## Possession is Nine-tenths of the Law

Suppose that baseball statisticians had developed a complicated mathematical formula involving hits, walks, strikeouts, put-outs and errors in order to calculate … Pitch Count.

Seems a rather convoluted method for determining something that can easily and quite simply be tallied, huh?

But ya know …

… that’s pretty much the way hoop folk keep track of a piece of game data that is just as elemental to basketball as a “pitch” is to baseball. Hell, the Naismith Number-crunchers take their digital diagnosis in this regard to a whole ‘nother level – they “average” a team’s performance in matters of shooting, rebounding and protecting the ball with their opponents’ corresponding numbers … take a look at the actual computation.

FGA + [(0.4) x FTA] + TO’s – [(FGA – FG) x OR% x 1.07]

And can you guess what aspect of basketball all that ugly arithmetic computes?

Possessions – the total number of a team’s opportunities to score.

Though more than a little daunting, that algebraic symbolism is framed in reasonable logic – you combine TO’s and “Free-throw Conversions,” then add in any FGA’s for which there is not a corresponding Offensive Rebound. Pretty simple concept.

Of course, the formula assumes that 40% of FTA’s represent the completion of a successful offensive possession (i.e. conversion) – and that a factor of 1.07 will account for a squad’s “Live-ball” Team OR’s.

It was a little over 50 years ago when my junior high school pals and I started regularly attending C’s games at the old Garden – even got to meet several Baltimore Bullets one Friday night.

It took a little “sneaking,” but if you foraged around by the press table (or even some of the more expensive seats) at halftime or after a game, you often could find copies of the “paperwork” that was provided to the newspaper writers and "high brows" as the game progressed – quarterly stats and even a running play-by-play.

This data was typed up on good old-fashioned “ditto masters” as the game was going on. You could see Howie McHugh passing them out a couple of minutes into each quarter of play, sending a bunch of them via string and clipboard up to Johnny Most & Co. high above courtside.

Alas, here in 2019, the NBA’s method for tracking “Possession” seems about as sophisticated as ol’ Howie’s string and clipboard.

Regarding the formulaic calculation of Possessions:

Over the last two regular seasons (and according to my own perhaps-slightly-fallible record-keeping), the Celtics attempted 3,295 FT's, good for 1,430 "Free-throw Conversions" -- a rate of 43.4%.

Opponents took 3,620 FT's, accounting for 1,550 conversions and a rate of 42.8%.

Maybe the "equation" for tallying possessions needs a re-calibration?

Abacus Reveals
_______________________________________________________________

Recent Posts
_______________________________________________________________________________________