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In my past evaluation of basketball statistics, the most common statistic that I would find as one that could best determine the formula for winning basketball games was by determining efficiency on offense and defense by using possession analysis.  In this piece, I am going to explain what possession analysis is, determining positive and negative possessions, how you can create more positive possessions for your team and create more negative possessions for your opponents, and how you can use possession analysis to set some goals.

Possession Analysis

Dean Smith is the coach who is most famously associated with possession analysis.  His formula in his book Basketball: Multiple Offense and Defense explained in detail his methods.  The formula is presented in two parts: scoring and possessions.

The scoring portion of the formula is determined based on made shots.  In today's basketball, this would include the points that come off of made three-point shots, made two-point shots and made free throws.  Totaling up these points gives the scoring portion of the formula.

The possession portion of the formula is determined by three factors: turnovers, field goals attempted and trips to the free throw line.  Adding up these three parts (free throw trips have to be counted as actual trips to the line, not as free throw attempts), will give you the possessions.

Positive Possessions versus Negative Possessions

When differentiating between positive possessions and negative possessions, we are making distinctions between possessions based on their outcomes.  Positive possessions are those that end with a scoring opportunity while negative possessions are those that end without a scoring opportunity. 

Positive possessions would be constituted by field goal attempts and trips to the free throw line being added together.  In each of these circumstances, positive possessions result in scoring opportunities and (hopefully) points on the scoreboard.  Meanwhile, negative possessions are times when the offense had the ball, but was unable to get a scoring opportunity.

The ideal ratio of positive possessions to negative possessions on offense is seven to one while the ideal ratio on defense is that of one to four.  For example, in an 80-possession basketball game, we would like to have at least 70 positive possessions and only 10 negative possessions on offense while we would like to hold our opponents to 64 positive possessions and 16 negative possessions.  As you can see, having six more positive possessions can result potentially in outscoring our opponent anywhere from six to 18 points.

Ideas for Creating More Positive Possessions on Offense and More Negative Possessions on Defense

So how do you go about creating more positive possessions on offense and creating more negative possessions for your opponents on the defensive end?  There are several ideas that I will present to you that will help as a guide to improve your team's possession efficiency as you go through the season.  Use this as a basis and you will improve your team offense and your team defense.

The first thing you need to do on offense and defense is to play at a tempo that suits you best.  While it would be ideal to be able to play at either a slower pace or to play at a faster pace, the best thing to do is to control the speed of the game to a style of game that suits your team best.  Whatever that speed is, you need to work at that speed every day in practice and eliminate mistakes made by playing too fast or making bad decisions to force the tempo of the game when its running too slow for your team's liking.

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