Basketball Statistics: Explanation and Meaning

What's behind Boxscore, PER and more.

two players fight for the basketball

Statistics are everywhere in basketball. They help to analyze games and players, put teams together and develop strategies. But what do the numbers and designations from the boxscore mean? What is the PER? And what is Advanced Stats all about? Find out why statistics are so valuable in basketball, what they mean and where their limits lie.

What stats are good for in basketball

In basketball, there is usually clarity. It is almost always clear who has thrown towards the basket, whether the ball slips through the hoop, whether it rebounds and, if so, who grabs the rebound. This in turn makes it easier to collect statistics and to compare them between players. The scoring table records points, rebounds, assists and missed shots, as well as the shooting percentages, and assigns them to the respective players. In this way, statistics in basketball can provide clues for objective analyses.

A tall player who hardly grabs any rebounds, for example, seems to need to work on his shooting and/or positioning and blocking out. Poor shooting percentages, on the other hand, may indicate that a player needs to work on either his shot in general or his shot selection, i.e. the type of shot he takes. Basketball statistics provide clues that can point in different directions. Context is therefore also crucial.

Basket shots for the basketball statistics
In a basketball game, actions can be attributed to individual players - which is why statistics are highly relevant in this sport.

This is made easier mainly in the NBA, but also in the Euroleague and Basketball Bundesliga, thanks to modern camera technology, which allows an even more in-depth analysis of the game on the court and the associated statistics. The fact that basketball takes place on a relatively small court and that there are only ten players on the court makes the process even easier. This allows actions to be clearly assigned.


It is not uncommon for the best players on the planet to sit in the press conference and take a quick look at the score sheet, especially the box score. Famous coaches such as Steve Kerr or Svetislav Pesic repeatedly draw attention to the importance of individual statistics, such as rebounds, for their own analysis of a game. The boxscore records the most important - and traditional - statistics and thus allows a quick, initial introduction to the analysis. Boxscores are collected for individual games as well as for the entire season or a certain period of time. The latter allows average values and thus depicts trends.


Scoring is, of course, the ultimate goal in basketball. Whoever scores more points ultimately wins the game. Accordingly, the players who regularly score the most points are among the most recognizable faces in the sport. Not least because they often get the ball in offense and put it in the basket in different ways. The shooting percentages can indicate where a player's strengths lie.


Shooting Percentage

The boxscore clearly records how many shots a player takes and how many of them he hits - both overall and from outside and inside the three-point line. Free throw percentages are also recorded. Basketball statistics compile the rates in the boxscore both as a percentage and proportionately. This makes it clear whether a player has made a lot of shots but only successfully sunk a few of them in the basket.

In addition, the number of free throws serves as an indication of whether a player is going to the basket aggressively, while the three-point percentage can indicate specialists who score particularly well from outside. A so-called 50-40-90 season is considered the holy grail in the NBA. This means that 50 percent of shots from the field hit their target, plus 40 percent of threes and 90 percent of free throws. This is particularly difficult because all three values are only achieved by the best players; Want to know who all belongs to the 50-40-90 club? Find out more in the following video.


A player who plays an assist directly prepares a successful shot, lay-up or dunk. If a player distributes a particularly large number of assists, this can indicate an unselfish style of play on the one hand and a good eye and a strong feel for the game itself and movements on the court on the other.


Blocking a throw prevents it from reaching the ring at all. Traditionally, this is considered a specialty of tall players who wait near the ring to protect it with their length. However, smaller, athletic players can also regularly block throws with the right timing. However, this basketball statistic is not necessarily an indication of outstanding defense. For example, players who chase blocks can neglect the space behind them and allow easy finishes.


The famous ball steal can be a decisive advantage in the game. A steal is achieved either when a player takes the ball directly from another player or when he goes into a passing lane to intercept the ball. This in turn can be an indication of good individual defense, but it doesn't have to be. As with the block, if you speculate too much on the steal, you may open up space for the opponent.


Most players and teams don't even hit half of their shots during a game. Collecting rebounds is correspondingly important. Basketball statistics in the boxscore record the total of all rebounds as well as offensive and defensive rebounds. The former represent how often the team collects its own missed shots at the opponent's basket. This in turn opens up immediate new shooting opportunities - which the opposing team naturally wants to prevent.

Taller players often collect more rebounds per se. But smaller players can also develop into real specialists. Dennis Rodman, for example, one of the best rebounders in NBA history, is just over two meters tall. He possessed outstanding timing, positioned himself skillfully and always studied exactly how a ball bounced off the hoop or board when it came up at certain angles. You can watch some of his most famous rebounds in the video below.

Fouls und Turnover

In Europe, it's over after five fouls, in the NBA after six. If a player regularly scratches this threshold, he runs the constant risk of having to end the game prematurely. In this case, the box score indicates that the coaching team should train defensive cleverness and possibly reduce aggressiveness.

Turnovers describe the number of times a player or team loses the ball. The more often an individual player has the ball in his hands, the more attacks he initiates, the more often he can naturally lose the ball. However, particularly good build-up players such as Chris Paul or Steve Nash manage the feat of controlling the game without regularly losing the ball to the opponent.

You can find further explanations of player actions in basketball in our article about basketball terms.

How does the box score help to determine effectiveness?

A single value from the box score often only serves as an indication. Even the entire stat sheet cannot measure a player's efficiency on its own. However, it is possible to add up individual statistics in order to get a useful indication of a player's efficiency using basketball stats. In the German Basketball League, for example, there is a fixed formula that results in a certain efficiency value, which in turn is part of the official statistics. It reads:

Effectiveness = (points + rebounds + assists + steals + blocks) - ((number of shot attempts - number of scored shots) + (number of free throw attempts - number of scored free throws) + turnovers)

An example: If a player scores 15 points, grabs 6 rebounds, gets two assists, grabs a steal and blocks a shot, you get an efficiency value of 14:

with 11 shot attempts and 5 successful shots as well as six free throws with four goals and three turnovers; Effectiveness = (15 + 6 + 2 + 1 + 1) - ((11 - 5) + (6 - 4) + 3) = 14

For comparison: K.C. Rivers from FC Bayern Basketball, who currently has the best score in the easyCredit Basketball Bundesliga, has 24.

Your head is spinning with so many numbers? Don't worry! To make sure it doesn't knock your socks off, the owayo store has basketball socks for more support and, above all, statistically relevant player actions.

Basketball Socks

See our socks >>

Advanced statistics in basketball

The boxscore is no longer the only source of statistics in basketball. Rather, it provides the entry point for a quick overview. To delve deeper, it is worth taking a look at the Advanced Stats. NBA teams have long had their own statistics departments, which use various stats to determine the efficiency of individual players in a wide range of areas.

There are comprehensive statistics for the entire offense and defense in general, but also more detailed analysis values such as shooting efficiency, which is expressed in the True Shooting Percentage. For this, the free throw, two-point and three-point percentages are added together according to their actual value on the court and merged into one number. The ratio of assists to turnovers is also a popular figure, as is the proportion of possible rebounds that a player grabs.

Markings on the basketball court
Shooting efficiency not only counts baskets, but also where they were shot from.

In basketball, this can be done by creating shot profiles using appropriate statistics. From what distance does a player score best? How does he react to tighter or less tight defense? An essential part of the Advanced Stats are also comprehensive values such as the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and the Offensive or Defensive Rating.

Player Efficiency Rating (PER)

The Player Efficiency Rating was devised by John Hollinger, who has since returned to work as a journalist after working in the management of the Memphis Grizzlies. He developed a sophisticated formula that takes into account both the individual player's playing time and his positive and negative statistics. In order to obtain a value that takes into account as many factors as possible, Hollinger also used the pace of the respective team. This is the number of possessions the team has over the entire duration of the game.

The PER provides a now recognized and widely used, good indication of the performance of individual players. The best players, for example, score between 20 and 25, while the average is around 15. In the end, the best players actually end up with the best PER values. The highest Player Efficiency Rating over a season to date, for example, was achieved by Michael Jordan (27.91).

However, the statistics are not perfect. This is because they can hardly measure the defense in particular. Blocks and steals are included, but how the pressure of good individual defenders affects the opponent's offense cannot be captured in a value - a shortcoming that John Hollinger himself also mentioned.

Concentrated basketball player
The Player Efficiency Rating (PER) provides an indication of an individual's performance in relation to playing time and ball possession.

Offensive and defensive rating

Defensive and offensive ratings are statistics designed to show the efficiency of individual players as well as entire teams in defense and attack. The basis for this is always one hundred possessions, an average value that comes closest to the average per game. The respective formula is complicated, but it basically indicates how many points a player or team allows or scores per 100 possessions. Accordingly, a low defensive rating is better than a high one. The opposite is true for the offensive rating.

For teams, both statistics give a good indication of the efficiency of their respective offense and defense. For players, the defensive rating is less meaningful, as the defensive influence can rarely be measured using individual statistics - especially as neither the offensive nor defensive rating takes into account a player's playing time and the pace of the team.

Defensive Basketball
The defensive performance of a basketball team is difficult to assess on the basis of statistics.

The limits of statistics in basketball

Dismissing statistics as mere mathematics is just as pointless as basing your own basketball analysis solely on stats. They can definitely give a good impression of where there is a need for action with individual players or teams, for example. They can help you understand why a game or an entire season is trending in a certain direction and what impact a player has on his team's offense and defense.

Without a direct impression, however, stats in basketball can only tell half the truth or sometimes even lead in the wrong direction. For example, a high assist rate does not necessarily mean outstanding understanding of the game. Perhaps the player in question passes the ball even though his own shot would be better in order to improve his own statistics. Another player, on the other hand, reads the game excellently and makes open shots thanks to his outstanding passes, but does not have the teammates who can make use of his passes.

The decisive factor is therefore always the context, the interplay of the so-called eye test, i.e. the video analysis of individual scenes and games, and the basketball statistics. Teams and leagues use different metrics, but do not always publicly explain which statistics their decisions and strategies are based on.

Shooting Shirt BS5 Pro

See our Shooting Shirt >>

Women's Basketball Jerseys B5w Pro

See our women's basketball jersey >>

Basketball: Stats and other important information

Statistics form the theoretical part of basketball. They help to understand the game and tackle weaknesses, respectively. Discover and promote strengths. You can learn about the framework in which everything takes place with the help of our article on match length, time violations and fouls. You can also hone your game with our practical training tips. Learn how to improve your ball handling and shooting techniques:

  • Basketball shooting: the lay-up
  • 8 Basketball Dribbling Exercises
  • Basketball shooting: the jump shot
  • Ad

    Image Credits: Title Image: Melinda Nagy/; Image 1: haizon/; Image 2: ruewi/; Image 3: Drobot Dean/; Image 4: Dimitry Burovihin/