The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague tipped off with Round 1 on Thursday and Friday. What positives can each team take away from their openers on paper?
Posting one of Round 1's most efficient individual efforts was Khimki Moscow Region power forward Anthony Gill, who contributed 18 points over 12 possessions in his team's win over Maccabi. After suffering a season-ending hip injury last winter, Gill looked good physically and went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in his return – a very positive sign for a player who had emerged as one of the EuroLeague's more valuable power forwards.
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv scored with well-above-average efficiency overall in Round 1 despite shooting just 4-for-22 from three-point range. Even as Maccabi struggled to space the floor, its players were exceptionally effective inside, shooting 25-32 within one-and-a-half meters of the rim. Tarik Black, Othello Hunter and Omri Casspi scored 39 of the team's 68 points from that range. Maccabi has no shortage of capable finishers.
Attempting a Round 1-low 13 three-pointers, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens still ranked third with 1.06 points per possession in a victory over Zvezda. Nick Calathes, Jimmer Fredette, Deshaun Thomas and Tyrese Rice all scored in double figures, showing Greek club has plenty of prolific weapons – even without the aid of the three-ball.
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade fell short in their fourth-quarter comeback bid but scored at an exceptional rate on pick-and-rolls in Round 1, generating 45 points from 34 possessions created out of ball-screen actions. Billy Baron drove that success by participating in 27 points himself, making simple plays as a scorer and passer in his EuroLeague debut.
FC Bayern Munich's win over Milan was sparked by a standout showing from their starting backcourt. Maodo Lo, Nihad Dedovic, and Vladimir Lucic combined to score 46 points over 39 possessions, but also generated 6 steals compared to just 4 turnovers. Finding ways to score despite playing a low-mistake style, it will be interesting to see how that unit progresses. Lo started less than half of Bayern's games last season.
Nihad Dedovic, Vladimir Lucic and Maodo Lo highlights against Milan
Playing in his first EuroLeague game since 2007, legendary power forward Luis Scola scored 17 points to lead AX Armani Exchange Milan in Round 1. The 39-year old made several jump shots and provided his typical crafty presence inside to help keep his team early, before cold 4-22 shooting put the game out of Milan's reach.
Nearly every Real Madrid player shot efficiently in the team's home win over Fenerbahce. Despite that, defense may have proved to be the difference in one of Round 1's most competitive games. Holding Fenerbahce to just 2 points in transition and forcing turnovers from 19% of the visitors' possessions – the most of any defense in Round 1 – show that Madrid's hustle without the ball was a notable factor.
The newly acquired duo of Derrick Williams and Nando De Colo, who barely left the floor in Madrid for Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, responded by scoring a combined 41 points over 42 possessions. With Jan Vesely out of the lineup, Fenerbahce played extensively through their two new workhorses. No other team had two players use over 20 possessions apiece in Round 1.
Zalgiris Kaunas faltered after a solid start, having a difficult time scoring around the rim, but absolutely dominated the possession battle in Round 1 despite its loss to Baskonia. With a top-ranked plus-8 possession margin, Zalgiris pulled down 17 offensive rebounds, generating no shortage of second-chance opportunities.
The best Round 1 defensive performance belonged to KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, whose perimeter defenders held Zalgiris to just 4-for-11 shooting in finishing situations in the half-court offense. Youssoupha Fall led that charge by recording 5 blocks, the most in Round 1, but the team's guards gave up nothing easy on the perimeter, either.
Ravaged by injuries, Anadolu Efes Istanbul looked far different in losing to Barcelona than they will when Shane Larkin, Rodrigue Beaubois and Adrien Moerman return, but again generated a huge volume of pick-and-rolls. Leading the EuroLeague by a comfortable margin last season with 44% of their total possessions generated out of ball screens, Efes matched that mark exactly in Round 1.
Nikola Mirotic led Round 1 scorers with a hyper-efficient 24 points in his EuroLeague return as FC Barcelona won at Efes. It will be interesting to see how one of the best floor-spacing forwards in the game fares during his first season in Europe since 2014 and whether he can capture the championship that narrowly eluded him before he left.
ALBA Berlin, which had led the 7DAYS EuroCup in transition scoring last season, generated a Round 1-best 19 points over 12 possessions in its 20-point victory vs. Zenit. Martin Hermannsson showed impressive patience and vision in finding the open man to drive ALBA's success in the open floor. With only 1 turnover, too, Hermannsson made the most of his EuroLeague debut.
Integrating a lot of new personnel, Zenit St Petersburg found mixed results offensively in its loss to ALBA. Faring well inside but struggling a bit on the perimeter, Zenit's 27% shooting from beyond the arc does not tell the whole story. The Russian debutant's generated more open catch-and-shoot opportunities than any team in Round 1, but simply did not convert.
In its first EuroLeague game since 2010, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne was dominant inside, converting 15 of 19 finishing opportunities within the set offense in a home victory over Olympiacos. Generating opportunities both in designed actions and within the flow of the game, the guards did a nice job probing the lane and their big men played with nice energy on the glass in a strong group effort.
Olympiacos Piraeus fell behind early and never recovered against ASVEL, struggling from the perimeter. However, the Reds scored 17 points over 15 post-up possessions – both comfortably the top marks of Round 1 – finding some success pounding the ball inside to Nikola Milutinov, Georgios Printezis and Mindaugas Kuzminskas.
The most efficient offensive performance in Round 1 came from CSKA Moscow. Averaging 1.19 points per possession, the reigning champions scored 40 points on 22 spot-up possessions alone, with Andrey Vorontsevich and Darrun Hilliard accounting for much of that success in a road win over Valencia.
Valencia Basket had an uneven showing in its Round 1 loss to CSKA. The frontcourt had a strong showing offensively, but the guards struggled. Mike Tobey, Brock Motum, Louis Labeyrie and Bojan Dubljevic scored 44 points over 37 possessions for last season's EuroCup champs, but the rest of the team's roster contributed just 26 points over 43 possessions, unable to get shots to drop from the perimeter.