After 15 rounds have been played, three teams – Anadolu Efes Istanbul, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid – sit atop the standings with 12 victories each. Here's a review of the key statistics in the competitive Turkish Airlines EuroLeague landscape.
There was no shortage of drama in the double-round in both resounding wins and narrow victories. In Round 14, Valencia Basket scored their most emphatic victory of the season in a win over KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz to keep the middle of the standings crowded. Scoring a season-best 1.23 points per possession, Valencia maintained the momentum that it has quietly built offensively over the last several rounds. Bojan Dubljevic and Mike Tobey combined to scored 35 points over just 26 possessions as Valencia pounded the ball inside to great effect. The performance of its big men has been one of the main reasons that Valencia has won five of the last eight games after starting the season with five losses.
Round 15 featured one of the most interesting matchups of the EuroLeague season so far between CSKA Moscow and Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Earning a one-point win in Istanbul, CSKA Moscow scored 34 points on finishing situations from its half-court offense – some 14 points above its season average – while holding Efes to just such points 14 defensively to create a 20-point margin that ranks among the largest to date this season. The game was decided by tough jumpers in the waning moments but hinged on CSKA's dominance inside.
Most Efficient Finishers
The importance of interior play in many of this week's most important games was evident. Even in an era when three-point shooting frequently proves to be the deciding factor between wins and losses, 30% of all shot attempts come on closer-to-the-basket finishing situations and they are converted for a field goal percentage of 62% and a very efficient 1.32 points per attempt after accounting for the value of shooting fouls.
Several players have been extremely efficient inside through 15 rounds. The group above may not represent the EuroLeague's most prolific interior scorers, but it may reflect the most opportunistic ones.
FC Bayern Munich swingman Vladimir Lucic has done more with less around the rim than nearly any player in professional basketball this season. Not only has Lucic shot 81% on finishing chances, but he's also shot 96.0% from the foul line on the attempts he's earned by drawing shooting fouls inside. An excellent cutter who runs the floor hard in transition and shows the ability to drive the ball hard to the rim, there is a variety to Lucic's impact inside that does not usually equate to elite efficiency.
Bojan Dubljevic is shooting a EuroLeague-best 84.0% finishing around the basket this season and – like Lucic – has been deadly from the foul line. The EuroCup veteran is not the bounciest finisher but has some of the surest hands of any big man in Europe, excellent touch, a strong frame, and sensational instincts for using his body to create angles against athletic defenders.
Coming off last season's injury, Anthony Gill has picked up where he left off for Khimki Moscow Region. A good athlete with the strength and footwork to exploit matchups in the post or attack closeouts from the perimeter, he has solidified himself as one of the EuroLeague's most efficient modern forwards and a key piece of the league's most efficient team in finishing situations.
FC Barcelona forward Nikola Mirotic's scoring instincts have shined as expected in his EuroLeague return. Creating many of his own finishing opportunities in the post, crashing the glass, displaying excellent timing cutting the rim, and showing some hustle sprinting rim-to-rim in transition, Mirotic will both hunt easy opportunities inside and make something out of nothing one-on-one.
The top of lists like this are often reserved for centers who live off a diet of dunks making this year's group of standouts an especially interesting one.
Looking Ahead to Round 16
With every team in the top 10 of the standings playing another team in the top 10, a strong argument can be made that Round 16 is as interesting as any in the regular season. Whether it is AX Armani Exchange Milan visiting CSKA Moscow at Sports Palace Yantarny, Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv heading to face a motivated Anadolu Efes Istanbul team in the Sinan Erdem Dome, or Panathinaikos OPAP Athens hosting Real Madrid at OAKA, Round 16 has obvious implications at the top of the standings.