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What is Pace?


Definition: Basketball, at most levels, is played with a shot clock. But that doesn't mean each possession takes the same amount of time. Some teams prefer to run the ball up the court as quickly as possible, hoping to get an open shot before the opposing defense is in place. Others walk the ball up the court in a much more deliberate fashion and set up precise, complicated plays.

The speed at which the game is played impacts just about every other statistic. A quicker tempo means more possessions. More possessions means more shots. More shots means more points, more misses, more rebounds... you get the picture. Without an understanding of that tempo, many of the other statistics become meaningless.

The statistic used to measure that tempo is called pace, or sometimes "pace factor" - the average number of possessions a team uses per game.

Pace and Basketball Strategy

Mike D'Antoni's "Seven Seconds or Less" offense was built around the theory that the best shots came in the first seven seconds of the shot clock, before the opposing defense was able to get set. His best teams in Phoenix played at a blistering pace. Rick Pitino's trademark style has players operating at a frenetic pace on both offense and defense, with full-court pressure designed to force turnovers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are coaches like Mike Fratello, who became well known for having less-talented teams play at a snail's pace in the hopes of keeping scores low and stealing games at the end. Pete Carrill - of Princeton Offense fame - did the same when his Tigers upset mighty UCLA in the NCAA Tournament.

Pace and Fantasy Basketball

Pace is a very important factor to consider when selecting players for a fantasy basketball team. In a game that is built entirely around statistics, more possessions (and more statistics) is almost always a good thing. D'Antoni's Suns and Knicks teams made fantasy superstars out of otherwise mediocre players.

Pace in Today's NBA

The fastest-paced teams in the league over the course of the 2011-12 NBA season were the Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Hornets played at the most deliberate pace, followed by the Magic, Raptors and Pistons.

Stat guru John Hollinger's page on ESPN.com is a good source for current pace statistics.

Denver guard Ty Lawson is an excellent fit for coach George Karl's fast-paced offense.
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