Stats Review: Tracking Early Changes

Oct 22, 2018 by Synergy Sports Technology Print
Stats Review: Tracking Early Changes

Following the conclusion of Round 1, we took a broad look at what a EuroLeague offense looked like during the 2017-2018 season. Though it is still early, several teams have stood out this season with regards to how they are attacking opposing defenses through three games.

Every year, a few teams emerge as outliers in the play types they rely on within their half-court offenses. Whether driven by strategy or necessity, EuroLeague teams rank among the most creative in the world and have aided in the evolution of offensive basketball since the league's inception. Teams find varying levels of success when they push the envelope tactically, but it is always worth noting who is making bold adjustments or trying something new, because the rest of the EuroLeague is never far behind the teams that find success in some novel way.

Off Screens

2017-18 Off Screen Average: 4.4 possessions per game, 1.02 points per possession

2018-19 Off Screen Average: 3.9 possessions per game, 1.11 points per possession

Real Madrid: 10 possessions per game, 1.27 points per possession

Real Madrid has led the EuroLeague in off-screen possessions per game each of the last two years, but this season they are on pace to become the only team to use over 10 per game in modern EuroLeague history. Off screens are a unique play type: to score with them requires personnel with a very specific skill set. Many teams run off screens more often as a decoy because players that can shoot with great accuracy on the move are, historically, not easy to find. Despite that, off-screen scoring efficiency league-wide has slowly risen to a superb level over the last several years and Real Madrid is at the forefront of teams taking advantage. Jaycee Carroll, Rudy Fernandez and Fabien Causeur are the usual suspects for the reigning EuroLeague champs. Each has had signature moments moving without the ball and hitting timely perimeter shots over the last few years. But Anthony Randolph has been the team's second-most prolific off-screen threat as this play type becomes less exclusive to wing players. Keep an eye, too, on how Pablo Lasso's team scores off simple pindowns or more advanced actions. Their success in doing so to this point is unprecedented.


2017-18 Average: 80.6 possessions per game

2018-19 Average: 81.0 possessions per game

Zalgiris Kaunas: 73.7 possessions per game

Herbalife Gran Canaria: 89.7 possessions per game

The average number of possessions teams are using per game this season is up only marginally from last season, but a few teams currently stand at the extremes of pace of play. Zalgiris Kaunas is playing at the slowest offensive pace of any team since the 2011-2012 season despite frequently pressing full court defensively. Magnifying the value of each possession, playing slow can make teams that execute at a high level exceptionally difficult to defend but also susceptible to opponents who run hot from beyond the arc. As much as the top basketball leagues in the world are playing faster and faster, many teams have found success bucking the trend and grinding out possessions and Zalgiris could join their ranks this season.

Herbalife Gran Canaria has swung in the opposite direction playing at the fastest pace of any team in modern EuroLeague history. Playing fast puts opposing defenses on their heels, but exposes poor shooting or defensive performances very prominently.

Pick-and-Roll-Derived Offense

2017-2018 Pick-and-Roll Average: 42% of total half court possessions

2018-2019 Pick-and-Roll Average: 42.1% of total half court possessions

FC Barcelona Lassa: 53.5% of total half court possessions

Pick-and-roll play has grown into a staple of nearly every professional basketball offense in the world over the last decade. Teams rely on their ballhandlers to not just score using ball screens, but also to create opportunities for their teammates by passing.

Pick-and-roll-derived offense covers all possessions used by ballhandlers or created by one of their passes out of the pick-and-roll. FC Barcelona Lassa is on pace to generate more of their possessions this season from pick-and-rolls than almost any team in the world and for sure any in EuroLeague history. Both Thomas Heurtel and Kevin Pangos are proven pick-and roll experts, and Svetislav Pesic has given them considerable freedom to make the decisions that will drive Barcelona's offensive success this season.


2017-2018 Cut Average: 6.1 possessions per game, 1.26 points per possession

2018-2019 Cut Average: 7.3 possessions per game, 1.29 points per possession

Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv: 10.8 possessions, 1.40 points per possession

Cuts are the most efficient plays in the EuroLeague among the 11 types that Synergy Sports Technology tracks. Their game-to-game usage varies widely as teams tend to create many cut possessions within the flow of their offense and not necessarily from called plays. Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, however, appears to have found a formula to create catch-and-finish opportunities more consistently than their peers. They have generated more cuts per game than any team in modern EuroLeague history with Tarik Black leading the charge, but many of their wings getting involved off timely back-door cuts and misdirections. Of all the teams on this list, it will be most interesting to see if Neven Spahija's club can sustain their style moving forward as they have the most unique offensive profile in the EuroLeague early on.