What is an Assist in Basketball?

what is an assist in basketball

In the NBA, WNBA, and NCAA, a player gets an assist when he passes the ball to a player who then scores a basket. Assists are an essential statistic in basketball that enter the box score during a game. Also, an assist is critical for any fantasy basketball owner to know and understand since that usually gives points.


So, what is the definition of an assist in basketball? What are some examples of an assist during an NBA game? Can a basketball player get an assist and score points all on the same play? Is there any difference between a primary and secondary assist in basketball?


Here is everything you need to know about a basketball assist during a match!


What is the Definition of an Assist in Basketball?

what is the definition of an assist in basketball

The NBA defines an assist as the last pass to a teammate that directly leads to a basket. The key to this definition is that the pass must go to a teammate who scores a basket. Only one assist can occur during a play like this. The assist definition is the same for the WNBA.


The NCAA has a slightly different meaning to an assist than what the NBA/WNBA says. The primary difference is that the NCAA leaves a bit of room for interpretation by a statistician during a game. You can read the entire breakdown of the rules with this link.


What are Examples of an Assist in Basketball?

what are examples of an assist in basketball

Basketball assists include an inbound pass that allows a perimeter jump shot or three-point shot, a quick pass for a layup, or a long toss-up that leads to a dunk. Most people agree that assists should only count if the scoring player makes two dribbles or less before scoring a field goal. However, in some circumstances, assists occur if there is extensive dribbling on the play.


If a player makes a pass and the intended scorer receives a foul before scoring, they don’t get an assist even if they complete a basket after going to the free-throw line.


Can a Player Receive an Assist and Score on the Same Play?

Can a Player Receive an Assist and Score on the Same Play

No, the official definition of an assist means that the pass must go to a teammate. While you can throw the ball against the background and score from it, you won’t receive an assist and a score on that play.


However, there is some debate as to if an alley-oop to yourself should count as an assist. While the official definition means that an assist needs to go to a teammate, there is an arguement to be made about a pass to yourself off the glass to then score. Although there can be an argument for this, the official definition means an assist must be to another player.


Controversy Regarding Assists in the NBA

Controversy Regarding Assists in the NBA

While it might seem that the rule regarding assists is cut and dry, the National Basketball Association’s Statistician’s Manual allows some vagueness in this judgment. The manual says that crediting an assist is up to the decision of the scorekeeper during a game.


For example, some scorekeepers may not consider a pass off the backboard to someone count as an assist, while others may, given the context of the game. The subjective nature of assists makes some people think some statisticians are too generous when giving players assists for their passes.


The league hosts replays of controversial assist calls on its website at NBA.com. There, fans can review film tape and get the precise ruling on why or why not a scoring opportunity may have resulted in an assist. This transparency can help some fans feel more confident about the league’s call regarding specific statistics.


Is There a Difference Between a Primary or Secondary Assist?

Is There a Difference Between a Primary or Secondary Assist

While many sports, like hockey, give more than one assist per score, basketball-only counts the last pass before a made field goal as an assist. A pass before an assist is sometimes called a secondary assist or “hockey assist.”


Secondary assists are not part of a basketball game’s box score. NBA box scores generally track five key metrics: points, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals. Reporters credit players who score ten or more points in two of these statistics with a “double-double.” If a player gets 10 points or more in three categories, they get a “triple-double.”


However, secondary assists are recorded as an advanced passing statistic in basketball, showing playmaking ability. For reference, elite passers average between one and two secondary assists per game.


What Basketball Position Tends to Get the Most Assists?

What Basketball Position Tends to Get the Most Assists

Historically, point guards are credited with the most assists as their primary responsibility during a basketball game is to handle the ball. During the 2020-2021 season, point guards had six of the top ten spots for assists. The top assists per game came out to 11.7 from Russell Westbrook, who is a point guard.


Who has the Most Assists in the NBA?

Who has the Most Assists in the NBA

The player who holds the NBA record for assists is John Stockton, with 15,806 career assists. Jason Kidd is a distant second, with 12,091. Steve Nash comes in third with 10,335 career assists.


John Stockton also holds the single-season per-game assist record with 14.5, which he achieved in 1989-1990 while playing for the Utah Jazz. Magic Johnson has the career per-game assist record of 11.2, which he developed over his career playing with the Los Angeles Lakers.


The Orlando Magic’s Scott Skiles holds the single-game assist record. In 1990, he contributed 30 assists in a win against the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, he was a bit short of a triple-double with only seven field goals and six rebounds.


Single-Game Record for Assists

Single-Game Record for Assists

The team with the single-game assist record is the Milwaukee Bucks, who had a combined 53 assists during a boxing day game in 1978. The game was against the Detroit Pistons, where they had 19 assists in one quarter. Also, they won the game with a score of 143-84.


Conclusion – What is an Assist in Basketball?

In summary, assists are one of the most important statistics in the game of basketball. When a player receives assist credit, it’s because they passed the ball immediately before a player made a basket. Generally speaking, having a high number of assists per game is a good thing for an offense.


Also, understanding assists can help you find great fantasy basketball players to get on your team. Point guards are popular to draft due to their high tendency to score and create assists during a game. Drafting players who can score and make assists should be a top priority for any fantasy basketball owner.


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