Offensive and Defensive Efficiency: Narrow the focus for your players.

Coaches have been charting OER (Offensive Efficiency Rating) and DER (Defensive Efficiency Rating) since at least the early 1970’s. And really, it’s not a big deal, in and of itself because it’s only dividing the number of points scored-OER (or given up -for DER) by the number of possessions. So, in a 70 possession game, if you won 70-60, your OER would be 1.00 and your DER would roughly be .086. Most coaches are aware of these concepts and those that are aware-care. It’s the players who haven’t been included properly.

Of course, one very appealing aspect of OER/DER is that they are tempo-free stats. A team that plays at an 80 possession rate and scores 80 points and a team that plays at a 60 possession rate and scores 60 points are both operating at 1.00 efficiency. OER/DER rendered the stats of team PPG scored and PPG allowed-less useful.

Until the advent of the 3pt shot, experts said that an OER over 1.00 was good and a DER under 1.00 was good. I would think most tuned-in coaches are now looking at higher #’s because of the arc. Of course, you would also think that the higher the level, the higher the scoring would be- the current decline in college scoring an anomaly –but that’s the subject of another discussion.

I’m pretty sure that your average player doesn’t fantasize about good team OER’s and DER’s. When Blake Griffin is dunking or Chris Paul is making a play, the last thing on either’s mind is OER or when Kawhi Leonard is guarding the ball, defensive efficiency thoughts aren’t running through his mind. No player is wired to think like that.

So how does one get his players to understand OER/DER and then actually care about them? The answer is as simple as narrowing the focus.

In practice, during 5 on 5 play, whether you’re working on offense or defense, half court or full court, have your team play 5 possession mini-games. The primary goal of the game, of course, is to win and that should be everyone’s focus. Players like nothing better than to compete in practice-even if the “trophy” is the losing team running a suicide. (Or you could follow Jim Harbaugh’s practice of having the winning team in a competition run.) The desired by-product is the score and it’s meaning as it relates to 5 possessions. For instance- Team A wins 6-4. Team A’s OER is 1.2 and its DER is .8. Extrapolated over a game, both are outstanding stats.

The rationale here is similar to an NCAA game with media timeouts basically every four minutes. Since the inception of media timeouts, college coaches have been preaching, “Win this 4 minute game.”

By playing these 5 possession games on a regular basis and focusing on each possession as if it were a big deal (which it is), the coach can talk OER/DER in terms and conditions better suited to players. The concepts become way less theoretical and more real to players. After they understand ‘small chunks”, they will be better equipped to understand the bigger pictures of game OER/DER.

After all, what are OER/DER except just tools for coaches and players to understand the value of each possession? For example, if the Wichita St. players under Coach Gregg Marshall, use OER/DER as a tool, it wouldn’t be surprising. But if they don’t, the Shockers play like they do because they value every possession at both ends of the floor. And that’s the real intent of OER/DER.

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