Top 16 Group H analysis

Dec 26, 2016 by Print
Top 16 Group H analysis

Group H will have Valencia Basket, one of the two teams that posted the 7DAYS EuroCup regular season's best, 7-1 record. Valencia is joined in the new group by Cedevita Zagreb of Croatia, ALBA Berlin of Germany and fellow Spanish side Unicaja Malaga.

Plenty of EuroCup tradition

Group H boasts plenty of EuroCup tradition, not only by its teams but also because of the players who will fight to make it to the playoffs. Valencia won the EuroCup title three times, in 2003, 2010 and 2014, and some of its players have made history in the competition. Bojan Dubljevic, Romain Sato and Sam Van Rossom won the EuroCup with Valencia in 2014 along with Oliver Lafayette, who now plays for Unicaja Malaga. Rafa Martinez is a two-time EuroCup champion, winning it with Valencia in 2010 and 2014. He could become the first player to lift the EuroCup trophy three times - only a coach, Rimas Kurtinaitis, has done so, with Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius in 2009 and with Khimki in 2012 and 2015. Joan Sastre helped Cajasol Sevilla reach the EuroCup final in 2011 and head coach Pedro Martinez made it to the title game with Akasvayu Girona in 2008. ALBA reached the competition's final in 2010, losing against Valencia. None of the players who were in that game remains with the team. Lafayette is the only Unicaja player who won the EuroCup but head coach Joan Plaza lifted the trophy with Real Madrid in 2007 and reached the final with Cajasol in 2011. Should Unicaja make it to the final, Plaza would be the first coach to reach that far with three different teams. Cedevita made it to the EuroCup semifinals in 2011. Marko Tomas won the EuroCup with Madrid in 2007 - the only Cedevita player to lift this trophy.

Oliver Lafayette - Unicaja Malaga - EC16 (photo Unicaja)

Young but ready

All four teams have talented young players on their rosters. Cedevita has a lot of young talent available, led by Marko Arapovic and Dzanan Musa. Arapovic, age 20, is already a solid contributor to Cedevita's frontcourt, averaging 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds so far. Musa, 17, is still adjusting to professional basketball and seeing limited playing time (14 minutes per game) but is showing hints of the super scorer he can become. Unicaja has one of its own homegrown players in a key role, none other than Alberto Diaz, 22, the team's best on-the-ball defender and a part-time starter at point guard. Diaz's numbers are not outstanding (3 ppg., 2.4 apg.) but his character, fighting spirit and great intensity have made him a fan favorite in Malaga. Center Viny Okouo, age 19, (2.4 ppg., 0.6 bpg.) has started one game, showing great athleticism and power. Both Ismet Akpinar, 21, and Malcolm Miller, 23, are seeing significant playing time for ALBA Berlin. Miller is averaging 8.3 points on excellent shooting percentages: 60% on two-pointers and 71.4% from the three-point line so far.

Martinez - Mr. EuroCup

Not only can Martinez become the first three-time EuroCup-winning player - he can break some other records and add more value to the ones he already hold. In his eighth EuroCup season, all with Valencia, Martinez needs 104 points and a little bit of luck to finish the season as the competition's all-time top scorer. He ranks sixth with 1,084 points but E.J. Rowland of Khimki Moscow Region is right behind him (seventh, 1,081 points) and Marko Popovic of Montakit Fuenlabrada is ahead of them (second overall, 1,155 points). Mire Chatman is still the EuroCup's scoring king with 1,187 points. Martinez needs just a PIR of 5 to reach the 1,000-mark in his EuroCup career. He ranks second in three-point shots made, 193, only trailing Popovic (201) and with a very high percentage (41.1%) for a player who pulled the trigger so much from downtown. With 1 more free throw made, Martinez will crack the competition's Top 10. A career 89.1% shooter, Martinez ranks eighth in free throw percentage. Most important, Martinez needs 14 games to lead in that category, too. He ranks second with 117 games played, only trailing Vladimir Veremeenko (130), so another trip for him to the EuroCup Finals could come with an extra reward, too.

Rafa Martinez - Valencia Basket - EC16 (photo Valencia Basket - Miguel Angel Polo)

Stats show different playing styles

Four different playing styles can be found in Group H, which makes it even more attractive for fans. Cedevita is the best rebounding team in the EuroCup until now (38.6 rpg.) and also leads in offensive boards (13.3 orpg.). Those are linked to its excellent three-point defense, allowing opponents to make just 32.4% of their shots beyond the arc. Cedevita does not take a lot of three-point shots, just 18.8 per game, but they shoot inside a lot, hitting 24.9 two-point shots per night. All that – excellent rebounding, closer shots – allows Cedevita to rank fourth in PIR at 97.3 per game. Unicaja plays with great aggressiveness, ranking second in fouls drawn (24 per game) but just 13th in free throws attempted (19.6 per game). It is also fourth at forcing turnovers – opponents collect as many as 15.5 per night – but ranks 18th in steals at 5.88 per night, which means Unicaja is forcing its rivals to make around 10 mistakes – 24-second violations, travelling, offensive fouls – in each game. Valencia has the best defense in the competition until now, allowing just 71.3 points on average and forcing opponents to shoot with poor percentages (52.2% 2FGs, 31.9% 3FGs). It is also taking extremely good care of the ball, ranking second in steals (8.13 spg.) and first in turnovers (11.63 per game), as well as being effective inside the arc (sixth, 55.4%) and from the free throw line (second, 79.8%). ALBA is third in scoring (89.1 ppg.) due to its great shooting percentages (41.1% 3FG, 83.3% FT) but has a lot to improve on defense. ALBA allows more points than anyone (94.6 per game), ranks 18th both in rebounds (29.6 rpg.) and fouls drawn (19.5 per game), as well as allowing opponents to hit 42.3% of their three-point shots. ALBA is fourth in two-point shots made (23.3) with Elmedin Kikanovic hitting more than 40% of those (9.5 per game).