Assists in basketball are one of the five main statistical categories of the game. It is a pass to a teammate that directly leads to a basket or field goal. A well-coached team will typically have many baskets as a result of nice passes or assists.
What is an assist in basketball?
An assist in basketball is defined as a pass by a player to his teammate that directly leads to a made field goal. No matter how many passes are made before the made shot, the only credited “assist” is the pass that created the basket. The pass that leads to the assist is often called a “hockey assist” in basketball circles.
- The total assists a team has is an excellent indication of chemistry and ball movement.
- In the earliest basketball eras, an assist is only counted if the player who made the shot did not take any dribbles. Now, it is up to the statistician to determine what constitutes an assist. A player who made the field goal could take one or two dribbles, and the passer may still be attributed with an assist.
- A pass that leads to free throws (no made shot) is not considered an assist in the NBA but does in FIBA.
- In basketball slang, recording assists is known as “dropping dimes.”
- Generally, point guards lead the team in assists because of their roles as the primary facilitators and ballhandlers.
History of the Assist and “Dropping Dimes”
Assists have been recorded since the start of the NBA but with stricter conditions. That’s why it’s much harder to compare the passing abilities of players in the early eras to the modern guys. With these factors considered, we can say that Oscar Robertson’s career 9.5 APG (assists per game) average is tough to achieve.
The slang term “dropping dimes” also has a very interesting history. There is actually no verifiable source as to how the term begins, but there are two main theories about it.
First, it could be from the Philadelphia area, where “dropping a dime” means to help or give a tip to the authorities. A “dime” or “ten cents” is equivalent to the money needed to drop in the payphone to call the police.
A second theory was about helping homeless people make a call again, which amounts to giving them a dime. So in both cases, “dropping a dime” means “to help people out,” which is essentially like an assist in basketball.
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Importance of Assists in Basketball
Many casual fans care about who scored the most points or who dunked on who. However, an assist is a scarce statistic to find, and there are only very few high-impact passers in the NBA. In the 2020-21 season, only 35 players out of over 200 averaged at least five dimes.
To record an assist means points are scored. So whenever a team has a high number of total assists at the end of the game, they usually scored a lot of points. It is also a manifestation of overall team chemistry and how the team unselfishly shares the ball.
For an individual player to record assists also adds to his value. That means he consistently put others in a position to score, an indispensable quality in any basketball offense. Having a player like that is always an asset to winning. Case in point: In the NBA’s 10 APG leaders in the 2020-21 regular season, the only one who did not make it to the playoffs–Draymond Green. And to think, Green’s Golden State Warriors were the 8-seed before losing in the play-in tournament.
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Top Dime-Droppers in the NBA Today – Assists in Basketball
1.) Russell Westbrook
Love him or hate him, Westbrook is probably the best dime-dropper not named Magic or Stockton. Because of his insane passing game, Westbrook has overtaken Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles of all time. He ended up averaging 11.7 APG, tied for the highest mark since the 94-95 season.
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2.) Trae Young
Trae Young may forever be known as the guy the Hawks traded for Luka Doncic. But hey, make no mistake about it; he became a very dynamic player himself. Young ended up averaging 9.4 APG in the 2020-21 regular season and slightly more in the playoffs (9.8). For what it’s worth, he already has a playoff series win under his belt and something Doncic has not accomplished in his first three seasons.
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3.) Chris Paul
There’s a reason why people call CP3 the “point god.” Paul is the architect of one of the biggest turnarounds in any franchise, leading the Suns to its first playoff appearance in 11 seasons. That’s primarily because Paul is a master in setting people up for easy scores.
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4.) Draymond Green
Green is the only non-guard in the top 5 assist guys in the 2020-21 season. He is tied with Paul for the third-most APG (8.9). That’s how invaluable he is to the Warriors. Plus, in that playmaking forward/center role, DG had three championships to show for it.
5.) Luka Doncic
The guy is 22 years old and is at least among the top three players in the NBA today. What makes him so special is not just his scoring; he is practically unstoppable because he can drop dimes with the best of them.
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