Effective Field Goal Percentage: Giving the Triple Its True Worth

The 3-pointer has never been more valued than it is today. So why not embrace it with a stat that really shows off its rewards?

Effective Field Goal Percentage: Giving the Triple Its True Worth

The 3-pointer has never been more valued than it is today. So why not embrace it with a stat that really shows off its rewards?

Coaches young and old are embracing the modern game full-on. This means allowing some of their most steadfast principles to be twisted based on what today’s most popular advanced metrics suggest.

Take, for instance, Marshall University head coach Dan D’Antoni, who in his now-famous damn analytics” rant laid out to a reporter why he wasn’t all too concerned with posting up anymore. The best place on the floor to spot up for a shot? The numbers told him it was a 3-point attempt from the corner. The next-best shot? Any other three.

He had a front-row seat to the revolution as an assistant for his brother Mike D’Antoni, whose mid-aughts Phoenix Suns paved the way for the frenetic run-and-gun style adopted widely in today’s NBA. Dan clearly took notes, as his Thundering Herd sank a barrage of threes to score a first-round upset in their first NCAA tournament appearance in three decades.

So, if a 70-year-old coach can embrace effective field goal percentage (one of the Four Factors”) as his North Star, why not everyone else? As the name implies, coaches are turning to this stat to help them measure the efficiency of their shot selection — and whether they’re denying it from their foes.

How It Works

This stat is more inflated than your traditional field goal percentage, adding a weighted modifier to the three-point makes. 

But it’s inflated with a purpose. Let’s compare two scenarios of teammates con­tribut­ing to a win.

Scenario 1

Player A shoots 5 of 10 from the floor, including a 4 for 8 night on threes.

Player B, working the paint, finishes 7 of 14, all twos.

Scenario 2

Player A finishes 8 of 14 from the floor, all of them 2-pointers, for a 57 percent clip on field goal percentage.

Player B isn’t as accurate, going 5 for 13, all of them threes, for just a 38 percent clip.

In both scenarios, who do you think had the better night?

How Teams Value It

Catholic High School of Baton Rouge boys basketball coach Mark Cascio, the youngest coach to ever win a state title in Louisiana history, considers this stat the biggest difference between winning and losing for high school teams.

It’s the No. 1 factor in how you win high school games,” he says. That, and turnover battles. If you win those two battles, I think you win 90 percent of the time. We shoot a lot of threes, so our effective field goal percentage tends to be pretty high, especially when we shoot the ball well.” 

At Catholic, the Bears are heavy on the three attempts, averaging nearly 27 a game in some years. They also never want to face a set defense, so they play with pace and space, running a conceptual offensive style that borrows from a variety of attacks including dribble-drive motion.

Nationally-ranked Philadelphia power Imhotep Charter had the luxury of a few sharp­shoot­ers on its 2018 – 19 team, but that didn’t necessarily mean they always had the green light from deep. Effective field goal percentage has been a great way for the Panthers to measure the economy on their shot selection — and ensure they’re making the best decisions.

And it goes both ways. Imhotep prides itself on playing tough, physical defense, and looks to effective field goal percentage for a read on how well they’re doing in that department.

The opposing team’s effective field goal percentage, that’s an important number for us,” says head coach Andre Noble. The strength of our program has always been on the defensive side. We pride ourselves on getting stops, and that’s probably the best marker for how you’re doing that, in my opinion. It’s hugely important.” 

How You Can Use It

Consider your team’s effective field goal percentage numbers as a gateway to all the other discoveries that will help improve your program.

For instance, let’s say one of your players has a reasonably high effective field goal percentage. That leads you to the shot charts from your game reports, whereupon you discover that player is par­tic­u­lar­ly effective from one side of the floor. You can present that information to the player, and work on improving the other side. You can also bring it to the whiteboard, using the shot chart information to devise some sets that create an open look for the player in their sweet spot”.

Effective field goal percentage is just as crucial in opponent scouting. Using this stat, you can point out the best shooters on their team, and remind your players those are the ones they’ll have to close out on and keep a hand in their face. You can then follow up and look at the shot charts to see where on the floor those shooters are most effective. Do they park in the corner? Are they dominant with one hand? You’ll be able to devise more sensible match-ups to fit the numbers.

A number of other factors can also weigh on effective field goal percentage. If you’re a big believer in winning the turnover battle, you’ll know that a live-ball turnover often leads to an open layup. So the more forced turnovers, the better your chances of boosting your eFG%.

An offensive rebound typically leads to a second or third field goal attempt in a possession — and that attempt is often coming around the rim, or at least closer to the initial shot. This means offensive rebounding percentage, another one of the Four Factors, also affects eFG%. If you’re minimizing possession oppor­tu­ni­ties for your opponents, that’ll reflect in the eFG% total on the stat sheet.

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More coaches than ever are turning to the interactive reports from Hudl Assist to uncover these crucial numbers. With Assist, you’ll get both team and individual eFG numbers linked to the video, making it easy to be sure you’re on the right side of these odds.

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