Basketball Coaches, What Stats Are Most Important to You?

One of the ways I use statistics is as a sort of self check to make sure I’m not missing anything. When a game ends, I have an idea of what I think happened, but it’s the game video and the stat sheet that give me more concrete information. I keep a Google Doc template called “Opponent Name by the Numbers.” There are two columns in the document. One for our team and one for the opponent. As I fill out the two rows of numbers, I find that there’s often some aspect of the game that I hadn’t previously considered that jumps out to me. Since I first started coaching high school back in 1994, the statistics I pay attention to have changed. Here are a few of those categories that might be a little less obvious:

Are you better in zone or man defense?

Does your team play different defenses? If so, you might find it worth your time to see how efficient your opponent was depending on which defense you played. For example, this past season, I believed that our 1-3-1 half court zone defense was our worst defense. I seemed to remember lots of quick swings for open jumpers and lots of offensive rebounds on the weak side. As it turned out, our opponent was actually most efficient for that game when we played man to man.

To chart defensive points per possession according to the defense we were playing, I watch our game film and make categories for each defense. For example, let’s say during the course of a game we played a 1-3-1 zone, a 2-3 zone, man to man, and a full court run and jump trap. I would keep a list of each defensive possession and the result of that possession. Did the other team score? If so, how many points? How many times did we foul while playing that defense? If we played ten possessions of 2-3 zone and the other team scored three points, our defensive points per possession while playing zone would be 0.3 points per possession. I also kept a separate category for transition defense, which usually meant that we had just turned the ball over. The other team’s offense was always most efficient when they were playing offense after one of our turnovers. I did not do this charting for every game we played. Here’s an example of what these numbers might look like over the course of a few games.

  • Man defense: 0.73 points per possession
  • 2-3 zone defense: 0.48 points per possession
  • 1-3-1 defense: 0.65 points per possession
  • Diamond Press Defense: 1.0 points per possession
  • Transition Defense: 1.2 points per possession

Numbers like the ones above could be helpful to know when trying to beat that conference opponent the second time around or to see which of your defenses tend to be most effective over the course of the whole season.

Just because our 2-3 zone yielded the lowest points per possession for opponent’s offenses, doesn’t mean our team should play that every possession. Perhaps we also force the least turnovers in that defense. Maybe teams are able to really slow us down by being patient when we want to play fast. Maybe our players start to stand around a little more when they are playing zone. Still, I find looking over these kinds of numbers really helpful when it comes to evaluating our team’s defenses and what defenses might be most effective versus certain opponents and in certain situations.

Two notes of interest:

  • We use HUDL to manage our game video and participate in their statistics service.
  • Colton Houston of HD Intelligence is the person who pointed me to this way of thinking about defensive points per possession.
Possession Chart Shared by Houston of HD Intelligence


The eFG% accounts for the fact that some baskets are worth two points and others three. A player who goes 2-4 from the field shooting two pointers will have a lower eFG% than a player shooting threes. When I look over our team’s three point shooting numbers, I see that what we did last season was much in line with what our opponents’ did:

  • Us: averaged 3.3 makes a game and 12.5 attempts for 26%
  • Opponents: 3.5 makes and 12.3 attempts for 28.6%

My first thought on these numbers is that we didn’t create any advantage with the way we shot threes; in fact, we lost the game at the three point line by a little. Looking to the off season and next year’s practices, I see an opportunity to turn a slight loss into a significant advantage for next year. When I look at our current players, I see many players who with regular practice and armed with the confidence that comes from knowing which shots we want them to shoot might be able to make big improvements.

After looking at those three point numbers, I watched all of our team’s three point attempts. This was made much easier in the Hudl program because on the reports tab, I can just click on the 3FGA number and be taken straight to all the clips of our three point attempts. Because of some of the offensive actions we run, I found that a significant amount of our three point attempts were taken from the wing and the corner. If as a coaching staff we think we can improve in this area, we can decide to devote a certain amount of our offseason workout and practice time to wing and corner threes. We can chart our progress in workouts to see if we can perform significantly above last year’s 26%. We can start to get an idea for what might be a goal for next year. Should we up our three point attempts to twenty a game? More or if we’re going to stay at 26%, should we shoot even less? Do we think we can shoot 30% from the line next year? Even higher? That I paid attention to eFG% numbers has given me some concrete ideas to consider for this offseason and next year’s practices.

Offensive Rebound Efficiency

It used to be I might say we got out-rebounded 35-17, or we got beat on the offensive glass 15-6. What’s wrong with that? Well, those numbers can be pretty deceiving. What if we caused a bunch of turnovers with a press and so made a lot of lay ups? The higher percentage we shoot from the field, the less chances we have to get an offensive rebound. The Hudl stat report defines offensive rebound efficiency as, “how many of the possible offensive rebounds were successfully retrieved.” In addition to getting this number from our HUDL report, we also tracked it during the game. If a team missed a shot, one of our JV players would mark a slash on a chart. If that rebound was gained by the offensive team, that slash was circled. We always knew how we and our opponent was doing on the boards. For example, we would know that we’d rebounded 4 of our 10 missed shots for 40% in the first half, and that our opponent had rebounded 2 of their 8 missed shots for 25%.

How About You, Coach?

Thanks for checking out my post. I’d appreciate any thoughts you have that might help me extend my thinking about these statistics, and I’d especially like to hear what statistics you pay attention to and how you put those numbers to work for you to make decisions about your team.

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