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Advanced stat of the week: usage rates

Which Texas Tech player has the highest usage rate? Oh, and what is a usage rate and how is it calculated?

This is the premiere of a new, weekly installment where we will dive deeper into the numbers of Texas Tech basketball. Each week, a different advanced statistic will be presented, explained and viewed within the context of the Red Raider season. Our analysis will go beyond the familiar numbers of points per game or field goal percentage. Those long-kept statistics are nice to look at, but hardly shed light on the entire story of what takes place on the hardwood.

The stat

The first stat we’ll look at on our numbers journey is one you have likely heard before and heard recently: usage percentage (USG%). Sometimes referred to as usage rate, this stat was thrust into the sports spotlight last year during the NBA MVP race between Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The technical definition of USG% is “an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor.” That’s essentially a complicated way of saying we’re attaching a number to how many plays a player is used. It’s a useful barometer for the impact a player has on their team’s offense.

How to calculate it

Seems complicated, right? Don’t let that scare you. The simplest way to digest USG% is as a ratio of how many plays ended with a player either shooting the ball, turning the ball over, or getting to the charity stripe.

How Texas Tech stacks up

Red Raiders USG%

Player USG%
Player USG%
Keenan Evans 29.2%
Tommy Hamilton 24.5%
Niem Stevenson 22.2%
Jarrett Culver 21.6%
Andrew Sorrells 21.3%
Norense Odiase 18.6%
Davide Moretti 17.9%
Brandone Francis 17.8%
Zach Smith 16.7%
Zhaire Smith 16.4%
Parker Hicks 15.8%
Justin Gray 15.3%
Josh Webster 13.0%
Malik Ondigo 12.4%

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Keenan Evans is the team leader in usage rate. He has the ball in his hands most possessions and is who the team turns to in late shot clock situations to create his own shot. Freshman standout Jarrett Culver also is among team leaders and I expect that number to continue to increase over the course of his career.

Perhaps the most surprising names towards the top of the list are Tommy Hamilton and Niem Stevenson. The two are obvious contributors, but not necessarily who first come to mind in regards to offensive impact. Hamilton’s high rate can be explained by his high turnover rate and high shot rate so far this season.

Stevenson’s high usage rate, on the other hand, is most likely because of the makeup of the starting lineup. Justin Gray and Zach Smith aren’t players who orchestrate the offense. Rather, they set screens, cut to the basket, and finish around the rim. Those are important factors to an effective offense, but aren’t factors that figure into a high usage rate. Keenan Evans can’t handle the ball the entirety of every possession, and, whether the fifth starter is Hamilton or Norense Odiase, Stevenson is the best second option to run the offense. Watching how efficient Stevenson is with his high usage rate may be something to pay attention to moving forward this season.