Every new player to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague soon starts talking about having discovered one of the competition's unique characteristics: every moment counts. How those moments are shared and when during each game is what head coaches must decide, often adapting structured plans to the needs of the situations in which they find their teams. Here's how the Final Four teams, with their especially deep rosters and long benches, divvied up the playing time this season.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Efes rose like a phoenix from the ashes this season with a steady rotation and clear roles. Out of 35 games, Adrien Moerman, Bryant Dunston and Vasilije Micic made 28 starts or more, while Krunoslav Simon, Rodrigue Beaubois and James Anderson had between 19 and 21 each. What's more, head coach Engin Ataman stuck with his starters the longest of all Final Four coaches, usually for 8 or 9 minutes before bringing Shane Larkin and Tibor Pleiss in. The second quarter is where Ataman did the most mixing and matching, with 10 players, including Dogus Balbay and Brock Motum, usually seeing action, although Micic came back near halftime on a regular basis.
Efes's second-half starters stand out as the most locked-in rotation of any Final Four team in a single quarter. Ataman sent out Moerman, Micic, Dunston and Simon almost exclusively and left them to play almost the entire third quarter. Beaubois is often the fifth player with them before Larkin takes over in the last couple minutes and then becomes the team's most frequently used player in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter. Pleiss usually reemerges early in that quarter, too, before Dunston takes over the middle minutes. The surest participants down the stretch tend to be Micic, Moerman and Simon. Otherwise, Ataman adapts to the situation at the finish, too, with Motum, Pleiss, Balbay, Anderson and Beaubois each as likely as the next to get a call with the game on the line.
CSKA's chart tells us that head coach Dimitris Itoudis has four players as his most frequent starters – Nando De Colo, Daniel Hackett, Nikita Kurbanov and Othello Hunter – with Alec Peters tipping off 18 of 34 games, as well. Itoudis subs most of them late in the first quarter with a foursome who could start anywhere else – Will Clyburn, Cory Higgins, Sergio Rodriguez and Kyle Hines – and they would proceed, by game's end, to play more minutes than the starters. They would play deep into the second quarter, and sometimes finish it. Those nine players – and to a lesser extent, Andrey Vorontsevich and Joel Bolomboy – dominate CSKA's rotations.
For the start of the second half, Itoudis goes back to Hunter, with De Colo, Kurbanov and Hackett usually alongside him. Clyburn, Higgins and Rodriguez tend to re-emerge in the third quarter, but what's really interesting is who CSKA's finishers are. Clyburn and Higgins are most likely to be there in the game's closing minutes with help from everyone else, mainly De Colo, Rodriguez and Hines. You also notice that, albeit less than the others, Bolomboy plays as much or more in the fourth quarter as he does in the previous three.
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul
Given Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul's injury problems going to the Final Four – with Luigi Datome and Joffrey Lauvergne officially missing the event, while Nikola Kalinic and Jan Vesely are nursing injuries and may or may not play – the team's rotations may change a lot. Until now, though, Nicolo Melli started every game except one. After him, head coach Zeljko Obradovic mixed things up quite a bit, giving eight other players between 21 (Ali Muhammed) and 11 (Vesely) starts. Even though Ahmet Duveriouglu (20) and Eric Green (17) rank third and fourth in starts, respectively, they were not used as much after the first quarter. No matter who started, however, it was usually Vesely, Kalinic and Kostas Sloukas finishing the first and starting the second quarter, and more often than not Datome and Marko Guduric, too. Those five players got the most minutes throughout the second quarter.
Melli, who usually returned for the final 3 minutes of the first half, was the team's most frequent third-quarter starter, joined usually by Kalinic, Sloukas and Datome, who played more after halftime than before. In fact, Obradovic relied mainly on seven players in second halves, three of whom were Datome, Vesely and Kalinic. The last of those spent more time on the floor in fourth quarters than anyone else on Fenerbahce, so if he and Vesely can play, Fenerbahce will be down only one man – Datome – who was relied on greatly in the second halves as the team won more games than any other this season.
At a single glance, Real's chart shows that head coach Pablo Laso goes deeper and more often to his bench than the other coaches. No player averages 24 minutes -- at least three on each of the other Final Four teams does -- and 13 players have active roles, as opposed to a high of 11 on Real's opponents for the title. Anthony Randolph is the sole player to have started every single game for a Final Four team and he also played deeper into the first quarter than any Madrid starter. He was accompanied, more often than not, by Walter Tavares, Fabien Causeur, Sergio Llull and Jeffery Taylor. The steady second unit of Facundo Campazzo, Rudy Fernandez, Gustavo Ayon and Jaycee Carroll often got help from either Gabriel Deck, Trey Thompkins or Felipe Reyes, with Klemen Preplic making his presence felt more later in the season.
In second halves, the pattern repeated, with lots of Randolph, Tavares, Taylor and Llull plus equal parts Causeur or Campazzo. When the fourth quarter rolls around, Laso goes back to the quartet of Campazzo, Fernandez, Ayon and Carroll. Curiously, though, it's Campazzo who is surest to stay there to the finish of all players on the team. If fact, the closing 5 minutes are his most likely to be playing in any game. From an endlessly talented bench where 13 players regularly get between 9 and 24 minutes on average, it's quite a distinction for Campazzo to know he's going to be there in the crunch.