What do they all mean?
Advanced statistics used to be the exclusive domain of front-office types, hired by NBA franchises just to crunch numbers for the teams. Things have progressed since then and these statistics are routinely discussed in television broadcasts and by commentators. At times though, these statistics can still be really confusing, and it may not be easy to interpret them directly. Here are a few advanced statistics that can be found on the NBA’s website, and how to interpret them.
Player impact estimate (PIE): Efficiency is the name of the game in the modern NBA, and PIE has taken pride of place in this regard. This statistic is a combination of many other basic ones such as points, rebounds, personal fouls, blocks, missed shots and turnovers, and neatly illustrates the overall performance of both teams and individual players, and correlates with winning percentages.
True shooting percentage (TS%): This statistic acknowledges that shots are not all worth the same number of points and incorporates free throws and three-pointers into calculation of a composite weighted percentage. These allow for a better understanding of the shooting efficiency of players by adjusting for the types of shots they tend to take. A variant known as effective field goal percentage (EFG%) excludes free throws.
Usage percentage (USG%): USG% often reflects the role that a player has in his team. However, a true star will be able to maintain a high-efficiency rating while having a high USG%, while a ball-dominant chucker will likely suffer in terms of efficiency. This statistic takes into account the number of possessions a player uses, relative to total team possessions, with a possession defined as one ending in a field goal, free throw attempt or turnover.
Points per possession (PPP): Besides efficiency, the other major factor to consider is pace, or the number of possessions per 48 minutes. Pace has gone up substantially over the past decades, with most basic statistics thus increasing as well. It is therefore essential to adjust for pace, and PPP does this by tabulating the points scored per possession.