Updated: Feb 14
Improving Your Basketball Program with Advanced Stats
What the heck is eFG%? Simplifying the Statistic
With the rise in focus and attention to advanced stats and analytics over the last decade-plus in the game of basketball, I get asked all the time by coaches across the country which of the advanced stats are the most important for them to learn and use daily with their team. To me, that answer is easy. It’s effective field goal percentage (eFG%).
Not familiar with eFG%? No problem, I’ve got your back. As described by Basketball Reference, eFG% is a statistic that accounts for the fact that a three-point field goal is worth more than a two-point field goal. The formula is below:
Effective field goal percentage is easy to calculate (in fact, if you have HUDL, they already do it for you!), and it gives you the most honest look at how your team is shooting from the floor. Once you understand it, eFG% will be a complete game-changer for your team.
The problem is that for more than a century we’ve used the old school stat of field goal percentage (FG%) to measure shooting effectiveness. In reality, it’s actually one of the most misleading stats in the game because it only measures shooting accuracy. It merely divides the number of field goal makes by the number of field goal attempts.
Or more simply put ...
Let me give you an example ...
Let’s say Duncan Robinson shoots 8-13 from the field in a game. His FG% would be .615. If he had gone 6-11 on 3s during the same game (a great clip!), that effort would actually bring down his overall shooting percentage.
Enter eFG%. This stat allows us to weigh both two-pointers and three-pointers properly and fairly across all players in a game. And in turn, it’s a much better stat when evaluating a given player’s productivity based upon his or her shots from the floor.
Take the above shooting example from Robinson. His eFG% in that same game would be .846. A much clearer look at how valuable his three-point shooting was for his team as well as his overall efficiency.
Let’s say that in that same game the Heat were playing against the Lakers, and Russell Westbrook finished the game 9-15 from the floor, including 0-3 on 3s. 😩 If we looked at FG% alone, the shooting nights of those two players would appear to be similar – 60% FG% for Westbrook and 62% for Robinson. That’s why eliminating FG% and using eFG% instead is so important! There’s a significantly bigger difference between Westbrook’s 60% eFG% and Robinson’s 85%.
And that, in fact, is an actual example from a recent NBA game, the Heat’s 113-107 win over the Lakers on January 23rd, 2022.
While talking about this advanced stat with coaches, I’ve received a lot of pushback. Many see it as another example of overinflating the value of the 3-point shot and simultaneously diminishing the value of 2s.. My response? Stats don’t lie. 🤷🏼♂️
Let me explain. For the current 2021-22 NBA season, guess who is the NBA leader in eFG%. Steph Curry? Nope. Kevin Durant? Try again. Trae Young? Sorry, 0-3.
Utah’s Rudy Gobert currently leads the NBA (as of 1/27/22) with an eFG% of .707. Second place? Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen at .690. In fact, eight of the top nine players in this category are listed as centers on their team’s roster. That’s because eFG% doesn’t discriminate against non-three-point shooters, either. It rewards them. That’s why players like Gobert and Allen can be atop the eFG% list, even though they’ve shot a combined 10 3’s in 83 total games played this season.
The key to why eFG% is a better evaluation tool than FG%? It’s all in the “e” …as in effective. A player’s true scoring value to your team on the offensive end of the floor is closely tied to how effective they are. Let me give you one last example.
Let’s compare Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Three of the most dominant scorers in the world, but they each terrorize NBA defenses in very different ways.
At first glance, their scoring is similar (KD averaging 29.3 points per game (ppg), Giannis 28.6 ppg, and Curry 25.8 ppg) with the overall separation coming from their FG% (Giannis leads the way at 53.1%, KD 52%, and Curry 41.6%). But let’s dive deeper and take a look at the distribution of their shot location ...
Giannis dominates the restricted area, taking an astronomical 49% of his shots from between 0-5 feet from the basket! 👀
On the other hand, KD takes less than 16% of his shots from 0-5 feet, but 45% of his shots come from 10-19 feet and another 25% of his shots from behind the three-point line. Then there’s Curry. A mere 19% of his shots come 0-5 feet from the basket, but an incredible 64% are taken from long range.
All three are high-level scorers that create from different parts of the floor. Giannis at the rim, KD from mid-range, and Curry from the arena parking lot. And although their shot distribution is SIGNIFICANTLY different, their eFG% is nearly identical. KD currently has an eFG% of 57%, compared to Giannis’ 56% and Curry’s 54%.
Another case of eFG% leveling the efficiency playing field.
So what does all this mean for you as a coach? To me, it means to start somewhere. If your team has never talked about eFG% before, teach it to your players and begin to track it. If you’re already familiar with it, see how it can begin to impact your team’s shot selection moving forward. If your team already lives and dies with it, congrats! You’re ahead of the coaching curve.
And don’t worry, we’ll get to more of this in Part Two. 😉