Evaluating Player Performance

by Lason Perkins

The job of evaluating player performance is a never ending task for coaches. Larry Lindsay, an assistant coach at East Wake High School in Zebulon, North Carolina has developed a tool to help coaches determine how productive each player is when they are on the court.

Years ago, Coach Lindsay read about a formula that Bill James developed for runs created in baseball. Mr. James used runs created to determine how many runs a player was responsible for producing during the season, based on his statistics. Coach Lindsay took this principle and applied to basketball and developed a tool called Points Responsible (PR for short). PR allowed him to take a state sheet and see how valuable each player was statistically.

As he developed the formula for basketball, he had three basic goals in mind. First, he wanted to emphasize all-around play. The intention was to reward all-around play, not just points scored. The second idea was to incorporate the idea of the four point play. That is, a turnover cost not only in the two points you did not score but also the two points it leads to on the other end. The third goal was the desire for PR total to closely approximate the number of points scored by the team. How close does this number correlate to a team’s actual points scored? On almost every team that he used this statistical evaluation, the points responsible number has been within 5% of the actual number of points that the team scored.

The formula for points responsible is as follows:

Points + 2 (Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Charges Taken) + Blocked Shots – 2 (Missed Field Goals + Turnovers) – Personal Fouls – Missed Free-Throws

You may wonder how he decided on the values for each statistical categories. Rebounds and steals count as two points because they give your team possession of the ball and allow you the opportunity to score two points. A blocked shot may or may not give you possession, however, it does create a miss for the other team. Missed shots and turnovers cause you to lose possession of the ball. Since free-throws only count one point, a missed free-throw only reduces your point total by one point. On the average, a personal foul will cost you one point. This figure was reached by looking at several NBA seasons and dividing the number of free-throws made by the number of fouls. This also allows you to keep the formula as simple as possible.

Table 1 shows some examples using the starting five from a team coached by Lindsay. It includes all of the relevant statistics for calculating PR. Notice that John, by far, was responsible for the most points despite the fact that he was third in scoring. This occurred because of John’s excellent rebounding and strong defensive play.

Table 1- Team Statistics Example

Ryan 162-301 97-147 424 153 26 11 1 81 71 74 373
John 100-172 59-90 259 219 41 27 2 36 52 71 540
Ray 116-244 52-91 296 110 36 3 0 73 90 50 236
Jimmy 68-157 55-77 218 40 63 5 0 104 73 73 198
Kevin 59-148 31-71 147 110 13 18 0 14 43 50 63

Key: FG/A (Field Goals Made/Attempted) FT/A (Free Throws Mades/Attempted) PTS (Points) REB (Rebounds) ST (Steals) BS (Blocked Shots) CH (Charges or Offensive Fouls Taken) AS (Assists) TO (Turnovers) PF (Personal Fouls) PR (Points Responsible For)

PR can be used in a number of different ways to help you evaluate your team. First, you can find out the per game average of a player. Simply divide the PR by games played. Second, if you want to look at the efficiency of certain players, you can determine their PR rating per thirty-two minutes. Multiply the players PR by thirty-two and divide by minutes played. If you want to find out how a whole team of particular players would perform, simply multiply the PR rating by 160 and divide that number by minutes played.

Table 2- Player Efficiency
as determined by Points Responsible

Name PR PR/Game PR/32 PR/160
Ryan 373 13.3 15.6 77.9
John 540 19.3 24.3 121.5
Ray 236 8.4 10.2 51.1
Jimmy 198 7.1 9.1 45.4
Kevin 63 2.3 4.2 21.0

Key: PR (Points Responsible for) PR/Game (Points Responsible for per game) PR/32 (Points Responsible for per Minutes Played) PR/160 (Points Responsible for Groups of Players per game)

While statistics are not perfect, PR does help evaluate the overall performance of a player. It is particularly useful in justifying the actions that you take when you hear complaints from parents or players.