The Ultimate Guide to Basketball Statistics

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Numbers are always significant to basketball. These numbers, or statistics, are essential to the game since it is an excellent barometer of how well a team is doing or which things they can improve. In this basketball statistics guide, we will learn about basketball stats abbreviations and the basic basketball statistics explained. 

How Do Basketball Stats WorkHow Do Basketball Stats Work?

Statistics is vital in analyzing a basketball game. As mentioned, one team could scout other teams and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, they could also hide or work on their own deficiencies using basketball statistics.

And of course, basketball statistics can also be used by spectators. They could use the numbers to analyze their favorite teams and players. Some stats websites like Basketball Reference allow any basketball fan access to stats way back in the 1950s and 1960s.

One of the most common ways to use statistics to gauge performance is by looking at percentages. The percentage of shots made (FG%) or the free-throw percentage tells you a lot about a team or a player’s efficiency. The individual rebound rate or ratio tells you the percentage of missed shots that a player rebounds. On top of that, you can just look at the most basic stats, such as points, steals, and rebounds average. This would reveal the consistency of a specific player.

What is the Most Important Stats to Keep Track in Basketball?

Statistics are not created equal, but these are the most important stats to keep track of during a basketball game.

1. Plus/Minus

Plus/minus is not a perfect stat, but it quickly gives you an idea of who’s having an impact on the game at both ends of the court. It indicates how the team is doing whenever a particular player is on the court. The plus/minus gives the coach an idea of what unit is playing the best basketball together.

2. Assists

An assist is a pass that directly leads to a score. This tells you how the offense is moving and if the players are really playing for the team. If you want to take it further, have someone on the team keep track of how many of the made field goals are assisted. If you have more assisted field goals than non-assisted, it is an indication of a quality offense.

3. Scoring

Of course, scoring in basketball involves points, but that’s not all that should be taken into consideration. Was it a balanced scoring effort, or is it just one guy bearing the load? Was the team settling for too many jumpers? Are we going to the free-throw line enough?

4. Assist to Turnover ratio

Assist to turnover ratio sounds exactly what it is. It is the ratio of the total assists and the total turnovers. It puts the assists into context. A high assist to turnover ratio is an excellent indication of a player’s efficiency, especially a ballhandling guard. After all, an assist won’t matter as much if you’re giving up turnovers at almost the same rate. When your assists totals are high and your turnovers low, then chances are, the team is in pretty good shape.

5. Rebound Differential

Rebounds are very critical to winning a basketball game that one may imagine. If you have more rebounds than the other team, that means you get more chances to score a basket. And last time we checked, basketball games are won by having more baskets and points.

6. Unforced Turnovers

It’s easy to be blinded by the number of points and counting stats, but sometimes the number of turnovers a player has can tell you if he is really impacting the game positively. Granted, turnovers are not created equal. There are hustle turnovers that result from an honest effort or a good idea of a play. Then, there are careless turnovers that could have easily been prevented. If you can track the latter, you can figure out the weakest link in the chain.

7. Opponents’ FG%

The opponents’ FG% is simply how well your opponent is shooting. If it’s high, then you should probably tighten the defensive screws more. Sometimes, your defense may be good enough, but the other team is just making shots. Either way, this stat is important to quickly gauge the effectiveness of your defense.

What is TO in Basketball StatsWhat is TO in Basketball Stats?

The abbreviated stat “TO” in basketball is short for “turnover.” A player is charged for a turnover when they lose possession of the ball before attempting a basket. 

A turnover is counted when any of the following things occur:

  • The ball is stolen from the offensive player
  • The offensive player steps out of bounds
  • A pass interception, which is technically a steal
  • Any violation, including three-second, five-second, or eight-second violations
  • An offensive player commits an offensive foul

Turnovers were first officially recorded in the NBA during the 1977-78 season. The record for most turnovers committed in the game was 14 by John Drew (1978) and Jason Kidd (2000). James Harden committed 13 turnovers in a playoff game against the Warriors in 2015, which is currently the record for most TOs in a playoff game.

What Does PF Mean in Basketball StatsWhat Does PF Mean in Basketball Stats?

In basketball stats, PF means “personal fouls.” (It should not be confused with the power forward position, which may also be abbreviated as PF.) 

A personal foul usually is counted when there is illegal contact made by a defensive player against an offensive player. However, an offensive foul, defined as illegal contact by an offensive player against a defender, counts as a personal foul.

In today’s basketball, a personal foul may be penalized in different ways. A personal foul committed on a player in the act of shooting automatically warrants two free throws. If not, the ball is inbounded from the sidelines. Nevertheless, in the NBA, when a team accumulates five fouls, any subsequent fouls will result in free throws, whether the offensive player is in the act of shooting or not.

When you watch basketball games, you may hear the analysts comment about a “good” foul. While committing fouls are not necessarily good, it can be used as a strategy to stop a fastbreak play or a Hack-a-Shaq. (A Hack-a-Shaq strategy is fouling a poor free-throw shooter so the opposing team could not get into its offensive rhythm. It was called as such because the original strategy was used against Shaquille O’Neal.)

There is a limit to the fouls you can commit in basketball before you are deemed ineligible to play. This is called “fouling out.” In the NBA and many professional leagues, the personal foul limit is six, while the threshold is five in FIBA and scholastic competitions.

What is BA in Basketball StatsWhat is BA in Basketball Stats?

The statistical abbreviation BA is short for “blocks against.” It is the number of times a player’s shot attempts are blocked. If you look closely, one team’s BA count is always equal to the other team’s BS (or Blocked Shots) stat.

What Does GP Mean in BasketballWhat Does GP Mean in Basketball?

GP is an abbreviation for “games played.” Simply put, it is the number of games a player has played in. The number of games played needs to be tracked because you can’t qualify to be a statistical leader in the NBA unless you have played in a certain amount of games. 

Other Basketball Stats AbbreviationsOther Basketball Stats Abbreviations

Here are other common basketball stats abbreviations:

  • FGA (Field Goal Attempt). Whenever a player puts the ball up for a shot, that is considered a field goal attempt. The act of shooting begins with the shooting motion and ends when the ball has left the hand of the shooter. A field goal attempt is not counted when a player is fouled in the act of shooting. However, a blocked shot is still considered a field goal attempt. Other abbreviations involving field goals are FGM (field goals made) and FG% (field goal percentage).
  • EFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage). The Effective Field Goal Percentage is considered a more accurate type of counting the FG% because it gives more weight to the three-point shot. 
  • FTA (Free throw Attempts). The total number of attempts of an individual or team at the free-throw line. The FTA stat is a good indication of the team’s overall offensive aggressiveness. Other abbreviations involving free throws are FTM (free throws made) and FT% (free throw percentage).
  • %AST (Assist Percentage or Rate). The Assist Rate is the percentage of assists a team has when a particular player is on the court. It is a type of usage statistic.
  • EFF (Efficiency). Efficiency is a benchmark used to compare the overall value of individual players. Counting stats such as points, rebounds, assists, and blocks are added while missed field goals and free throws are subtracted to the overall score.
  • PER (Player Efficiency Rating). Invented by John Hollinger, the Player Efficiency Rating attempts to boil down a player’s impact and contributions through one number. However, the PER is seen more as a reflection of a player’s offensive contributions and not his defensive acumen.
  • 3PA (Three-point field goals attempted). The 3PA is a traditional statistic defined as the three-point field goals attempted by a player. Other abbreviations involving three-point field goals are 3PM (three-point field goals made) and 3P% (three-point percentage).
  • GS (Games Started). The GS stat is simply the total number of games that a player has started. In basketball, the starting lineup is a set of players that participates at the beginning of the game and is often composed of a team’s best players. Another related abbreviation is GP or “Games Played.”
  • REB (rebounds). A rebound is credited to a player who retrieves the ball after a missed field goal or free throw attempt. A tip after a missed shot is considered a rebound whether the tip-in attempt goes in or not. A rebound is also counted to a player who retrieved the ball after a block attempt.
  • ST (Steals). A steal is an interception or deflection of the ball that leads to a turnover. It will be only counted as a steal if the defensive team takes possession of the ball. Turnovers such as traveling or dribbling violations are considered “steals.” 
  • AST (Assist). An assist is a pass that directly leads to a basket. The shot needs to follow directly after the pass. Every made field goal could potentially be an assist, except for isolation plays, tip-ins, or coast-to-coast fastbreak situations.
  • Turnover (TO). A turnover is counted against an offensive player who directly loses the ball or a possession because of an error. It could be an errant pass, an offensive foul, or dribbling violations. 
  • AST/TO (Assist to turnover ratio). It is defined as the number of assists for a team or player compared to the total number of turnovers. 
  • PT/Possession (points per possession). This is the average number of points scored per possession. For example, in the first two offensive possessions, Player A has made two three-pointers. On the third, his teammate Player B was fouled in the act of shooting and made a free throw. Therefore, the team is scoring 2.33 points per possession.
  • MP (minuted played). The total number of game minutes that a player spends on the court.

How Do You Read Basketball StatsHow Do You Read Basketball Stats?

In situations where you missed your team’s game or simply want to make an in-depth analysis, you must know how to read basketball stats. Reading basketball stats often boils down to learning how to make sense of a basketball box score.

A box score is a comprehensive summary of the game through statistics. It features a detailed breakdown of the team and individual statistics, including the number of minutes played, the total number of turnovers, field goal attempts, percentages, and so on. 

To make sense of everything in the box score, you must familiarize yourself with the basketball stats abbreviations. The ones mentioned above are an excellent place to start. It would also be advisable to read box scores at every opportunity, not just games of your favorite teams. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at it.

Reading a basketball box score could quickly tell you about the performance of the team and the players. In the NBA, a box score contains pretty much the same information, so you can easily look and interpret the statistics as you should. 

More often than not, a box score is tabulated in a table format with categories such as MIN, FGM, FGA, FG%, and so forth. Every player that has played for both teams is listed with the stats for each category listed next to their names. At the bottom line of each table are the total stats representing the team stats for that particular game. 

Wrapping Things Up: The Ultimate Guide to Basketball Statistics

What do basketball statistics mean? Well, they won’t mean a thing unless you know what they represent and have a familiarity with basketball stats abbreviations. The good news is, all it takes is a little bit of practice, and you’ll be good at it in no time.

For starters, the very basic statistics that you need to keep track of are assists, rebounds, points, plus-minus, turnovers, and defensive FG% (opponents’ FG%). Of course, there are other stats that you should look at to get the whole picture, but these are just some that you can start and still have a pretty good idea of why the game went one way or the other.

In a box score, most of the stats are abbreviated. Therefore, you should be familiar with these shortened forms. For example, TO means “turnovers,” PF means “personal fouls,” BA means “blocks against,” and GP stands for “games played.” Most basketball statistics are abbreviated because they are put in the box score in a tabular form. This allows the letters to easily fit in a cell.

Other abbreviated stats included in this guide and is used in basketball are:

  • FGA (field goal attempts)
  • EFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage)
  • FTA (Free Throw Attempts)
  • MP (Minutes Played)
  • GS (Games Started)
  • REBS (Rebounds)
  • AST (Assists)
  • PT/Poss (Points per possession)

Of course, there are more to basketball statistics than the ones included in this guide, but this is definitely an excellent way to start. Familiarizing yourself with the terms and shortened forms are the keys to knowing how to read basketball statistics.

If you’re a basketball fan, knowing how to read basketball stats is imperative. It allows you to deeply look at teams’ performances and assess where they did well and where they should improve. Coaches often go to the statistics and box score to identify their deficiencies and construct strategies against opposing teams. Of course, as a fan, you don’t need to do that, but it will help you gain more profound knowledge and understanding of the game’s nuances.

At the end of the day, basketball is a numbers game and will always be dissected using statistics. Basketball player stats and team stats will always be broken down using numbers. To keep in step, a basketball fan must become interested in basketball stats abbreviations and how to read basketball box scores.

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.

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