page id: 546 The Basketball Possessions

The Basketball Possessions

Spanish ~ Español - Las Posesiones en Baloncesto

The most necessary statistic for any additional analysis, is the number of possessions a team gets in a game. Points scored doesn’t tell the whole story, because different styles of play will lead to different numbers of possessions. If a team play slow-down ball, almost running the shot clock to zero each possession, then there will be fewer total possessions in the game. Essentially, this shortens the game, since the real length of the game in practical terms is how many possessions each team gets.

A basic misconception in analysis and broadcasting, treat as equivalent points scored and points given up with offensive and defensive quality, without properly normalizing for possessions. If a team shoots really quickly every time down the floor, they could score 95 points per game, but still not be a good offensive team, because they might only be scoring 0.75 points per possession. Likely, that same team will give up a lot of points, too, simply by virtue of the mere number of possessions (and corresponding large number of shots). But they might still be a good defensive team, if they hold opponents to a low number of points per possession. And the effect can be significant.

In the 2001-2002 NBA season, the number of possessions per game ranged from a high of 101.9 for Sacramento, down to a low of 89.3 for Miami. If you just look at points scored, the Knicks look like one of the worst teams in the league, averaging a lowly 88.7 points per game. But their .989 points per possession was right at the league average and was actually slightly superior to the numbers posted by Toronto and Orlando, the 5th and 6th highest scoring teams in the league at 97.6 and 97.5 points per game, respectively.

What’s a possession worth ? The best and simplest way to analyze the value of rebounds ( and steals and turnovers ) is by considering them as adding or taking away possessions from your team. And on each possession, you can expect to score a certain number of points.

Definition of Possession : the time your team gets the ball, all the way up until the other team gets it back. At least for the purpose of this number, offensive rebounds don’t add possessions. This is comprehensible, since to determine the cost of a turnover, for instance, we want to know what the total chance there was that you’d score some points before the other team got the ball back. That includes getting offensive rebounds, since the turnover eliminates the possibility of getting second chance points just as it did first chance points.

The total number of possessions a team has can be calculated as

Possessions= FGM + Opp Def. Rebounds + Turnovers + Up to the Line for 2/3-points)

Then, you just take the total points scored by the team, divide by this number of possessions, and you get the points scored per possession. ( In 2000-2001 NBA Season, this number was 0.986 points per possession ).

A totally new eBA Rating System was developed with success by this comment's author, Prof. Roberto Azar, and specially designed for the 4 quarters Basketball games and the 24 Seconds Rule, and it is analyzed and discussed at the eBA System Area (external link).


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