Possession is arguably the most important and entry level metric to understanding basketball analytics basics. Pace, offensive efficiency, and defensive efficiency metrics are all based on possession calculations. Given the common assumption that two teams use almost the same number of possessions in a game, it is easy to calculate offensive and defensive efficiency numbers, when the possession count is adjusted to 100. Basketball metrics gain a meaningful dimension when “per 100 possessions” is added.

How the Possession is Calculated?

It counts as a team possession every time when a player of that team;
(1) attempts a field goal,
(2) misses a shot and does not get the offensive rebound,
(3) turns the ball over (some sources add “turnovers that are assigned to teams” for a more precise possession calculation),
(4) goes to the line for two or three shots and either makes the last shot or does not get the rebound of a missed last shot.

Basic Possession Formula=0.96*[(Field Goal Attempts)+(Turnovers)+0.44*(Free Throw Attempts)-(Offensive Rebounds)]
More Specific Possession Formula=0.5*((Field Goal Attempts + 0.4*Free Throw Attempts – 1.07*(Offensive Rebounds/(Offensive Rebounds + Opponent Defensive Rebounds))*(Field Goal Attempts – FG) + Turnovers) + (Opponent Field Goal Attempts + 0.4*(Opponent Free Throw Attempts) – 1.07*(Opponent Offensive Rebounds)/(Opponent Offensive Rebounds + Defensive Rebounds))*(Opponent Field Goal Attempts – Opponent FG) + Opponent Turnovers))

This formula estimates possessions based on both the team’s statistics and their opponent’s statistics, then averages them to provide a more stable estimate.

What are the .44 and .96 Multipliers?

.44 multiplier has to be taken into account because not all free throws take up a possession. Technical foul shots along with “AND 1″s do not, while there might be more than two free throws on one possession. Research has determined that about 44% of all free throws take up possessions. The .96 multiplier accounts for team offensive rebounds in situations where a missed shot is tipped out of bounds by a defensive player, continuing the possession without an offensive rebound being credited.

Refer to the NBA team stats for any season’s possession based statistics.

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