Beyond the Hoop: Exploring the Art and Science of Field Goals in Basketball

The basketball world, with its vast variety of analytical terminologies and acronyms, may be extremely intimidating, but that’s part of the game’s allure.

Some of the letters and words used by commentators, critics and even spectators can be quite difficult to get an immediate grasp of, particularly for a person just getting in to the sport.

However, getting acquainted with all the fancy terms that basketball has to offer will undoubtedly improve your overall understanding of the game.

Now, you may have spotted the FG acronym on a basketball website, or heard about it on a podcast or from a reviewer’s personal remarks and wondered what it meant.

Well don’t worry, because by the time you’ve finished reading through this post, you’ll be well informed as to the meaning of this particular piece of basketball terminology, just as much as a seasoned veteran of the game.

So, just what does the FG abbreviation stand for in the game of basketball?

Well, we’re going to get started with a simple explanation of the term…

The FG acronym in basketball represents the “Field Goal” metric. A standard field goal is any regulation shot successfully attempted by a player from inside or beyond the three-point line. Jump shots, layups, slam dunks, tip-ins and three pointers are all examples of field goals.

While the difficulty of these field goals varies, the quantity of points per field goal remains constant: they are always worth two or three points, obviously based on whether they’re taken from inside or beyond the arc that denotes the three-point line on the floor.

LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Jimmy Butler are active players that specialise in two-point field goals.

And if you roll back the history books a little, Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Larry Bird are all former field goal specialists.

Read on to get a clearer picture of this metric within the game.

What counts as a field goal in basketball?

In basketball, the field goal is a considerably more important part of the game than it is in American football.

Making field goals is, in some ways, the most important aim of a team in order to win a game because they are what put the most points on the scoreboard in basketball.

The field goal, being one of the most fundamental statistics in the game, is simple to define.

A field goal is generally defined as any basket made while the game clock is running.

what FG means in basketball - field goal

Mid-range jump shots, layups, and three-pointers are all considered field goals under this definition.

But free throws are technically not included under field goals, and that’s because the clock is stopped during a free throw shot attempt.

What constitutes a good field goal percentage in basketball?

Field goal percentage is one of the most important individual statistics in organized basketball.

Athletes with a high field goal percentage typically score in the double digit range per game.

A good field goal percentage is determined by dividing the number of field goals attempted by the number of field goals made, then multiplying that number by 100.

On a statistics sheet, the key metrics for keeping track of and evaluating field goal efficiency are:

  • Field Goals Made (FGM): Only made baskets are recorded as field goals
  • Field Goals Attempted (FGA): This category includes all field goals attempted, including missed ones.

Basketball analysts use these two numbers to calculate the field goal percentage, abbreviated as FG% in box scores, of individual players or teams.

That formula would look like this:

So, for example…

Let’s say we have Luka Dončić of the Dallas Mavericks who attempts 10 shots and makes four of them.

He would have a field goal percentage of 40%.

A player’s field goal percentage is a simple indicator for assessing their ability to score.

Ultimately, this statistic is critical for franchises when it comes to the matter of evaluating which players they may pick up or trade for during the off-season.

Different types of field goals in basketball

There are different types of field goals in basketball, which are classified based on where the shot is taken and how the ball is released.

Here are the different types of field goals in basketball:

1. Jump shots

A jump shot is taken while the shooter is jumping in the air.

It’s a common type of field goal, usually taken from outside the paint, just inside the three-point line.

2. Lay ups

A layup is a shot that is taken close to the basket, usually with one hand.

The shooter takes a few steps towards the basket and releases the ball as they jump.

3. Slam dunks

A dunk is a type of field goal where the player jumps and slams the ball through the basket.

Like so:

It’s usually done by taller players, as they’re capable of reaching the basket without jumping.

But also shorter players can perform dunks as well, especially if they have a good vertical leap.

4. Bank shots

A bank shot is a type of field goal where the shooter bounces the ball off the backboard before it goes into the basket.

This is a common shot taken by players who are close to the basket and want to use the backboard to guide the ball into it.

5. Hook shots

These are a type of field goal where the shooter releases the ball with one hand while making a hooking motion with their other hand.

It’s a shot type that’s more commonly executed by players who are close to the basket and want to shoot over taller defenders.

6. Fadeaways

A fadeaway shot is a type of field goal where the shooter jumps away from the basket while releasing the ball.

It’s a difficult shot to defend against and is often taken by taller players with good shooting skills.

Each of the aforementioned type of field goal requires a different skill set, and players need to practice these shots to become proficient in them.

How to calculate effective field goal percentage

While field goal percentage is a decent indicator of player efficiency, it isn’t the only number analysts use to estimate a player’s offensive effectiveness.

It ignores the fact that 3-point field goals are also considered, despite the fact that each basket is worth more than two 2-point field goal tries.

A player who tries 10 shots and hits four of them, for example, has a 12-point total.

On the other hand, if a player who typically plays in the paint attempts to score on ten shots and only hits six, he or she ends up with just 12 points.

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) is determined as follows:

This means that a made three-pointer is worth 1.5 times as much as a made two-pointer.

A player with a normal FG% of 40% and an eFG% of 40% shoots 4 for 10 on all two-point attempts.

But if all of those makes were three-pointers, the player’s eFG% increases to 60%, representing the added value of a made three.

In terms of scoring efficiency and the game’s bottom line, this scenario implies that shooting 40% from three-point range is just as effective as shooting 60% from the paint.

As a result, analysts were forced to develop a new statistical category that took these characteristics into consideration.

Which players in the NBA have the best field goal percentages today?

There are three names worth talking about here.

First up, we have…

DeAndre Jordan

DeAndre Jordan of the Denver Nuggets is one guy that stands out in terms of field goal percentage.

As of the 2020-21 season, he has the best field goal percentage of any current player in the league with 77.3%.

Because of his outstanding stature, reach, and agility, Jordan is noted for his commanding presence as a center.

He’s an excellent rebounder and shot blocker.

Jordan’s field goal percentage demonstrates his ability to convert scoring chances into points.

He frequently shoots high-percentage shots near the basket and rarely tries contested or tough shots.

Next is…

Rudy Gobert

Another notable mention is Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He’s a player with a high shooting percentage.

Gobert’s career field goal percentage is 66.8%, just a little lower than DeAndre Jordan’s.

And finally…

Steven Adams

Steven Adams of the Memphis Grizzlies is also a star worth mentioning.

Adams’ career field goal percentage is 59.7%, which is excellent considering he isn’t a high-volume scorer like Gobert and Jordan.

Closing thoughts

Hopefully this article has shed a lot of light on the concept of field goals.

Field goals are an important aspect of basketball, and understanding the many sorts of field goals can help players improve their game.

Also, when you look at the effective field goals percentage differential (i.e. eFG%), you immediately get an objective picture of how a player is performing with respect to their level of shooting.

This is quite informative for coaches because they can make educated and strategic decisions on that basis.

Should you have enjoyed reading through this article, then you should have a look at our other basketball articles covering some of the game’s acronyms, such as:

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.