When watching basketball games, we’ll often hear commentators talk about steals and turnovers, the statistics, and how this affects the player and the team’s overall game standing. If you’ll intently listen to the “man-behind-the-game,” he’ll stress the importance of reducing mistakes as these careless errors are killers, which keeps your coaches thinking and staying late at night. 

This gives you a better overview that turnovers are ‘bad’ things to avoid when playing, regardless of which game you’re into, especially in basketball. Turnovers can cost a team the entire game they’ve worked hard for. So what’s the difference between steals and turnovers? 

Assuming you already understand the game, to learn more and a better overview of the topic, this article is designed to help you and everyone understand the difference between both factors in winning the game. 

Steal and Turnover: What’s The Difference? 

When we say Basketball Turnover, that means the player is charged when they lose ball possession to the opposing team just when they attempt to make that shot. When you give up the offensive ball possession, the player or team reduces their chance of getting points, and in return, it also reduces the chance to win the game. 

On the contrary, steals happen when the defense player takes ball possession from the opposing team player or team. This error can be a huge mistake for the other team but beneficial for the team that gets the ball. Steals turning to turnover is one way to help evaluate the player’s handling skills and ball control. 

The turnover is counted when the player who handles the ball loses it due to an opposing steal or violation. In other words, steals are made when the defender’s assertive action has caused turnover from the opposing player or team. 

Taking the ball can be done when:

  • Diverts the ball off the opposing player/team
  • Intercepts a pass
  • Disrupt the ball
  • Double dribble
  • Perpetrating a foul (offensive)
  • Offensive goaltending
  • Drawing a technical foul
  • Executing a loose-ball foul
  • Shot-clock violation
  • Passing the ball out of the bounds
  • 5-sec violation
  • 10-sec violation
  • Lose ball control
  • Steal-off dribble or from the player’s hand
  • Stepping out of the bounds

Steals are credited to the player who defends or intercepts a potential shot. This can also happen when the player dribbles the ball and makes errors like travels, intercepts, passes, etc., which causes the opposing team to take ball possession—thus, turnover happens.

Understanding how these two things happen and related to each other gives you a better overview of the true steal effectiveness. For instance, if the player consistently steals the ball but loses possession of it a lot, the steal metrics become insignificant as the player or team cannot keep the ball in possession. 

The ratio is measured by dividing the steals by turnovers. Here’s how the equation works and how to effectively calculate your or your team’s ratio for a steal to turnover: 

The formula: Steals/Turnovers

TO – the player lose ball possession to the other team

STL – the player forces turnover from the defending team

Steals happen when: 

  • The player on defense pokes the ball away from the ball defender, and his team recovers it
  • The defense player intercepts the dribble or pass in a clean way
  • They swerve the pass from the opponent and recovers themselves or the team

One thing worth noting when trying to steal the ball is to avoid having contact with the defender’s hand, which can lead to getting a foul. Steals are credited when the player forces a turnover and is not required to gain ball possessions. 

For instance. If the defensive player cleanly pokes the ball off the handle, the handler recovers it, the person who successfully pokes the ball (without committing a foul) is credited with the steal. 

Do You Need To Track The Team’s Turnover Differential? 

To win the basketball game, you’ll need to make more shots on the hoop than the opposing team. This means you’ll have to be defensive and guard the basket or be more aggressive to make the shots in when you gain ball possession. 

A straightforward and crucial approach in winning this war possession in the court is to work as a team effectively, and turnover plays a key role in this battle. 

Tracking your turnover differential can help you plan your game and know when to stack up against other teams. For instance, if the TO differential is negative five (-5), you’ll then have five more TO compared to your opponent. This is not good news, and you have to shake your performance to improve your chance of winning. 

If the TO differential is positive five (+5), that means you’re doing well in the area and keep the trend up. Limiting your team or individual turnover is vital. Besides concentrating on the statistics, you’ll need to see your overall performance, focus, and elicit all efforts to win the game.

Turnovers are important. Aside from limiting this figure, you’ll have to place the ball as many times as you can on the basket. Since turnover takes the potential score opportunity, it must be avoided and harmful for your performance. You either get a foul or lose the shooting chance. 

How To Avoid Turnovers?

As your coach gets frustrated with every turnover when consistently losing ball possession, this is truly understandable. However, there are ways on how to control turnovers or prevent them from happening. Most errors can be reduced with better coaching and teamwork. 

There are offenses designed strategically to keep the ball from the defensive team and teaching your players how to work on angles, picks, or screens to create clean passes. One great technique before passing is to give the passer the target away from defense to lessen potential steals. 

Unforced mistakes can be alleviated by: 

  • The player understands and learns basketball basics.
  • Making clear passes, pivoting, dribbling, and more can reduce turnovers.
  • Improve teamwork through consistent practice.
  • The coach must prepare the team mentally and help them focus on the game, not chase butterflies.

Final Word

The bottom line is that stealing over turnover ratio is vital. Players, alongside their coach, must improve their standing and avoid committing such errors, affecting the game and team performance. Once you understand the meaning of steals and turnover and how this affects your game, you’ll be more aggressive and careful when attempting shots.

If you want to measure the team and player performance, you might want first to check the steal and turnover statistics and start from there.