How NBA Advanced Stats Pertain to the Bucks


It’s no secret that watching an NBA game, or any sporting event in 2019 for that matter, might lead to confusion about terminology and NBA advanced stats. You’ve probably found yourself Googling something like, “what is effective field goal percentage?” If so, just remember that you’re not alone.

To start, most NBA fans know that the Houston Rockets were at the forefront of basketball analytics, led by general manager Daryl Morey.

Morey isn’t your traditional NBA executive. With a bachelor’s degree in computer science and stats from Northwestern and an MBA from MIT (zero real basketball playing experience), it’s clear that he’s well-versed in using data and analytics in all aspects of sports. More specifically, as represented in the opening chapter of The Undoing Project, Morey, and many of his counterparts, are obsessed with using NBA advanced stats in an attempt to build the perfect team.

Fans all across the world might still enjoy watching NBA games with zero knowledge of advanced stats. But to make your watch more enjoyable and informative, it can’t hurt to understand the most commonly used NBA advanced stats.

We’ll get into the basics shortly, but we also want you to know that stats like the one shown below (an incredible reach for a Ben Simmons graphic), have no bearing on the actual outcome of an NBA game — pretty funny, though.

That said, let’s take a look at the casual fan’s guide to NBA advanced stats.

Our goal here is simple: to help you understand the terminology that your local play-by-play guy might use during a game. We hope to save you from endless Google searches during games and to help you better understand the next Zach Lowe piece on ESPN.

At the same time, we’ll share both the Milwaukee Bucks leader and the top-ranked NBA player for each metric to give you some context to go along with each stat.


Player Efficiency Rating (PER): A measure of per-minute production standardized such that the league average is 15. 

  • Bucks leader: Giannis (32.9).
  • League leader: No shock here — Giannis leads the league. James Harden is a close second (31.5).

Box Plus-Minus (BPM): A box score estimate of the points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team.

  • Bucks leader: Giannis (13.3). The next best is 3.5 from George Hill.
  • League leader: Giannis, again. Mavs second-year superstar Luka Doncic is second (12.1).

Offensive Plus-Minus (ORPM): A box score estimate of the offensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team.

  • Bucks leader: Giannis (7.7).
  • League leader: James Harden (10.9).

Defensive Plus-Minus (DRPM): A box score estimate of the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team.

  • Bucks leader: Giannis (5.6). Brook Lopez is second (4.0).
  • League leader: Nerlens Noel (6.5). Giannis ranks third leaguewide.

Value over Replacement Player (VORP): A box score estimate of the points per 100 team possessions that a player contributed above a replacement-level (-2.0) player, translated to an average team and prorated to an 82-game season.

  • Bucks leader: Giannis (1.7).
  • League leader: Again, Giannis. Second is Luke Doncic (1.6), followed by LeBron James (1.5).

Usage Rate (USG%): An estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor. Usage rate calculates what percentage of team plays a player was involved in while he was on the floor, provided that the play ends in one of the three true results: field-goal attempt, free-throw attempt or turnover.

  • Bucks leader: Giannis (35.6).
  • League leader: James Harden (40.6). Kawhi Leonard is second (36.5). Giannis is third.

True Shooting Percentage (TS%): A measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws.

  • Bucks leader: George Hill (64%). Giannis is second (63%).
  • League leader: Mortiz Wagner (73%). Mitchell Robinson is second (72%) and OG Anunoby is third (70%).

Effective Field-Goal Percentage (eFG%): Field-goal percentage (FG%) was once one of the better stats for estimating shooting ability up until the popularization of effective field-goal percentage in the 1990s. The difference between the two stats is that three-pointers are weighted more heavily in eFG%. Seeing as three-pointers are worth three points and two-pointers are worth two points.

  • Bucks leader: Giannis and George Hill are tied (61%).
  • League leader: Rudy Gobert (67%). Giannis and Hill rank 17th and 18th leaguewide.

3-Point Attempt Rate (3PAr): Percentage of FG Attempts from 3-Point Range

  • Bucks leader: Kyle Korver (78%). Wes Mathews is second (71%).
  • League leader: Wayne Ellington (89%). For reference, Kyle Korver is 5th at 78%.

Offensive Rating: (ORtg): An estimate of points produced by a player per 100 possessions.

  • Bucks leader: George Hill (134)
  • League leader: Among players who have logged more than 300 minutes per game, George Hill (134) leads the NBA. Delon Wright (132), PJ Tucker (108) and Aron Baynes (106) follow Hill accordingly.

Defensive Rating (DRtg): An estimate of points allowed by a player per 100 possessions.

  • Bucks leader: Giannis (94.5).
  • League leader: Giannis leads the league (among players who have logged 300+ minutes thus far).


Although individual player advanced stats are important to building a successful team on the court, it’s important to remember that analytics won’t always tell the entire story — just ask an old-timer like Charles Barkley; he’ll be sure to make it known.


In some instances, Chuck might be right.

Sometimes, however, team advanced statistics can tell a powerful story. For example, the Bucks are second in the NBA in Net Rating (NetRtg) —  NetRtg measures a team’s point differential per 100 possessions — trailing only the red-hot Lakers.

All in all, it takes amazing team chemistry, peaking at the right time (Toronto Raptors in 2018), a capable coach and some lucky breaks down the stretch to win a title. But when it comes to analyzing players and how they might fit into the Bucks system going forward, advanced stats can be a great way to do just that.

And hey, now you might better understand the next Bucks broadcast as they work to build on their recent winning streak, and the other NBA content you consume.

*Note: All stats current through tip-off on Wednesday night.

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About Sam Radbil

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