Following an exciting finish to the regular season, the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs picture is complete, and the quarterfinals schedule has been finalized. At least one lower seed has pulled off an upset in the quarterfinals each of the last two years since the competition's most recent format change, so let's see what factors could influence that possibility going into this year's playoffs.
Playoffs Team Efficiency Summary
The table above displays the key offensive and defensive details of all eight teams headed to the EuroLeague Playoffs. Sorted by each team's efficiency differential – their points per possession scored minus the points per possessions they allow – it paints a picture of what these teams have been able to accomplish on both ends of the floor.
Most notable about the efficiency differentials of this year's playoffs participants is that they do correspond to seeding as well as they have in the past. For example, Anadolu Efes Istanbul ranks as the fourth seed in this year's postseason but showed such improvement defensively during the regular season's second half as to finish with the league's second-best efficiency differential. Similar disparities between these rankings and the standings cropped up when a team's most efficient stretches were concentrated into a few games or injuries sidelined key players.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see whether this list or the standings proves to be the better predictor of postseason success.
Quarterfinal A features an interesting contrast of styles. Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul and Zalgiris Kaunas both scored over 1.00 points per possession – the gold standard for offensive efficiency in the Synergy Sports Technology database – but took very different routes getting there. The most telling example of that is their half-court shot selection. Fenerbahce scored a league-high 455 points on pull-up jump shots within their set offense – already a EuroLeague single-season record – while Zalgiris ranked last with 171 pull-up points. Fenerbahce is on pace to break several EuroLeague records for shooting efficiency, from the inside and outside the arc, but will face a unique challenge in a Zalgiris team that plays through the post more frequently than any team in recent history and had them on the ropes through three quarters in Kaunas back in October.
Quarterfinal B features a compelling matchup between FC Barcelona Lassa and Efes teams whose two regular season contests went very differently. In their first matchup, the Efes ball-handlers scored just 8 points in the pick-and-roll and were forced into 18 short shot-clock possessions. Both of those numbers stand in stark contrast to the 15.4 pick-and-roll ball-handler points and 13.2 short shot-clock possessions Efes averaged this season. When Efes defeated Barcelona later in the season, those same ball-handlers scored 22 points off pick-and-rolls and limited their team to just 11 short shot-clock possessions. Barcelona ranks third in defensive efficiency this season thanks to an ability to wall off the paint and rode a late three-point shooting surge to a spot in the postseason. Barcelona's success in that first matchup with Efes and its recent trajectory shooting the ball are both worth keeping an eye on.
Quarterfinal C features Real Madrid, which ranks high in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, which fell to the reigning champions by a single point in Athens late last month. Panathinaikos did an excellent job protecting the rim in that game, holding Madrid to only 18 points in finishing or post-up situations – a massive improvement from the 37 such points the Greens allowed in their December loss to Madrid. The Greek powerhouse had among the most improved defenses in the second half of the regular season, while Madrid has been rock-solid all season, rarely slipping outside of the top three in offensive or defensive efficiency.
Quarterfinal D features a Round 30 rematch between KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz and CSKA Moscow, the winner that night in their hard-fought 82-78 battle. CSKA's 42 points created out of pick-and-rolls in that game were among its highest single-game totals this season. CSKA scored a similarly impressive 36 points via ball-screen actions in a narrow December loss against Baskonia, showing a clear plan to attack against the Spanish team's defense. Meanwhile, the biggest challenge for CSKA was getting stops in transition. Baskonia scored 17 points in transition in that Round 11 win, but just 6 in the Round 30 loss. Baskonia ranks first in transition defensive efficiency and third in transition offensive efficiency, giving the team an upper-hand when games get quick. The pace of play is worth monitoring in this series, as is CSKA's ability to make things happen in the pick-and-roll, assuming they stick to their regular season strategy.
Playoffs Offensive Efficiency Leaderboard
The table above sorts the EuroLeague's most efficient offensive players heading to the quarterfinals into two groups: one for high-volume scorers and one for lower-volume role players. There's no shortage of interesting names on this list. Fenerbahce having four players on the lower-volume list shows how depth has played a significant role in the team's record-breaking offensive play.
Real Madrid's centers both rank prominently. Anthony Randolph's versatility and development into a dangerous jump shooter propelled his game to new heights, while Walter Tavares has been just as effective in his role of shooting almost exclusively inside of 1.5 meters. Tavares has shot an astounding 83% in true finishing situations this season. Efes big men Bryant Dunston and Tibor Pleiss have not been quite so imposing inside but have found similar success with a more balanced distribution of touches.
On the other side of the ledger, CSKA Moscow places three players among the most efficient scorers advancing to the postseason, while the performance of the team's role players has been their x-factor on the offensive end all season.
Fenerbahce places two high-volume players in these rankings, as does Baskonia. Kostas Sloukas and Jan Vesely have been this season's most efficient inside-outside scoring combo, while Vincent Poirier and Matt Janning rank as arguably the competition's most dangerous lob threat and set shooter.