Introduction to Four Factors

Whether in the locker room or at the local bar watching a game, the discussion of who will win and why is a mainstay. But diving into the why has been a divisive and hotly contested discussion. "Defense wins championship," "you need superstars," "they have to have the clutch gene," "make your free throws." The list goes on and on. However in the early 2000s, Dean Oliver provided some data-driven illumination on the subject. The resulting Four Factors (EFG%, TOV%, ORR, FTR) have been used not only as part of a sound coaching strategy, but also to accurately predict winners and losers at the NBA, NCAA, and abroad. Each of the factors should be used internally as well as externally. Following a game, a coach can review his or her team's factors as well as the opponents. This provides a snapshot not only at how a team performed but also how they performed relative to their opponent. The image below shows how the Duke Blue Devils performed in various advanced metrics as well as how their collective opponents performed.

Duke Blue Devils - Advanced Team Stats

We have briefly covered the Factors here, but you can read more about each of these topics.


Effective Field Goal % - Turnover Rate - Offensive Rebounding Rate - Free Throw Rate


Four Factors Introduction

Make your shots - Shockingly, it is important to shoot better than the other team. Coaches have known this since the creation of the game but Dean Oliver added a different statistic for shooting called Efficient Field Goal Percentage (EFG%) that accounts for the weight of a 3 point shot, which traditional Field Goal Percentage (FG%) does not.

Effective Field Goal % = ((Field Goals Made) + 0.5*3PT Field Goals Made))/(Field Goal Attempts)

Protect the ball - All coaches stress the importance of reducing turnovers and creating them on defense. If you can force more turnovers and reduce your own, you will give your team more chances to score and therefore generate a higher chance of winning. Instead of measuring the raw number of turnovers, a percentage is calculated (TOV%)

Turnover Rate = Turnovers/(Field Goal Attempts + 0.44* Free Throw Attempts + Turnovers)

Crash the boards - Specifically preventing the opponents from getting offensive rebounds and getting them yourself. The statistic to be tracked is Offensive Rebounding Percentage. In order to win a team should be grabbing more Offensive rebounds and preventing the other team from getting rebounds when they are playing on defense. Similar to turnover percentage, the theme here is to increase the number of scoring opportunities.

Offensive Rebounding Rate = (Offensive Rebounds)/(Offensive Rebounds + Opponent’s Defensive Rebounds)

Get to the line – Coaches will know about the importance of getting to the free throw line. They are the easiest shots to take and also gets the opposition into foul trouble and possible disqualification. Taking more free throws than your opponent is a key factor in helping teams win. Obviously, making them is good, but a good free throw shooter that does not get to the line, creates much less value than a mediocre one who is great a drawing fouls.

Free Throw Rate = Free Throws Made/Field Goals Attempted


Why we care

Here at Pivot Analysis, our focus is on analyzing the game through the lens of impact and effects on winning. The Four Factors, as well as, Offensive and Defensive Rating are primary metrics that enable us to provide users with the ability to understand why teams win or lose, who is responsible, and what they are doing that is so impactful.

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