What Turnovers Can You Tolerate?

TurnoverWhether we like it or not, we all inherently understand that turnovers are a part of the game.  In general, most of us have a number or a percentage of possessions in our minds that is tolerable.  For the old-school, it might be a raw number like 12 or 15; for others, it might be a percentage of possessions-taking playing pace in mind-like 15%, for example.

The number of tolerable turnovers aside, the more important question we might ask ourselves is, “What kinds of turnovers do we especially dislike?”  Since playing styles and paces differ significantly, it’s up to each of us to answer that question for ourselves.  To be sure, we don’t want our players to be cavalier or irresponsible with the ball nor do we want players trying things totally out of their skill set or athletic ability.

Probably the first thing we need to do is list the turnovers that our team has committed in a recent practice, scrimmage or game and then simply categorize them.  Of our turnovers, are most committed while feeding the post, driving to the basket, passing the ball on the break, making interior passes, coughing it up against the press etc.   I’ve seen teams turn the ball over excessively on dead-ball baseline inbounds plays.  Those types of turnovers might be among the least tolerable.

Of any of these categories or others, which can we fix the easiest, the next easiest etc.? If we don’t prioritize eliminating or reducing certain types of turnovers, the task of dealing with just the raw number would be daunting.  Telling players “not to turn the ball over” without specifics is, well, almost laughable.

When we’re done identifying and fixing, there will still be turnovers but at least we’ve systematically identified our issues and taken measures to correct them.  Obviously, this ritual can’t be a one-time fix; it likely needs to be a program fixture so that everyone in the program is on the same basic page in this regard and understands that there are bad turnovers and then there are turnovers that occur in the context of playing aggressive, sound basketball.

What Turnovers Can You Tolerate? Tell us in the comments below


  1. Overthrowing the post and going out of bounds is the least of my concerns, although it feels bad. It’s all about risk and reward: if successful, it results in two points; if not, it’s a DEAD BALL turnover. Contrast that with a lazy pass out top to the other guard. It had little to gain and results in a steal and a run-out for minus 2 points.
    Yes, turnovers should be categorized.

  2. Hope all is well with you coach. While working with my son, tracking turnovers by type was, I think, one of the most useful stats we generated. High school seasons are so short that stats related to shooting and rebounding tend to be of limited value until late in the year and by that time the season is over. On the other hand, TO’s tend to follow the player like a bad habit – once you’ve exhibited the tendency it doesn’t leave you until someone works with you.

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