Special situations make up only a small percentage of possessions in a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague game, but can often be the difference between winning and losing.
Special situations include many different game states based on the quarter, time remaining, score or other conditions. Synergy Sports Technology tracks a wide range of special situations including the three most heavily scouted scenarios: after timeouts, end out of bounds, and side out of bounds possessions. Through 10 rounds of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season, many teams have helped themselves in the standings with their ability to take advantage of special situations, unsurprising since many of the league’s coaches are internationally renowned for their playcalling acumen.
End out of bounds
End out of bounds plays – also regularly referred to as baseline out of bounds plays – make up just 6.5% of all EuroLeague possessions, but are typically scripted actions with several options. Teams do not regularly get the chance to inbound the ball under their own basket and score only 0.87 points per possession when they do, well off the 0.98 points-per-possession rate teams are averaging on all halfcourt offensive possessions this season. However, the range of values leading to that average is massive. The top team in the EuroLeague in end out of bounds efficiency, Real Madrid, is averaging 1.21 points per possession and the 16th ranked team is average 0.55 points per possession. Some teams have taken far better of advantage of their opportunities on the baseline than others.
As the table above shows, Real Madrid has been the gold standard in end out of bounds situations this season, finding a way to improve on the EuroLeague record 1.18 points per possession it scored last season. Generating cuts and spot-ups at a strong rate, but really excelling scoring off screens as it has all year within its normal half-court offense, the reigning EuroLeague champion has a unique blend of personnel and playcalling that set it apart in its ability to score off inbounds passes.
CSKA Moscow and Buducnost VOLI Podgorica have both shot over 40% from beyond the arc out of end out of bounds situations to buoy their efficiency, while FC Barcelona Lassa has thrived for different reasons to round out the top four. Barcelona has leaned heavily on the pairing of Thomas Heurtel and Ante Tomic who rank first and second in the EuroLeague in end out of bounds scoring respectively. Finding creative ways to get both players involved, but also pairing the two in high and side pick-and-rolls, Barcelona can attribute quite a bit of its situational success to that duo.
Side out of bounds
Side out of bounds plays make up 8.6% of all EuroLeague possessions and are converted for 0.96 points per possession. They do not tend to lead to as many quick-hitting shots as end out of bounds plays, but still allow teams to get organized and run a play, hence their comparable efficiency to overall half-court possessions.
Just like the first list, Real Madrid leads the EuroLeague in situational points per possession and just like the first list, its current pace would break the league record. Unlike its end out of bounds success, however, Madrid's ability to score inbounding from the sidelines is predicated on standout results in the pick-and-roll. Seventy percent of the team's side out of bounds scoring is generated out of ball screen actions and Madrid's ball handlers and roll men have both scored with well above average efficiency and found spot-up shooters at a strong rate.
AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan has shot 54% from beyond the arc in side out of bounds situations while Herbalife Gran Canaria has shot 63% inside of it. Both teams have fared well in spot-up situations, but Gran Canaria has done a much larger proportion of their damage inside than its Italian counterpart. Fenerbahce Istanbul is a bit of an interesting case, as it has scored more of its points in side out of bounds situations on cuts than any other play type. Last year’s EuroLeague runner-up has found great success finding the open man inside and has converted those looks at a tremendous rate thanks in large part to the finishing ability of Jan Vesely.
After timeout plays present a more significant portion of EuroLeague offense than other special situations. Synergy Sports Technology defines after timeout possessions as the first half court set run following the end of the quarter, a real timeout, or some inadvertent stop in the action that mirrors either. Making up 13.8% of all EuroLeague possessions this season, after timeout plays have resulted in 0.94 points per possession. Though teams regularly run specific plays looking for specific players out of stoppages, opposing defenses also get the chance to regroup and make substitutions leading to mixed results.
CSKA Moscow has not ranked worse than third in after timeout scoring efficiency in any of the last five seasons and that streak figures to continue as it finds itself on a tier of its own this year. One of five teams shooting over 40% from beyond the arc overall this season, CSKA Moscow is shooting 49% from deep out of timeouts finding even greater success when it's able to align its personnel.
Fenerbahce once again finds itself high on a list due in no small part to the ability to convert cuts, but is joined this time by crosstown rival Anadolu Efes Istanbul, which has excelled for the same reason. Teams with high-level finishers tend to be even more efficient inside in after timeout situations than they are in typical half-court scenarios.