Effective field goal percentage is just one type of advanced stat that can be used to evaluate individual basketball players or teams. While it can appear to be a confusing stat, effective field goal percentage really isn’t hard to understand.
So, what is effective field goal percentage?
Effective field goal percentage or eFG% is a weighted measurement of shooting percentage which favors three-point shooting. Effective field goal percentage is a more accurate and concise way for a team to measure their shooting success considering the larger relative impact of three-point shots.
Advanced stats are becoming more common in the modern game of basketball, and their understanding is often key to a team’s success. As one of the four main advanced stats, effective field goal percentage is a great way to better gauge player success and to help players improve their on-court performance.
How Do You Calculate Effective Field Goal Percentage?
As previously mentioned, effective field goal percentage is calculated with a greater emphasis on three-point shooting. You can calculate it by allocating one point for each two-point field goal made, and then allocating one and a half points for each three-point field goal made. Then, add the two resulting numbers together, and divided this sum by the total number of field goals taken.
This procedure can be done either for individual players, groups of players, or entire teams. In this way, effective field goal percentage is a useful evaluation tool to compare and improve the performance of players.
What Is Effective Field Goal Percentage?
Effective field goal percentage was developed by Dean Oliver in his 2002 book, Basketball on Paper. Oliver, a statistician, and NBA assistant coach proposed this system to more effectively quantify the impact that three-point shooting has on a team’s offensive efficiency.
By weighing three-point shots heavier than two-point attempts, effective field goal percentage rewards teams and players for shooting from beyond the arc as opposed to taking lower percentage two-point attempts like the traditional midrange jumper.
Effective field goal percentage is just one of four main factors that Oliver proposed as a way to optimize a basketball team. However, his book considered it to be the most important factor with 40% of the weight of the four factors being assigned to this stat.
But effective field goal percentage isn’t just a concept that you read about in books. In practice, the teams and players with the highest effective field goal percentage are often the best performing in terms of offensive efficiency. Just why is this? Keep reading, as we’ll explore that very subject in the next section.
How Useful Is Effective Field Goal Percentage?
Effective field goal percentage is a useful stat that can be used for both individual players and full teams, as well as on both sides of the ball.
Often, the best basketball teams have high effective field goal percentages. Why is this? Simply, it’s because they efficiently use their possessions, not only scoring on a high percentage of their field goal attempts but also taking advantage of effective three-point shooting to build up leads.
The effective field goal percentage formula primarily favors two main types of shots. The first is shots near the rim, especially layups and dunks. The second type is three-point shots, especially those that are uncontested. It’s not surprising that teams see increased success from these types of shots – the difficulty often is getting these open looks from off-ball movement or screens.
To best maximize effective field goal percentage on offense, teams often utilize the pick-and-roll to force their opposition to either switch on-ball defenders or try to fight through the pick. This often creates a matchup advantage for the offensive team, opening up either a near-rim shot opportunity for either the screener or roller or an open three-point shot while the defense tries to adjust.
Teams also use transition opportunities to maximize their effective field goal position. When the offensive team has a numbers advantage going down the court, they can take advantage of the situation to get either an open shot for three or an easy shot at the basket.
Alternately, defenses can understand the concept of effective field goal percentage to better focus on minimizing the impact of the opposing offense. By studying what we’ve already suggested for offensive approaches, the defense can plan for counterattacks that minimize scoring and efficiency.
For instance, when defending the pick and roll defenders should focus on communication in terms of their approach and be able to decide quickly whether to switch or stay with their matchup.
By knowing what the offense is looking for (remember: inside shots and open threes), the defense can be ready to quickly close out on these shots and create contested looks. At best, this will force the offense to either miss shots or adjust to a less-efficient approach.
What Is a Good Effective Field Goal Percentage?
A good effective field goal percentage varies between different levels of basketball, as well as different positions and roles within the game. However, there are certain standards that can be utilized when looking at these advanced statistics.
A truly elite player or team could have an effective field goal percentage of 60% or better. Typically, these types of numbers are seen only with elite prep teams or players, as well as a select handful of top professional players.
Generally, a good number to aim to exceed is 50% when looking at effective field goal percentage. An efficient NBA scorer in today’s game would expect to be over 50% in eFG%, as would the vast majority of NBA teams. At lower levels of basketball, you’ll tend to see a wider range of percentages towards the high and low, but it should still be expected that more players than not will exceed this benchmark.
If your team or a player, in particular, is shooting under 50% in terms of effective field goal percentage, don’t worry! It may just require some additional shooting work to fix, or an increased emphasis on high-percentage looks.
Effective Field Goal Percentage Formula
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to calculate effective field goal percentage. Here’s the formula:
eFG% = (two-point field goals made + 1.5*three-point field goals made) / total field goals attempted
Remember the order of operations when you calculate effective field goal percentage and make sure to multiply 1.5 by the three-point field goals before you add in the two-point field goals. The result of this calculation should be a percentage, which can be expressed with however many decimal places that you prefer.
Effective Field Goal Percentage Career Leaders
You might wonder how effective field goal percentage looks in a real application of basketball. An excellent way to learn more about what creates a great effective field goal percentage is to look at the all-time career leaders in effective field goal percentage.
Far and away, the highest effective field goal percentage in NBA history belongs to DeAndre Jordan, with an eFG% of 67.40%. This is fascinating, for one main reason. DeAndre Jordan is not a good three-point shooter – in fact, he has only made one three-point shot in his entire NBA career, in a total of 12 attempts.
So, why is DeAndre Jordan the all-time leader in effective field goal percentage if he doesn’t take advantage of the heavier weight towards three-pointers? In short, he is extremely effective in making two-point field goals.
His all-time field goal percentage of 67.39% is nearly identical to his effective field goal percentage, given that his three-point impact is negligible. His field goal percentage is also good enough for best in NBA history.
Known more for his rebounding than his prolific scoring, Jordan specialized in high-probability shots right around the basket. The case of DeAndre Jordan shows the value of a great inside shooter, even relative to prolific three-point shooters.
In fact, several other players with a similar skillset to Jordan like Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela, and Montrezl Harrell are the only players in league history to exceed 60% in terms of effective field goal percentage.