This Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season has had plenty of surprises, but one stands above the rest, the resurgence of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul thanks to much-improved shooting close to the basket.
LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne was indisputably the hottest team in the EuroLeague heading into the double-round week after notching its sixth straight victory over first place FC Barcelona in Round 26. After losing to Zalgiris Kaunas in Round 27, ASVEL suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul – another team that meaningfully turned a corner after a sluggish start.
By winning 12 of the last 13 games after a 5-10 start, Fenerbahce has risen steadily from the bottom of the standing into the playoff picture over the last three months. The difference for the Turkish powerhouse has been consistency shooting inside. After shooting 57% around the rim through the first 15 games, they have shot a tremendous 69% over the last 13 games. While Jan Vesely has played a prominent role in that turnaround, one player does not explain such a massive gap. The consistency of Lorenzo Brown, the addition of Kyle O'Quinn, and the decision-making of Nando De Colo have factored prominently into Fenerbahce's prowess closer to the basket.
Though credit for Fenerbahce's recent play can be attributed to a variety of things, the bottom-line is that they have looked like a different team on the offensive end during their 12-1 run.
The shot charts above display splits from Fenerbahce's first 15 games, on the left, and its last 13, on the right. As the chart on the right suggests, Fenerbahce's shooters have not just shown improvement inside, but have shot the ball at an improved rate from the wings as well. Even so, it has been their dramatic improvement inside that has sparked the team's rise up the standings. Despite a slow start, Fenerbahce is well on its way to ranking as the most effective interior scoring team in the EuroLeague this season.
The graphic above displays the top shooting teams in the zones around the rim shown in those two shot charts. After joining the leaders in inside shooting efficiency after a steady climb, Fenerbahce is now in position to overtake both Valencia Basket and Anadolu Efes Istanbul by simply sustaining the pace it has been on recently.
If success, Fenerbahce also could eventually stake a claim to being the most efficient offensive team in the EuroLeague overall this season. The group shown above includes three of the season's four most efficient offenses. After passing fourth-ranked Valencia last week, Fenerbahce is now within striking distance of top-ranked Efes, whose 1.045 points per possession sits just a few bounces ahead of its rivals' 1.031 rate.
Fenerbahce's rise to seventh in the standings has been one of the most interesting stories of the season. But that story is far from over. The end of Fenerbahce's schedule is not especially forgiving as it features home games against FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in the last two rounds of the regular season.
Looking ahead to Round 29
Sitting just two victories clear of ninth place, Fenerbahce will look to continue its rise with a visit to one of the two teams that have shot better around the rim, Valencia. Conceding 73% shooting around the rim while converting just 58% of its own attempts in a Round 11 home loss to Valencia, Fenerbahce will get a chance to see where its stands now, more than three months later, against the EuroLeague's most consistent interior scoring offense.