Non-Traditional Basketball Stats that Impact the Game

Kevin Sutton, Basketball HQ (

This article was written by Kevin Sutton. He has over 26 years of coaching experience.  During those years he has been a college assistant five years at James Madison University, Old Dominion University and George Washington University.  In addition, Sutton coached at five nationally ranked high school programs: Flint Hill Preparatory, Harked Preparatory, St. John’s Prospect Hall, Montrose Christian, and Montverde Academy.

What are the stats that you look at when you first look at a stat sheet?

Traditionally everyone looks at the following stats in this order:

  1. Points
  2. Rebounds
  3. Assist
  4. Steals
  5. Turnovers
  6. Shooting percentages
  7. Points in the paint
  8. Points off transition

Then the individual will look at the opponents stats to do their comparisons.  Looking at stats such as:

  • Assist to Turnovers
  • Rebound Margin
  • Field Goal Percentages
  • Turnover Margin

You can tell a lot about a team and the individual players by looking at a stat sheet. Some of things that can be gleaned from reviewing a stat sheet are:

  1. Which team had more possessions than their opponent through the rebound margin and the turnover margin.
  2. Which team did not handle the ball well by looking at turnovers.
  3. Which team was dominate in the lane by looking at the points in the paint.
  4. Which team converted defensive stops into points by looking at the points off turnovers.

But there is more that can be learned…

Here are some non-traditional stats that I feel are impacting the game of basketball that are not included in the stat sheet. These stats are usually kept on the bench by assistant coaches or they can be charted by watching tapes after the game. These stats are indicators as to what is really important to the head coaches and the success of their system.

These stats are:

 1. Fouls Drawn –  This stat is a great indicator of the team and players ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line.  This is a stat that is actually kept in international games.  They actually have a category for the player who leads the league in this stat.

If the team and players shoot a high percentage from the free throw line they will put their opponent at a disadvantage by getting them in foul trouble and also increasing their lead. I learned about this stat when I was an assistant coach for USA Basketball U16 and U17 Gold Medal teams.

 2. Paint Touches – This is another stat that is clear indicator of which team is more dominate than the other.  This is a stat that can be kept from both an offensive and defensive perspective.  From an offensive perspective the more that the ball touches the paint, either through the use of dribble penetration or pass penetration, the more of an advantage the offense should have.

Conversely, the more  that the defense does not allow “Paint Touches” then the more likely the defense is going to have the advantage. This stat is another stat I learned to appreciate during my international coaching experiences.

 3. Ball Reversals  –  Teams that are allowed to reverse the ball easily will have an advantage vs the defense.  The reversal of the ball often puts the defense at a disadvantage because the defense is constantly in a “close out situation” , thus forcing the defense to be in their defensive rotations.

Even with a shot clock, if the ball is allowed to be reversed from one side of the court to the other at least 2-3 times the offense will be in control of the game. Conversely, if the defense does not allow the ball to be reversed and keeps the offense on one side of the floor the defense then has the advantage.

 4.  Contested Shots vs Non-Contested Shots –  This is another stat that can be kept from an Offensive and Defensive perspective. Offensively you want to get as many “uncontested shots” that you can get. Defensively you clearly want to your opponent to shoot as many contested shot as possible.

Contested shots are much harder to make and drive down  your shooting percentages. Contested shots forces your opponent to either dribble more or try to make more passes – both of which increase the chances of the ball being stolen.

 5. Rebounds Per Minutes Played – This is a great stat to keep. This is a stat that truly speaks about effort.    This is a stat that can be used as a motivator.  This is the type of stat that is valuable for a player who is an “energy” guy . This  is also a stat that can be used to show a lack of effort.

 6. Rim Runs – This is a great stat that teaches the “BIG” importance of running every time for a potential score.  The “rim run” is basically the foul line to foul line race with the opponents BIG.  Rim Runs also puts a great deal of pressure on defensive transition.  Getting 6-8 points on Rim Runs is great.

 7. Hockey Assist – The play before the direct play that leads to a basket.

This can be a pass to team who then makes the next pass that leads to an  assist.  For me it could be a screen that gets a teammate a wide open shot.  A hockey assist is that play that appears to be small, but in actuality it is a huge part of the success of the team.   This stat needs to be acknowledged.

8. Deflections – This stat is very important to a pressing team.  This stat is an indicator of the aggressiveness of the defense.  Coaches will give a certain number of deflections they would like to achieve because they will lead to steals.

 9. Late Shot Clock Plays -The shot clock often impacts the game from both an offensive and defensive perspective.  Thus, it has to be charted.  From a defensive perspective the more often you can put a team into a late shot clock situation, the higher percentage that you will be successful.  Most teams do not execute at a high percentage late in the shot clock .

 10. Bad shots that lead to points for opponents– This stat is as straight forward as it can be. In my opinion “Bad Shots”are shots that are:

  1. Not taken within the context of the offense.
  2. Taken without rebound/floor balance
  3. Taken late in the shot clock
  4. Taken by the wrong shooter
  5. Unmakeable shots. Shots that have no chance at going in.  Bad shots often lead to breakaway baskets for the opponents.  They are often taken at the wrong time by the wrong person at the wrong location.

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