Four Factors: Go Deeper Than Your Traditional Counting Stats

These four stats help coach­es adjust for pace of play to get a more accu­rate view of their team.

Four Factors: Go Deeper Than Your Traditional Counting Stats

These four stats help coach­es adjust for pace of play to get a more accu­rate view of their team.

A quick math les­son. Player A shot a ster­ling 58 per­cent this sea­son. On the whole, that was a high­er per­cent­age of shots made than team­mate Player B, who shot 51.6 percent.

However, Player B shot 4.3 3-point­ers a game, can­ning 43.4 per­cent of them. Considering how much more valu­able a made three is com­pared to a two, Player B’s shots are typ­i­cal­ly more valu­able than Player A’s — an effec­tive field goal per­cent­age of 60.8 per­cent, com­pared to 57.9 per­cent for Player A, proves it.

That’s just one exam­ple of how tra­di­tion­al count­ing stats often fail to tell the true val­ue of a play­er. They don’t account for pace of play, dif­fer­ent shot types or play­ing time. They’re use­ful, but ulti­mate­ly flawed.

Dean Oliver set out to fix this issue in his 2004 book, Basketball on Paper”. In it, he unveiled how coach­es can more defin­i­tive­ly gauge per­for­mance — the Four Factors. Oliver high­light­ed four main traits that help define win­ning teams: accu­rate shoot­ing, strong rebound­ing, being turnover-averse and get­ting to the free-throw line. He then cre­at­ed sta­tis­tics that show teams how they’re doing in these areas.

How can you take full advan­tage of this new school of thought? Here’s how each stat is cal­cu­lat­ed and why it’s important. 

Effective Field Goal Percentage

Field goal per­cent­age alone is a use­ful stat, but it doesn’t take into account the added ben­e­fit of that extra point from a three. Oliver’s first stat makes it easy to bal­ance the val­ue a 3-point­er provides.

How It Works

This stat adds a weight­ed val­ue on made three-point­ers in a tra­di­tion­al field goal percentage.

In the run-and-gun, pace-and-space ethos of the mod­ern game, high school coach­es take tremen­dous val­ue in win­ning the effec­tive field goal per­cent­age bat­tle on a night­ly basis. Some even con­sid­er this the most impor­tant fac­tor in how you win high school games.

Read more about effec­tive field goal percentage >

Turnover Percentage

Avoiding turnovers is obvi­ous­ly crit­i­cal to win­ning, but sim­ply count­ing them doesn’t take pace of play into account. A team that walks the ball up the floor is like­ly going to have few­er mis­cues than one that fast breaks at every oppor­tu­ni­ty — but they’re also using far few­er pos­ses­sions. Turnover per­cent­age fac­tors in how many pos­ses­sions each team has, paint­ing a more accu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of ball security.

How It Works

This stat fac­tors pace of play into typ­i­cal turnover stats.

If you believe effec­tive field goal per­cent­age is the most impor­tant bat­tle to win in high school hoops, turnover per­cent­age has to be firm­ly in sec­ond place.

Turnover per­cent­ages can tell you so much more than a tra­di­tion­al assist-to-turnover ratio. When paired with line­up data, it can give you some ideas about how to bet­ter uti­lize your play­ers’ min­utes and min­i­mize their mistakes.

Read more about turnover percentage >

Offensive Rebound Percentage

The more oppor­tu­ni­ties a team has to score, the more like­ly they are to do so. Gobbling up offen­sive rebounds cre­ates more pos­ses­sions and can demor­al­ize a defense that worked hard to get a stop. Once again, pace of play is a fac­tor here. A team that takes more shots is going to get more chances at offen­sive boards.

How It Works 

This stat adjusts rebound­ing rate by account­ing for pace.

Sometimes the best tran­si­tion defense is an offen­sive rebound. Winning the per­cent­age bat­tle on offen­sive boards can influ­ence how well you do in effec­tive field per­cent­age that night. It can also inspire new strate­gies about how to hit the glass.

Read more about offen­sive rebound­ing percentage >

Free Throw Factor

Oliver defines free throw rate as more impor­tant than free-throw per­cent­age. Sure, it’s great to make most of your free throws. But if you’re not get­ting to the line often enough, it’s not very use­ful. Teams and play­ers that shoot more free throws earn more oppor­tu­ni­ties at easy points while get­ting the oppo­si­tion into foul trouble.

How It Works 

This stat mea­sures how often a team or play­er gets to the foul line.

This is arguably the most mis­un­der­stood of the Four Factors. But there’s huge ben­e­fits to mea­sur­ing this on both ends of the court. For offens­es that like to get down­hill, draw­ing a lot of con­tact on dri­ves can make a dif­fer­ence in the score by the end of the game. For teams that take pride in their defense, this is a good way to mea­sure how dis­ci­plined you’re playing.

Read more about free throw factor >


It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that suc­ceed­ing in just one or two of these areas prob­a­bly won’t be enough to get your team over the top. Use the Goals report on Hudl to track your progress in all four.

There’s tremen­dous val­ue in these num­bers. And when you add Hudl Assist to your sub­scrip­tion, you’ll get all of them (for both your team and your oppo­nents) done for you.

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