Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Volume vs Efficiency: The Top Scorers of the PBA

To be a good scorer, there are two aspects that you have to be good at. The first, obviously, is volume. You need to score points, and a lot of it. The second is efficiency. You need to make shots more than you miss.

A player can average 20 points per game, but if he needs over 30 attempts, then he’s not a very good scorer. In the same light, a player can shoot 80-90% from the field, but if he’s taking only 4 attempts per game, then it doesn’t mean much to the team’s overall line.

The trick, then, is finding the proper balance between volume and efficiency.

One of the useful advanced statistics for measuring volume is Usage Rate (USG%) which is the percentage of a team’s possessions that are ended by a certain player while that player is on the court. “Ended” could mean by taking a shot, getting to the line or turning the ball over. Basically, it measures how much of a load a certain player is carrying for his team. High usage players generally have an easier time racking up volume numbers, simply because they have more opportunities with the ball.

For efficiency, the key stat is True Shooting Percentage. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve seen us refer to this multiple times. It’s basically field goal percentage but takes into consideration the fact that three-pointers count for an extra point, and that free throws (both the ability to make attempts and to earn trips to the line) are bonuses. This way, guards don’t get punished for taking threes, which generally go in at a lower rate.

Anyway, we took the top two scorers of each PBA team (based on points per game) and compared their USG% and TS%. Let’s see how the PBA stars stacked up.

(click image to enlarge)

Some observations:
  • Ideally, you want to be in the quadrant where Gary David and Joe Devance (barely) sit. That is, better than average efficiency couple with better than average usage. Still, Ronjay Buenafe and Jimmy Alapag are just a step behind Devance when it comes to usage, but with much higher shooting percentages. I’d say they’re in a slightly better position than Devance is this conference.
  • The place on the chart you want to avoid? That’s that little corner in the lower right that denotes high usage and low efficiency, where Mac Cardona, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, James Yap and Sunday Salvacion are positioned.
  • It’s expected that with a higher USG% there’s a corresponding drop-off in efficiency. Notice how you can almost draw a straight downward-sloping line from Peter June Simon to Buenafe to David to Cardona.
  • That said, Cardona is taking WAY too many shots. A 31.0 USG% is pretty darn high.
  • And Simon and Ali Peek are taking too few. Those are insane TS% they have posted this conference. Anytime you hit over .600 for a conference, that’s pretty good. But both guys are practically off the charts, shooting over .700 this tourney.
  • It’s easier to shoot efficiently when you’ve got a teammate with a really high USG%. See Buenafe and Al-Hussaini, or Simon and Yap. I think there’s no way Simon shoots that well without Yap drawing so much of the defense attention.
  • TNT, Ginebra and Rain or Shine seem to share the wealth pretty well. None of their top scorers have usage higher than Sol Mercado’s 22.5%.


  1. Nice analysis and graph!

    Ideally, a player would want to be were Peek and Simon are...I deviate from your take.

    I'm not sure if Buenafe/Rabeh and Simon/Yap prove this point "It’s easier to shoot efficiently when you’ve got a teammate with a really high USG%." Buenafe and Simon are known to make their own stuff...Simon piled up points and took the driver's seat when JY was producing less. Also, this is might be in contrast with Peek/Alapag based from the graph..why is KWill not in the graph?

    High usage players are go to guys, Salvacion might have this when he was in the Barako line up...

    Thanks for the post!

  2. @edwin
    i put the term "ideally" there for a reason. i said you want to be in the quadrant where david is located. imagine if you can maintain the TS% of simon or peek but do it with higher usage. thats where you'd want to be.

    but i do agree with you. i'd take peek and simon's contributions over david's. in fact, peek and simon are actually the top 2 in terms of john hollinger's PER (player efficiency rating) stat this conference.

    as for the yap-simon dynamic. yes, james was producing less. but thats because his efficiency dropped this conference, not his usage. he still has the ball in his hands a lot, and this takes some of the defensive pressure off of simon.

    btw, kelly isn't on here because i picked only the top 2 scorers on each team.

    nice blog you have there. good to see other stat-heavy sites out there.