Only two teams remain undefeated after Round 4. Here's a review of some key statistics within the competitive Turkish Airlines EuroLeague landscape.
The middle of the EuroLeague standings remains incredibly crowded, but Khimki Moscow Region won a key road game against FC Bayern Munich to gain an early degree of separation. The blueprint for Khimki did not diverge much from the first three rounds, but they shot the ball especially well from the perimeter in Round 4, making 11 of 17 catch-and-shoot jumpers. Khimki's defense held Bayern to 0.92 points per possession – identical to the average against its previous opponents – so it's clear that shooting efficiency was the difference.
So far this season, 22% of all shots in the EuroLeague have been catch-and-shoot jumpers that have been converted at an extremely efficient 1.15 points per attempt. Khimki has scored 18 points on catch-and-shoot jumpers in wins as compared to 13.5 in losses. When Khimki shooters make threes as they did against Bayern, they are difficult to beat regardless of how the defense performs – a trend that holds true for most teams this season. Even as Alexey Shved struggled from beyond the arc, Devin Booker, Janis Timma, Jonas Jerebko, Sergey Monia, and Anthony Gill picked up the slack in extremely impressive fashion.
Bayern, meanwhile, has been scoring 13.5 points on catch-and-shoot jumpers in defeats as compared to 15.2 in wins. Bayern's x-factor is its scoring around the rim. In its two victories, Bayern has scored 24 points per game around the rim; in losses, the number is 16 points per game, which is identical to its inside scoring total against Khimki despite a strong effort from Greg Monroe.
Zvezda, Milan, and Shot Defense
Defenses only have so much control over the shots that their opponent attempts, but some take away more than others. With so many games boiling down to makes and misses like the ones mentioned above, two teams have stood out for their perimeter defense so far. AX Armani Exchange Milan has allowed a EuroLeague-best 0.88 points per catch-and-shoot jump shot while Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade has held teams to a top-ranked 10.5 points per game on such attempts. Both teams sit well ahead of the rest of the league in those respective categories.
Milan has been extremely impressive contesting shots effectively when in position to do so, but Zvezda has done a very good job preventing set jumpers entirely. Zvezda's wings and guards stay attached on the perimeter with great discipline to allow as few spot-up jumpers as any team in recent EuroLeague history. It will be interesting to see if they can stay as energetic on the perimeter because that aggressiveness has been key to Zvezda's competitiveness.
Darrun Hilliard and Spacing
On the topic of catch-and-shoot jump shots, CSKA Moscow forward Darrun Hilliard has set the pace this season for providing extremely efficient floor spacing. In the process, he has shown marked improvement from last season. Hilliard leads the EuroLeague 9.8 points from catch-and-shoot jump shots per game, almost 3 points more than anyone else. He has been truly on fire for CSKA, shooting an eFG% of 89% on such attempts. Relocating well on the perimeter, hitting shots under duress, and seldom missing when left open, he has found renewed confidence in his jumper.
After scoring 0.97 points per catch-and-shoot opportunity last season, Hilliard has found his rhythm in a major way from the perimeter. He scored a total of 61 points on catch-and-shoot jump shots over 34 appearances last season – a number he could eclipse in Round 7 at his current pace. Some regression to the mean can always be expected from early outliers, but Hilliard seems to have expanded his game in a meaningful way.
Looking Ahead to Round 5
On the first night of this week's double-round, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz will take on LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne at the Astroballe in a battle of teams looking to get above the .500-mark. Coming off a strong home effort against Olympiacos Piraeus, it will be interesting to see how Baskonia fares in its fourth road game of the season already.