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Points per Possession Rating


Points divided by possessions times 100. Also called simply "Rating", "Offensive Rating" for points scored per 100 possessions, or "Defensive Rating" for points allowed per 100 possessions. A related term is Adjusted Points per Game


This method applies in a straightforward manner to teams. It can also be applied to individuals, but the method is more complex.

Calculating Team Ratings

Points per possession= Points scored or allowed/possessions

Offensive Rating= Points scored*100/possessions

Defensive Rating= Points allowed*100/possessions

Calculating Individual Offensive Ratings

This is complicated and will be explained here soon.


Points per possession is the best way available to measure the quality of offenses and defenses. The method takes into account points scored, field goal percentage, turnovers, offensive rebounds, and free throw percentage - everything (except for assists and, maybe, fouls) that can justifiably be looked at in measuring offensive or defensive quality. Possessions, as they were defined previously, make such a complete measurement possible. Repeating what is so important: When a team has the ball, its whole purpose is to score as many points as possible before it becomes the defense. If it were easily accomplished, teams would try to get fouled every time, miss the last free throw, get the offensive rebound, try to get fouled, miss the last free throw, etc., never having to play defense. Score lots of points in a possession and you are not giving the opposition a chance to catch up. The most common way to do that now is to score two points every time down the court. Points per possession shows which offenses do it best and which defenses stop it best.

In practice, points per possession (the number), is rarely used. Numbers like 1.071, which result by dividing points by possessions, are troublesome to handle with three numbers after the decimal and a leading 1. The overall rating (also called the study rating and points per 100 possessions) just multiplies points per possession by 100 to get aesthetically more normal numbers. It is often used in comparing offenses or defenses from different seasons. Adjusted points per game multiplies points per possession by the league average for possessions per team per game to reflect both the quality of the team and the average game pace in the league for that season.

As an example, the best offense of the '73-74 season was Milwaukee's with an offensive rating of 99.3, meaning that the Bucks and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar scored 99.3 points per 100 possessions. A normal NBA game in '73-74 had each of the opposing teams using 110.0 possessions to score their points. In such a normal game, the Bucks would score about 109 points (109.2 to be more exact) against an average defense. The Bucks actually employed a very slow pace that season, averaging only 107.9 possessions per game, meaning that they normally didn't score 109.2 points in a game. There were so many teams that had faster paces than the Bucks that seven teams scored more total points. But the Bucks did it better. Milwaukee led the league in field goal percentage and assists and did well in offensive rebounds. The Bucks' 99.3 rating, though it led the league would now be among the worst in the NBA. New Jersey had an offensive rating of 99.9, which was second to last in '87-88. Because the pace of the game is so much slower now, the Nets adjusted points per game rating was 101.7, much lower than the Bucks' 109.2.

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