Four Factors

Four Factors are the box score derived metrics that correlate most closely with winning basketball games. These factors also identify a team’s strategic strengths and weaknesses. Four factors can be applied to both a team’s offense and defense, hence it gives us eight factors.

1) Team’s Own Effective Field Goal Percentage
2) Team’s Own Turnover Percentage
3) Team’s Own Offensive Rebound Percentage
4) Team’s Own Free Throw Rate
5) Opponent’s Effective Field Goal Percentage
6) Opponent’s Turnover Percentage
7) Team’s Own Defensive Rebound Percentage (defensive rebound can be found by subtracting offensive rebounds from total rebounds)
8) Opponent’s Free Throw Rate

  • Shooting the ball
    Effective Field Goal Percentage=(Field Goals Made) + 0.5*3P Field Goals Made))/(Field Goal Attempts)
  • Taking care of the ball
    Turnover Rate=Turnovers/(Field Goal Attempts + 0.44*Free Throw Attempts + Turnovers)
  • Offensive rebounding
    Offensive Rebounding Percentage = (Offensive Rebounds)/[(Offensive Rebounds)+(Opponent’s Defensive Rebounds)]
  • Getting to the foul line
    Free Throw Rate=(Free Throws Made)/(Field Goals Attempted) or Free Throws Attempted/Field Goals Attempted

While these are the four essential factors that decide to win and to lose in the NBA, the factors do not carry equal weight. Dean Oliver has found the following weights as follows:
1. Shooting (40%)
2. Turnovers (25%)
3. Rebounding (20%)
4. Free Throws (15%)

The number in parentheses is the approximate weight of each factor. Shooting is the most important factor, followed by turnovers, rebounding, and free throws. Each statistic measures a separate skill there’s no reason that a team can’t shoot well, commit few turnovers, rebound a high percentage of its misses, and make frequent trips to the free-throw line. At the same time, a team can compensate for poor performance in one area by outstanding performance in another hitting the offensive boards on a poor shooting night, for example.

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