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BYU Basketball: What is Efficiency, and how “efficient” is BYU?

A statistical analysis of BYU’s efficiency ratings

NCAA Basketball: Cal. State - Bakersfield at Brigham Young Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Efficiency in basketball is measured in a multitude of ways, so it can be confusing trying to keep it all straight. The NBA tracks individual efficiency in four ways: efficiency (EFF), player efficiency rating (PER), offensive efficiency rating (OER), and defensive efficiency rating (DER). The Euroleague tracks efficiency through the performance index rating (PIR) instead of efficiency.

EFF is measured by adding up all of the production stats (points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks), subtracting all missed shots (field goals and free throws) and turnovers, then dividing by games played. PER includes fouls drawn as a positive and fouls committed and shots rejected as negatives. OER is measured by points scored per shot taken (including free throws). Offensive rating is measured by points scored per 100 possessions. DER is a measurement that estimates how many points a given player is expected to allow over 100 possessions.

The reason there are so many ways to measure efficiency is that all of the ratings have their shortcomings. All of these ratings (except for DER) are extremely offensive heavy. Similarly, DER is hard to track for individual players and relies on the defensive quality of teammates. This is a byproduct of defense being hard to track through statistics. A player who prevents the player they guard from getting the ball will not have any blocks or steals, but did an outstanding job defensively. However, a player could cherry pick, play no defense, and have a high efficiency in any of these measurements. Conversely, a good defensive team can hide one or two deficient players on their team (think Jimmer and Jackson Emery).

In addition to these efficiency measurements, many front offices use a variation of the EFF stat to decide whether a college player’s skills will translate to the NBA. They add the production stats and divide by minutes played. This is the stat that got Kyle Collinsworth a roster spot with the Dallas Mavericks (and then the Texas Legends). It is also the stat that convinces so many recruits to go to Kentucky, where they’ll sacrifice playing time, but can still show their ability to be efficient. When I track and reference efficiency, this is the stat that I use, with one slight variation: I also subtract turnovers because I believe that a turnover hurts your team the same amount as a rebound or steal helps.

When NBA scouts look at this rating, the cutoff most teams use for determining an NBA caliber player is 1. If a player is contributing a point, rebound, assist, steal, or block per minute played, they are probably going to be able to contribute at the NBA level. BYU’s fast pace definitely inflates players’ numbers, but 9 out of the 15 players on BYU’s roster have had at least one game with an efficiency of 1 or greater. Eric Mika (undoubtedly the best NBA prospect currently on the roster) has had an efficiency over 1 in 11 out of 15 games so far this season, and leads the team with an average of 1.15. Kentucky’s Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox average 0.92 and .90 respectively. Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis averages 0.97 and Duke’s Amile Jefferson averages 0.88. Mika’s season thus far has been extremely impressive by this metric. BYU’s top 5 in efficiency are:

5) Nick Emery 0.70

4) Kyle Davis 0.72

3) Yoeli Childs 0.79

2) Payton Dastrup 1.09

1) Eric Mika 1.15

These rankings show a couple things about the team. First, it shows the depth and talent of the frontcourt; Nick Emery is the only guard in the top seven players in efficiency. Though Dastrup has only seen limited minutes, he has used those minutes very effectively and Cougar fans can look forward to seeing more from him in the future. Haws’ positive trend shows that he is catching up to the college game and has been executing his role in the offense better and better. It also shows the potential impact of Kyle Davis’s loss if the myriad of players getting his minutes don’t start increasing their production.

TJ Haws (0.611) ranks 7th on the team right now, but he has been steadily improving throughout the season. Childs has also been improving - at an even faster rate.

As the season continues, appreciate the talent, depth, and skill BYU has in the frontcourt this year. Also, get excited. As Haws and Childs continue to improve, and if other players can maintain their production levels, BYU will become a very dangerous team that should challenge Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s and could start sending players the NBA.