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The Basketball Assist: the Most Controversial Stat


by Prof. Roberto Azar ~ March 19, 2011 ~ Updated: November 21, 2012


Spanish ~ Español - Asistencia en Baloncesto: la Estadística más Controvertida

I have often being asked about the awarding of assists in basketball.
In hockey, it's pretty much direct and preserved.
But after watching European Basketball  (external link) for over 20 years, I'm still not sure what actually qualifies as an assist (external link) in a basketball game. And, quite frankly, I don't think those responsible for keeping live-time stats during Euroleague games know for sure, either.

Then, what about a fast break basket where the pass is moved up the floor to a wide open player that catches ( at just inside the
half ) and takes 3-4 dribbles before laying it in ? I say assist but some of the definitions say no assist.

In fact, awarding assists in basketball might be the most controversial stat kept.

In my opinion, and in this manner works the eBA Basketball Statistics Creative Analysis System (external link), we must be able to give two assists - like in hockey - on one play. As said in the last paragraph, "many times, a point guard gives a great pass , and another player makes a pass that leads to the basket". The first pass should get some credit , because it can be more important than the second pass . On the other hand, a great pass that leads to the shooter being fouled is not generally credited as an assist , and it should be, or no?

The case of a fast break basket where the pass is moved up the floor to a wide open player that catches (at just inside the half) and takes 3-4 dribbles before laying it in, is only one of the cases we analyze in the eBA Basketball Statistics Register Clinic (external link).

Synthetically: if the player goes freely to the basket, without any deviation nor fake in order to overpass a defender, therefore we register an assist. On the contrary, even with a minimum action from the ballhandler to avoid the defender , the assist is not credited. But we have exceptions which are explained in the "Basketball Assists" in the Clinic (external link) with all the registering process.

That´s right, awarding assists in basketball might be the most controversial stat kept, but in the eBA Basketball Statistics Creative Analysis System (external link) we include a whole chapter dedicated to assists and make clear the concepts and the register process.

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