What is an Assist in Basketball?

The feeling of assisting a player in any sport to make the shot is priceless! In basketball, an assist is of more considerable significance compared to sports like football. This is because in the court, an assist is given attribution to the statistics of the player as assists per game (APG). So the more the assists, the more valuable the player becomes.

Discrepancy In Assists

Basketball assists, however, have different definitions across the different matches and leagues played. For example, a player passes the ball to another who dribbles the ball before making the shot. This is an assist. With the true definition of assist in basketball terms, this pass will not be an assist.

With assessing assists in basketball, the fact is that there are a lot of discrepancies. Different leagues give a different meaning to assists, which sometimes make it hard for onlookers to interpret the decisions made by the referee!

Different Assists

For a better understanding of assists in basketball, it is essential to know the interpretations of different basketball leagues. Listed below are the assists in a National Basketball Association (NBA) game. Get to know what counts as an assist in a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) game.

NBA Assists

In NBA, a player is credited with an assist if the player passes the ball directly to the other teammate and the teammate baskets the ball directly. Though this may seem very simple to understand, there is, however, some confusion to this theory of assist in putting it into practice. It does not explain the extent to which the teammate can take after getting the pass. For example, it does not define the number of dribbles, fakes or moves the teammate can take after in between the pass and shot.

In the NBA, assists comprise three types:

Secondary assist

  • Terming an assist as a secondary assist would be when the player baskets the ball within two seconds and a dribble after the pass.
  • Also known as the hockey assist, secondary assist helps in indicating offensive efficiency as it helps in assessing the sharing of the ball between teammates.

Free throw assist

  • An assist is a free throw assist when a player passes the ball to another, who is then fouled and makes a minimum of at least one free throw.
  • It is the assist scored from the charity stripe, the free shots a player makes from the free-throw line.
  • Where the player cannot shoot a basket on all free throws, it will not be a free throw assist.
  • Free throw assists help in assessing the number of passes that lead directly to the scoring of points and also helps in a better understanding of which team is waiting to score.
  • In order for a player to earn a free throw assist, the foul must be within four seconds and two dribbles upon receiving the ball.

Free throw assist

  • An assist is a potential assist when a player passes the ball to the teammate and the teammate scores a basket.
  • A potential assist is also helpful in keeping track of the passes a player and the shots that the teammate misses. This is so because it helps in predicting the game and assessing the success of the different teams looking to score the most baskets.
  • Teams that are fast-paced and play the game by running offenses past perimeter shooters are most likely to be awarded potential assists.

NCAA Assists

  • For assists in basketball at the college level, the rule for assists is simple compared to the NBA. Here, the judgment lies in the hands of the home surveyor or statistician.
  • In NCAA, a player is awarded an assist in the game when the player passes the ball and is a direct contribution for a field goal. A field goal is when a player scores a basket on any shot other than a free throw.
  • Regardless of whether the field goal is a two or three-pointer, the official will award the player that passes the ball with only one assist.
  • However, the surveyor determines whether or not to award the player with an assist. For example, the surveyor can disregard the pass by saying that there were a lot of dribbles before making the basket, or that the pass was too regular, foregoing the assist.

Who Gets The Most Assists In A Basketball Game?

Strategic placing of players in the court, just like in football, does not ensure awarding of assists in a basketball game.

  • Point guards make great assists because they are the passers and handlers of the ball.
  • The players who are placed at the center position of the court hardly get to make any assists. But where the player at the center position has a dominant court vision, that player can be responsible for a good score with assists.
  • The player at the center position is always inside the court. Therefore it is the best position with angles to make a pass on to teammates open in the scoring area.


Thus, these are the various assists in a basketball game. Not everyone needs to be a strong athlete to be a great basketball player. Sometimes even a quick presence of mind and a strong vision can be helpful with playing the sport, especially while vying for an assist. The rest depends on the bond, trust and responsibility of the team to play as one and win the game!