Some teams rely heavily on a few offensive contributors while others share the ball almost evenly. How far does spreading the ball around take you in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague?
In Round 8, the EuroLeague’s top put-back scoring team, Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, took on the top defensive rebounding team, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv. Maccabi got the best of that matchup, securing 25 of 32 available Baskonia misses to effectively match its EuroLeague-best defensive rebound percentage of 76.8%. Holding Baskonia to just 2 points on 4 put-back attempts, Maccabi’s performance on the glass was key to their double-digit road win.
Round 8 also featured one of this season’s premier pairings. In a rematch from the 2021 Final Four and a battle of this season’s co-leaders, AX Armani Exchange Milan weathered a late push from FC Barcelona to protect its home floor and take sole possession of first place in the standings. Luigi Datome and Devon Hall set the table with their efficient shooting early and Shavon Shields and Sergio Rodriguez came through in the clutch in an all-around effort from the hosts.
Spreading the love
The top individual performance of the week came from LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne guard Chris Jones. Scoring 25 points over 20 possessions, Jones joined David Lighty (19) Elie Okobo (17) to lead ASVEL at home. That outburst represents a career high for Jones, who’s in his second EuroLeague season, but it’s far from his only big scoring effort this season.
The graph above plots and color codes every player in the EuroLeague by the percentage of their team’s possessions they have used this season. The teams are sorted by total possessions used and the bars are ordered from left to right by percentage.
There’s plenty of things to be learned from looking at the distributions of a team’s possessions. ASVEL is a good example of that. Their top two options, Okobo and Jones, have used 40% of their possessions, making them the highest usage duo in the EuroLeague this season and one of the top pairings in recent history. Though Okobo leads all players in usage by percentage and Jones leads second options by a similar margin, ASVEL has the lowest usage third, fourth, and fifth scorers. Despite that, ASVEL is one of three teams with 10 or more players using over 5% of their possessions each, showing widespread player involvement as compared to the average EuroLeague team, which has just eight regular offensive contributors. Only AS Monaco gets players at the end of the bench as many touches as ASVEL. Despite the unique quirks in the distribution of their possessions, ASVEL leads the EuroLeague in offensive efficiency as one of only two teams scoring 1.00 points per possession this season.
FC Bayern Munich ranks second in efficiency, just a fraction of a point behind ASVEL. Bayern has the EuroLeague’s highest-volume top-five players in terms of usage, a group that accounts for 72% of the overall offense. One might expect that those five players would all be starters, but they are not. Bayern staggers the minutes of its key threats. It will be interesting to see what changes they make offensively as Vladimir Lucic returns to form after missing the first four rounds.
If ASVEL features the league’s top duo and Bayern is rotating a half-dozen players into key offensive roles, UNICS has the most distinct reliance on a “big three” trio. Mario Hezonja, Isaiah Canaan and Lorenzo Brown have used a massive 52% of their team’s possessions so far. CSKA Moscow, led by Will Clyburn, has the second-highest four-man usage rate, behind only UNICS.
Anadolu Efes has the highest total of players involved in at least one possession this season, with 15, while Baskonia has the fewest; the team’s top 10 players have used all but 3 of its possessions.
Zalgiris Kaunas has the most balanced usage distribution in the EuroLeague this season. While Lukas Lekavicius has served as their first option, they have 9 players using between 6% and 10% of their possessions.
Among teams in the top echelon of the standings, Real Madrid has a far more balanced distribution between its first and second five players than FC Barcelona, while AX Armani Exchange Milan has a distinct drop off after their top eight players.
While injuries and player movement impact all of the above, it provides an interesting glimpse into how teams use their personnel on offense.
Looking ahead to Round 9
Olympiacos Piraeus visits Zenit St Petersburg in perhaps the most interesting matchup of Round 9. Undefeated at home in the early going, Olympiacos will look to notch its first road victory of the season in Sibur Arena. Currently ranked third in offensive efficiency and first in defensive efficiency, the Reds will look to continue marching towards their first playoff berth since the 2017-18 against a Zenit team that plays at the second-slowest pace in the EuroLeague and becomes a problematic matchup when its shot-makers exceed expectations.