of how your level 2 stats directly relate to level 1. Your players do need to understand the stats you are trying to produce and it seems that most players would easily understand FGA. Great stuff!

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Jacob Kelly says:
11/19/2016 at 11:06:26 PM

Jeff,

I have tried using similar apps for stat tracking for baseball and found it really difficult to keep up with the pace of the game. Obviously with basketball the game moves much faster. Is this app easy enough to use during a fast paced game? Or does it take more than one person? Who usually keeps the iPad/iPhone during the game?

Thanks for all your help. I really appreciate you and your website.

-Jacob Kelly

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  1 reply  

Jeff Haefner says:
11/21/2016 at 9:00:29 AM

Jacob -

Good question. We have kept live stats for around 100 games... ranging from 3rd grade to 10th grade.

You need a spotter (two people). One person has iPad and other person is there calling out stats (spotter)... just in case the person with iPad looks down and missing something.

I will tell you... some people are more comfortable with entering stats on an iPad than others. Most of the time, it's fine. But sometimes you get people just not comfortable. It also takes some practice.

We use the same one or two stat keepers all season. At the beginning of the season I will just ask they keep a handful of basic stats I want. Then after a couple weeks I have them add more stats as they get comfortable. If you ask them to do everything on day one, they will probably get frustrated.

We have also done stats for baseball games... again you need a spotter... otherwise it gets hard to keep up with a live game.

As far as who keep stats... with youth teams it's a parent or relative. Often times, assistant coaches are spotters. I almost always find one relative that loves to keep the stats. At high school level, it's usually a student manager or player for one of the teams not playing.

If you have any questions, let me know. We have been doing this for several years now and have learned a few things along the way.

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DuWayne Krause says:
7/14/2015 at 5:48:52 PM

Here's a radical idea that some of you are going to hate, but it has a considerable amount of logic to it. Basketball is a simple game of pass and catch. Therefore, turnovers is the most important offensive statistic because it measures team and individual performance, making some statistics, like assists, unecessary. If a player throws a good pass and the teammate scores there is an assist. If the player throws the same good pass and the teammate misses the same shot there is no assist. If your team is good at running their offense they will be able to pass and catch all night and good shots will develop. If not, there will be a lot of turnovers. If a player is a good passer and has good decision making ability he/she will have few turnovers. If not he/she will have a lot of turnovers. Most of the rest of your statistics are a result of the simple question "How good is your team at pass and catch?"

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Jeff says:
7/15/2015 at 11:20:50 AM

I agree that turnover stats are very important. That's why we list turnovers above in the article and we don't list assists. There are some really good coaches that emphasize keeping turnovers low and good passing (ex: Bo Ryan).

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John Cullen says:
6/9/2015 at 11:02:21 AM

I would suggest a new stat which I think is very important in motivating our defense to respond differently after a turnover. We call them Raiders since that is our mascot. It is one of our key individual most important plays along with deflections (which indicates you are in position, anticipating and playing hard), First to the floor which helps us win the 50/50 balls along with charges which protect our basket. So, a raider is a statistic which indicates what happens after a turnover. We immediately yell " need a raider as we recover". It causes pride in recovery instead of disgust and disappointment or surrendering to the impending layup or easy basket. Any player or our team that causes us to get the ball back without them scoring gets a raider. So we keep a team % of raiders and it lets us know how we are responding to bad situations such as turnovers. It builds character and allows us to use lack of attention to that recovery response as a reason to sub stitute. Normally we try to get 55-60% Raiders. It is hard but often results in wins because it really frustrates the opponent when we stop them in a transition situation or get a stop as they run their offense after a steal or causing a turnover. Let me know if you think it is valid.

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Joe Hogan says:
2/11/2015 at 11:52:30 AM

One stat your site talked about a while back had to do with team defense: points per possession for your opponent. All you need to do is count how many times your opponent had the ball. Divide their points by their number of possessions. It's an incredibly revealing stat.

That is such a terrific and simple stat - tells you how frequently you stop your opponent from scoring. Great to track through the season and versus individual teams if you play them more than once.

If this stat improves you are giving yourself a great chance to win. And it provides a goal for an entire team to work for together.

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Dennis says:
12/16/2014 at 2:03:21 PM

I like the app and thinking about purching it. My question is when recording a forced jump ball or jump victim is it automatically recorded as a turnover?

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  2 replies  

Dennis says:
12/17/2014 at 12:47:45 PM

Dennis,
It does not record a turnover automatically.
You have to do that yourself.

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Dennis says:
12/17/2014 at 3:50:04 PM

Dennis,
Just to clarify a bit further. A jump ball doesn't necessarily count as a turnover. It depends on the possession arrow. Thus, the app leaves it up to the user to decide if it should be counted as a turnover.

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Jeff Haefner says:
12/3/2013 at 2:23:56 PM

Lance - That is a good question. I looked at TO% a while back and forgot about it. I think it's an interesting stat but I have not experimented with or used the stat myself.

At the moment I just look at how we compared to the opponent and also just use a gut feel on how well I think we did... If our opponent applied zero pressure and we still have 12 turnovers, that is too high. If the opponent pressed us non stop, gambled, and had great athletes, I might be ecstatic with 12 turnovers.

Whether you compare to the opponent or use TO%, there are shortcomings because of numerous factors. For now comparing to the opponent works for me and is a metric the players seem to understand. However during the off-season I may take a look at TO% and consider it down the road.

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Ken Sartini says:
12/3/2013 at 12:02:26 PM

I think that TOs are part of the game, keeping them at a minimum is the key... along with, does the other team score after we turn it over.

We definately wanted to to force more TOs than we committed.... but we also wanted to turn their TOs into points while playing tougher D after we turn it over.

The faster the pace of the game, the more TOs their will be... IMO You have to figure out how many turnovers you are going to be comfortable with.

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