The only way to win a game of basketball is by putting the ball through the hoop more than the other team. And one of the best ways of ensuring that this happens is by getting more cracks at the basket than they do.
This is one of the most crucial elements to winning the possession war, and turnovers play a key role in the battle.
Why Keep Track of Turnover Differential?
Tracking the numbers can make a big difference in knowing how you stack up against the other team. In particular, you should look at your “turnover differential”...
If your turnover differential is -5, then you have 5 more turnovers than your opponent. That’s not good and you know you need to make improvements to give your team a better chance to win. If your turnover differential is +5, your performing well in this area and you want to continue the trend.
Here you can see a screenshot of the Key Game Stats Report from Breakthrough Stats which shows you’re turnover differential:
In the screenshot, you can see your team is negative 7 for the turnover differential. That's not good!! This is something you'll want to remedy ASAP to give your team a chance to win.
As a coach you want to know which parts of the game are going your way and where you may need some help.
And for players it is much more compelling to think about concrete statistics than a general call to “limit turnovers”. Everyone knows that’s important, but being able to actually see how you are doing compared to the other team will elicit the effort and focus required to win the possession war.
How Important are Turnovers?
There are almost as many reasons to limit turnovers as there are reasons to put the ball in the basket.
A turnover takes away one of your potential scoring opportunities. This is one reason that turnovers are harmful. You lose an opportunity to shoot or get fouled.
This is the most obvious factor. But there are other factors that affect your team...
Turnovers Lead to Fast Breaks and Fouls
Consider this. How many turnovers results in fast break opportunities for your opponent?
How often do your players try to make up for their mistake and foul in transition defense? How often does your opponent get offensive rebounds and put-backs while your defense is scrambling in transition?
Turnovers quite often lead to high percentage fast break shots for your opponent and can cause you to get in foul trouble.
There are plenty of reasons to pay attention to turnovers. An attempt by your worst shooter has a much better chance of going in than a shot you didn’t even take. Live ball turnovers such as steals frequently catch your defense off guard and lead to easy makes or frustrating fouls. And nothing kills momentum faster than handing the ball to the other team.
What is the Goal?
All of these negatives that come from giveaways are turned to your benefit when it’s your team generating the turnovers. Fast break points, easy buckets and free throws, these are the quickest ways to get back in a game or build an insurmountable lead and turnovers can make them all happen.
However, you don’t want your players to think about going for steals so much as you want them to pay attention to "playing the right way" -- and ultimately winning the turnover battle each and every night.
The importance and value of a possession is one of the most important things your players can learn. Tracking turnovers and using them to teach your team will bring this lesson home every time they play. Having the statistics readily available will also naturally increase their focus, performance, and feelings of accomplishment. Few things matter more.
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