How is the Defensive Rating Calculated?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


The NBA is a world of statistics and metrics, with basketball enthusiasts constantly seeking ways to analyze players’ performance on the court. Defensive Rating is one such metric that has garnered attention in recent years. This article will answer the question of what is defensive rating in the NBA, exploring its significance, how it is calculated, and how it impacts the game. So, let’s dive in and learn all there is to know about this intriguing statistic.

What is the Defensive Rating in the NBAWhat is the Defensive Rating in the NBA?

The NBA uses Defensive rating as a numeric yardstick to gauge the defensive efficiency of a player or a team. It measures the points conceded per 100 possessions, offering a uniform system to compare defensive performance across players and teams. The metric has grown in importance as analysts, coaches, and fans acknowledge the role of defense in shaping game results and the overall triumph of a team.

Defensive rating originated from advanced basketball stats, which sought to measure game aspects that traditional box scores missed. It has since evolved, with new algorithms accounting for additional factors to mirror a player’s defensive influence accurately. It’s now seen as an indispensable instrument for appraising and contrasting players’ defensive abilities in the NBA.

Defensive rating captures various facets of a player’s defensive performance, like their capacity to challenge shots, grab rebounds, and force turnovers. Scrutinizing these factors offers a more complete evaluation of a player’s defensive contributions on the court. Consequently, it aids in spotting top defenders and provides critical insights for coaches when formulating defensive strategies and game plans.

How Important is Defensive Rating in the NBAHow Important is Defensive Rating in the NBA?

Defensive rating plays a pivotal role in the NBA, offering vital insights into a player’s defensive efficiency and contributing to the overall victory of a team. As the saying goes, “defense wins championships,” and a tremendous defensive performance often is a critical factor in deciding the game results.

The defensive rating aids in identifying the league’s top defenders. It quantifies a player’s capability to halt opponents from scoring and provides a valuable standard for player comparison across positions and roles. This information is priceless for coaches and general managers when making roster decisions, as it allows them to craft a team with a balanced mix of offensive and defensive skills.

Moreover, the defensive rating is essential in shaping coaching strategies and game plans. By studying individual and team defensive ratings, coaches can pinpoint areas for enhancement and formulate tactics to exploit their adversary’s weaknesses. For instance, a team with a high defensive rating might suggest susceptibility to specific offensive strategies or the need for better communication and coordination on the court. In this manner, defensive rating serves as a guide for strategic adjustments and overall team performance improvement.

Overall, the defensive rating is a good stat. It provides a means to track the game’s evolution and comprehend the impact of rule changes and new defensive strategies. Analysts and fans can understand how the game morphs and the most effective defensive tactics by watching league-wide defensive efficiency trends. These observations can help drive innovation in coaching techniques and player development, shaping the future of basketball.

How is Individual Defensive Rating CalculatedHow is Individual Defensive Rating Calculated?

Calculating an NBA player’s defensive rating is complex. It calls for looking at many aspects to gauge how good a player is on defense. Stats like defensive rebounds, blocks, steals, personal fouls, minutes played, and the overall defensive efficiency of their team are all taken into account.

Here is how is the defensive rating calculated:

To compute the Team’s defensive rating, we need to divide the points allowed by the total possessions. Then multiply the result by 100. 

Here’s the formula:

Defensive Rating=Points AllowedTotal Possessions x 100

For example, during game 6 of the 2023 NBA playoffs between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks, the Knicks allowed the Heat to score 96 points on 91 possessions. 

Defensive Rating=9691 x 100

Therefore, the Knicks’ defensive rating is 1.0549.

Calculating an individual player’s Defensive Rating (DRtg) using Dean Oliver’s formula involves several statistics.

For example, Luka Doncic’s stats for one game are as follows:

Luka Doncic’s Stats
Minutes Played (MP) 30
Steals (STL) 2
Blocks (BLK) 1
Defensive Rebounds (DRB) 5
Personal Fouls (PF) 2

Dallas’ stats for the same game are as follows:

Dallas Stats
Minutes Played (Team_MP) 48 (240 minutes in total, as there are five players on the court)
Blocks (Team_BLK) 5
Steals (Team_STL) 8
Defensive Rebounds (Team_DRB) 30
Personal Fouls (Team_PF) 20

The opponent’s stats for the same game are:

Opponent Stats
Points (Opponent_PTS) 100
Field Goal Attempts (Opponent_FGA) 85
Field Goals Made (Opponent_FGM) 40
Offensive Rebounds (Opponent_ORB) 10
Turnovers (Opponent_TOV) 15
Free Throw Attempts (Opponent_FTA) 20
Free Throws Made (Opponent_FTM) 15

First, we calculate the percentages and weights:

Formula Value
DFG% = Opponent_FGM / Opponent_FGA

=  40/85

DOR% = Opponent_ORB / (Opponent_ORB + Team_DRB) 

= 10 / (10 + 30)

FMwt = (DFG% * (1 – DOR%)) / (DFG% * (1 – DOR%) + (1 – DFG%) * DOR%)

= (0.47 * (1 – 0.25)) / (0.47 * (1 – 0.25) + (1 – 0.47) * 0.25) 


Then, we calculate the Stops:

Calculation Value
Stops1 = STL + BLK * FMwt * (1 – 1.07 * DOR%) + DRB * (1 – FMwt)

= 2 + 1 * 0.65 * (1 – 1.07 * 0.25) + 5 * (1 – 0.65) 

Stops2 = (((Opponent_FGA – Opponent_FGM – Team_BLK) / Team_MP) * FMwt * (1 – 1.07 * DOR%) + ((Opponent_TOV – Team_STL) / Team_MP)) * MP + (PF / Team_PF) * 0.4 * Opponent_FTA * (1 – (Opponent_FTM / Opponent_FTA))^2

= (((85 – 40 – 5) / 240) * 0.65 * (1 – 1.07 * 0.25) + ((15 – 8) / 240)) * 30 + (2 / 20) * 0.4 * 20 * (1 – (15 / 20))^2 = 1.34


So, Stops = Stops1 + Stops2 = 4.34 + 1.34 = 5.68

Next, we calculate the team’s total possessions:

Team_Possessions = Opponent_FGA + 0.44 * Opponent_FTA – Opponent_ORB + Opponent_TOV

= 85 + 0.44 * 20 – 10 + 15 


Then, we calculate the Stop%:

Stop% = (Stops * Opponent_MP) / (Team_Possessions * MP)

= (5.68 * 48) / (105 * 30) 


Finally, we calculate the DRtg:

Team_Defensive_Rating = 100 * (Opponent_PTS / Team_Possessions)

= 100 * (100 / 105)

D_Pts_per_ScPoss = Opponent_PTS / (Opponent_FGM + (1 – (1 – (Opponent_FTM / Opponent_FTA))^2) * Opponent_FTA * 0.4)

= 100 / (40 + (1 – (1 – (15 / 20))^2) * 200.4)

DRtg = Team_Defensive_Rating + 0.2 * (100 * D_Pts_per_ScPoss * (1 – Stop%) – Team_Defensive_Rating)

= 95.24 + 0.2 * (100 * 2.17 * (1 – 0.103) – 95.24)


So, in this example, Luka’s defensive rating for this game would be 97.35. This means Luka is estimated to have allowed 97.35 points per 100 possessions they individually faced while on the court in this game.

What is the Average NBA Defensive RatingWhat is the Average NBA Defensive Rating?

The average NBA defensive rating is a crucial benchmark for comparing individual players’ defensive performance and understanding defensive trends across the league. It signifies the number of points allowed per 100 possessions by an average team in the league. While this figure might vary slightly from season to season, the average league defensive rating usually hovers at 110 points per 100 possessions. This season, the average defensive rating in the NBA is 114.8. Any rating below the league average is considered a bad defensive rating in NBA. Cleveland has the best defensive rating at 110.6. They also have the highest NBA defensive rating by position. 

By evaluating players’ defensive ratings relative to this average, analysts, coaches, and fans can assess a player’s defensive impact on their team. A player with a defensive rating below the league average is considered an above-average defender. Conversely, a player with a higher individual defensive rating in NBA might be less effective at preventing opponents from scoring. During the 2022-2023 regular season, Giannis Antetokounmpo had the best individual defensive rating in the NBA, with a 107.7 rating. Luka Doncic’s defensive rating this season is 113.3, which ranks 440th among 539 active players. 

Keeping tabs on the average NBA defensive rating over time also offers insights into how the game’s defensive strategies and tactics evolve. Rule changes, coaching innovations, and shifts in playing style can affect the league’s average defensive rating, providing valuable information about the ever-changing landscape of NBA basketball.

Is a Higher or Lower Defensive Efficiency BetterIs a Higher or Lower Defensive Efficiency Better?

In the NBA, it is generally understood that a lower numerical value spells out a superior level in terms of NBA defensive efficiency—the defensive rating metric measures how many points a team or player yields per every hundred possessions. As a result, a lower defensive rating indicates that a player or a team is more adept at stopping the opposition from putting points on the scoreboard. On the contrary, a high defensive rating is a bad defensive rating in NBA.

Digging into individual player metrics, a low defensive rating symbolizes that the player positively impacts the team’s defensive performance. This can be attributed to their skills in challenging shots, grabbing defensive rebounds, blocking opponents’ attempts, or creating turnovers. Players who boast low defensive ratings are often seen as prized components of their teams. Their defensive skills can play a crucial role in limiting the scoring capability of the rival team, thereby increasing the probability of their team emerging victorious.

A strong team defense is crucial for triumph in playoff games, allowing teams to successfully counteract strong offensive plays and keep a competitive advantage in close, high-pressure games. When analyzing the defensive efficiency of a team as a unit, a lower numerical value translates to an overall stronger defensive output by the team. Teams with low defensive ratings usually enjoy more success in the NBA, given their ability to consistently thwart the scoring attempts of their opponents and exert pressure on the opposing team’s offensive unit.

Wrapping Things Up: How is the Defensive Rating Calculated?

The defensive rating is an essential measure for assessing a player’s ability to prevent opponents from scoring, contributing to the overall success of their team. Calculating an individual defensive rating involves considering various factors, such as defensive rebounds, blocks, steals, personal fouls, minutes played, and team defensive efficiency. Lower defensive efficiency is better, indicating that players limit their opponents’ scoring opportunities more effectively.

As the sport evolves, staying informed about metrics like defensive rating will allow us to appreciate better the nuances of basketball and the critical roles players assume on the court. Understanding these metrics helps fans, coaches, and analysts better analyze and enjoy the game. After all, as the saying goes, “defense wins championships,” and understanding defensive ratings is critical to comprehend the finer points of this beloved game.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here

Picture of Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

How is the NBA All-Star Team Selected

How is the NBA All-Star Team Selected?

Getting into the All-Star game is no simple feat. For some players, it may take several seasons of high-level play to get the nod. However, other exceptional talents come into the league with so much...

Read More
What Does DTD Mean in Basketball?

What Does DTD Mean in Basketball?

Basketball is a world of its own with unique terms or jargon, in and out of the court. Through the years, more terms have been developed to represent specific things about the sport, and understanding...

Read More

Get our top basketball tips to become a better baller

Enter your email to get access to our best tips for success.