At this early juncture in the season, there are limits on how much can be learned from digging into advanced statistics and player tracking data. However, there are some things to take away from a closer look at how certain teams have started the year through the lens of history.
Last season, the average EuroLeague possession was worth 0.997 points, just below the 1-point-per-possession threshold – a universal standard for offensive excellence in the Synergy Sports Technology database. In Round 1, EuroLeague teams averaged 1.033 points per possession by continuing to find ways to push the boundaries of offensive efficiency.
The graph above depicts the per-game frequency and average effectiveness of different types of offensive actions during the record-breaking 2017-2018 EuroLeague season as tracked by Synergy Sports Technology. As it shows, there is not a particularly strong correlation between how often teams use a possession in a certain situation and their efficiency in doing so. However, with EuroLeague teams collectively averaging more than 1 point per possession for six of the 11 play types Synergy tracks, teams have found no shortage of ways to score the ball efficiently.
It is the EuroLeague's comprehensive efficiency that sets it apart from its contemporaries. Almost exactly half of all half-court possessions in EuroLeague play are used by a ball-handler in a pick-and-roll or isolation situation or created by one of that player's passes.
However, it is the work that the competition's role players do off the ball that has propelled the EuroLeague's record-breaking offensive performance in recent years. By EuroLeague standards, isolations and pick-and-rolls are the two least-efficient forms of offense, but the passes out of those situations – often resulting in cuts, spots-ups, or roll-man opportunities – have grown increasingly valuable to the point that their success greatly bolsters the potential value of any ball screen action that attempts to exploit a mismatch one-on-one.
At this early stage, there is no guarantee that the teams that scored the ball at an especially efficient level in Round 1 will sustain that level of play for the next six months, but it is interesting to look at who is pushing the envelope early on, given the way the EuroLeague has emerged as the gold standard for scoring efficiency in modern basketball.
2017-2018 Cut Average: 6.1 possessions per game, 1.26 points per possession
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv: 12 possessions, 1.25 points per possession
Maccabi fell just short of beating Panathinaikos OPAP Athens in Greece – an exceptionally difficult task. One of the reasons they found themselves in position to do so was the sheer volume of catch-and-finish opportunities they generated inside. Tarik Black was the main beneficiary of Maccabi's ball movement, but the team's guards also got involved by sneaking backdoor several times. All cuts are not created equal as flashes to the elbows tend to be less valuable than backdoor alley-oop lobs, but as the most efficient shot in EuroLeague basketball, more is always better.
2017-2018 Roll-Man Average: 5.4 possessions per game, 1.20 points per possession
Anadolu Efes Istanbul: 8 possessions, 2 points per possession
56% of all Anadolu Efes's half-court possessions in Round 1 of the EuroLeague were used by the ball-handler or created by a pass out of the pick-and-roll, the highest mark among all clubs. Of all the potential outcomes for a pick-and-roll situation to generate, a quick pass to the screener is among the least common. It requires timing and spacing that simply does not come together all that frequently. However, Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin were repeatedly able to deliver the ball to their roll men in position to score and Tibor Pleiss and Bryant Dunston made the most of their opportunities in close.
2017-2018 Spot-Up Average: 18.3 possessions per game, 1.07 points per possession
CSKA Moscow: 29 possessions, 1.41 points per possession
Though finding the open man inside yields the most value among all EuroLeague play types, spot-ups remain the competition's most common action and reliable source of points. CSKA Moscow has boasted excellent floor spacing during the last several seasons, and this year's team found the open man on the perimeter at a remarkable rate in Round 1. Cory Higgins alone scored 15 points over 7 spot-up possessions alone, with Andrey Vorontsevich, Nando De Colo, and Sergio Rodriguez all scoring more than 1 point per possession on four opportunities each. Interestingly, few of CSKA's spot-ups were created out of the pick-and-roll – they earned many of their open looks thanks to their unselfish ball movement on the perimeter.
2017-2018 Off-Screen Average: 6.1 possessions per game, 1.26 points per possession
Real Madrid: 11 possessions, 1.55 points per possession
Leading all teams putting up 109 points in Round 1, much of Real Madrid's success can be traced to the remarkable efficiency their perimeter players found shooting on the move, both on designed actions and within the flow of the team's motion offense. Leading the EuroLeague scoring 9.1 points per game on off-screens last season, Real Madrid's offense benefits from a unique dimension when Jaycee Carroll and Fabien Causeur run hard and draw attention away from the ball, and that was the difference against Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul.