The Quick Player Efficiency Rating

Although basketball has been around for nearly 125 years, it’s a sport that is still growing when it comes to analytics. Over the past few years, more and more information is being pumped to players and coaches in the form of advanced statistics. One of my favorites is the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) developed by John Hollinger a few years back.

Overall, this rating is designed to boil down all of a player’s contributions into one number. Using a detailed formula, Hollinger developed a system that rates every player’s statistical performance.

The average rating for National Basketball Association players is 15.0. NBA superstars frequently have a rating in the upper 20’s. Collegiate and high school ratings will be significantly lower than the NBA, but I’ll get in to that in a moment.

The formula that Hollinger uses is complex, but I believe it’s a highly accurate view of how a player is performing while on the floor. Because of this, during my days as an assistant coach at the collegiate level, I wanted to determine if I could come up with a way to assess a player’s performance a little quicker than using the formula that Hollinger uses.

Fortunately, I was able to find a much simpler way to rate players. While this method was easier to compute, I found it to be highly effective and accurate when it came to determining player’s playing time and predicting who would receive end of the year honors. The version of the PER that I frequently used determined which players were more effective in certain line-ups, against certain teams, and their overall positive contribution to their team.

If you’re a coach, you may know that you receive a box score between quarters, or at half time. This was a time that I diligently scribbled down notes to determine the player’s PER.

Let me explain.

Instead of using Hollinger’s formula. I simplified it by taking a look at the positive contributions that a player makes such as points, rebounds, steals, assists and blocks and totaling those things. Each positive contribution counts as one point towards the rating. So, if a player has 15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block, that would add up to a total of 27… so far.

I subtract the number of negative things that happen in a game. So turnovers (TOs), missed field goals (FGs), missed 3-pointers (3pts) and missed free throws (FTs) all count as -1. I do not count fouls as negative points, because fouls can be either good or bad, depending on the situation. So, let’s say the same player above shot 3-10 on FGs, 3-5 on FTs, 2-4 on 3pts and also had 3 TOs, this would equate to a total of negative 14 (-7 for FGs, -2 for FTs, -2 for 3pts, -3 for TOs = 14).

Now, remember, this same player had netted 27 positive points. But because of the missed shots and turnovers, we must take away 14 of those points, which leaves this player with an adjusted PER of 13. Players who are inefficient will certainly suffer in this rating.

This quick version of the PER I found extremely helpful because I could do the math for each player while in the locker room or on the bench. If you do this rating consistently for at least a season, you can determine what an average PER would be for your types of players. You can also determine who will likely be up for an award at the end of the season. You can also determine who deserves more playing time.

That’s where I found this most helpful. If a player was only playing a few minutes per game, but had a high PER, I would advocate for more playing time for that player.

You might think that a PER is always obvious. It is not, my friend. Sometimes, you’ll be able to see that, according to the PER, some players are helping you much more than they’re hurting you or vice-versa.

This quick PER was so helpful for me during my time as an assistant coach, that I required my assistants to utilize it when I became a head coach. We did not have an abundance of advanced metrics available to us during my days as a coach, but this PER enabled our team to win a divisional championship.

As with any statistic, it has to be taken in the context of the game. It’s not a tell all, just like a box score is not always an accurate reflection of the game. But, this rating can certainly be helpful.

My hope is that it is useful to you as well. Good luck, coach!

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