How to Calculate Possessions in Basketball

By Christopher Michael

The squeak of the sneakers, the pound of the dribble and the jam of the rim; basketball sears the senses with fast-paced action. Get too caught up and you might miss a change of possession. But you can estimate the number of possessions using the box score if you miss a play. Counting possessions allows talent evaluators to see per-possession statistics.

The Formula

You can use the box score because each possession ends with a recorded stat. You'll need to tally the team's field goal attempts, free throw attempts, offensive rebounds and turnovers. But free throw attempts are a tricky number. Possessions can end with one through three free throw attempts, so the number has to be multiplied by the consensus value of 0.475 to get a more accurate calculation. Add the product to field goal attempts and then subtract the number of offensive rebounds, because attempts that result in an offensive rebound do not end a possession. Now add turnovers and you have calculated possessions. The equation: possessions = field goal attempts + 0.475 x free throw attempts - offensive rebounds + turnovers.

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