Βy Stelios Toromanidis/ email@example.com
The main subject of much discussion and analysis in various basketball hangouts throughout Europe is the comparison between the best teams of the Old Continent with regard to the completeness and effectiveness in the three main positions of the sport. Those of the backcourt (positions 1-2), the forwards (positions 3-4), and the centers (position 5). Which team is superior and where, which position makes all the difference in the end and which players are barometers for each unit throughout the season in the EuroLeague?
Trying to give some answers to the above questions, Eurohoops looked at the stats of all the players in the competition and presents to you the best backcourts, forwards and big men so far in the competition, based on the numbers.
PART 1: Backcourt (guards)
In the first of three parts of this special, we are going to deal with the masterminds of each team who come from the backcourt section. The guard is the one who makes the decisions and guides the whole. With the completion of 20 of the 30 games in the regular season, we have a sufficient statistical sample that allows us to highlight the best but also lower ranked teams with regard to the guard positions (1-2).
1st Step: First of all, we gathered the guards of each team separately and made 16 tables, one for every unit in this year’s EuroLeague.
2nd Step: On each team’s table, we added the points collected by every backcourt player in the ranking system (PIR) and then divided the result by the total of games of every guard on the team. This is how we calculated the average ranking (PIR) of the backcourt for each of the competition’s 16 gladiators. In this way, the stats of ALL the guards of a team are presented as if it were ONE player.
Results: CSKA dominate, Unics are pretty high up thanks to… Langford
The teams that are tied at the top in the standings after the first 20 rounds (CSKA, Real) are the ones with the best backcourts in the competition. They are followed by Darussafaka and Unics Kazan, who have many talented guards, while further down we have Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, with Zalgiris occupying the last position. But let’s look at each team separately…
1 CSKA Moscow (PIR: 10,3)
On their roster they have perhaps the best duo of backcourt players in the EuroLeague (Teodosic, De Colo), which is complemented by the excellent playmaker Jackson and the formidable shooters Higgins and Fridzon. All of them have gathered a three-digit number in the overall ranking and make up a most powerful backcourt. The group is supplemented with the Kulagin brothers who help out a lot whenever they are needed.
|1||Nando De Colo||13||244||58/108||19/47||46||42||273|
2 Real Madrid (PIR: 10)
They might have only four guards, but all of them are top class players, the most prominent of course being Sergio Llull. The Spanish star is the absolute boss of this year’s Real, after Sergio Rodriguez departed for the NBA. Alongside him, the boy wonder of this year’s competition, Luka Doncic, in his first big season, while the killer Jaycee Carroll along with the experienced Dontaye Draper complement an excellent quartet.
3 Darussafaka (PIR: 9,4)
The trio of Wanamaker, Wilbekin and Bertans is full of talent, athleticism and great efficiency in shooting from the 6,75m line, which results in Darussafaka’s backcourt being featured in third place. Arslan and Yagmur have complementary roles, as can be seen in the table below.
– Unics Kazan (PIR: 9,4)
Tied with David Blatt’s team is Unics Kazan, a team that has been built around its absolute leader, Keith Langford, who is the best guard and scorer in the EuroLeague, while also being the only player who has gathered over 400 points in the PIR. On his side: the very good creator, Quino Colom (in his first year in the competition), the injured Johnson and Pongrashov, as well as the complementary Stoll, Panin and Voronov.
5 Fenerbache (PIR: 9)
Zeljko Obradovic’s backcourt armada, led by Kostas Sloukas, is in fifth place. The small Bobby Dixon is a high quality option, and Bogdan Bogdanovic is a top class player but one who missed many games due to an injury. If he hadn’t been injured, Fenerbahce would have been higher in the rankings.
6 Panathinaikos (PIR: 8,3)
One of the best backcourts is that of Panathinaikos. Nick Calathes is the leader, surrounded by the excellent American trio of Rivers, James and Feldeine. Coach Pascual has Pappas as a secondary option, as is shown in the stats, complemented by the young Bochoridis with very few appearances in the backcourt gang.
7 Efes (PIR: 7,9)
Below Panathinaikos we come across Efes’ guards. The best of the bunch are Thomas Heurtel and Jayson Granger, who do most of the work in scoring as well as creating. Brandon Paul has also left good impressions after his first games, replacing Bryce Cotton in the backcourt of the Blues. After the first few rounds, Furkan Korkmaz is also history.
|6||Bryce Cotton *||10||80||17/36||12/32||14||9||56|
|7||Furkan Korkmaz *||2||2||1/4||0/1||1||0||3|
8 Bamberg (PIR: 7,4)
If it were the best eight backcourts that qualified, Bamberg would get the last ticket. The superstar might be out, but the uniformity and cohesion of the Germans in the guard positions makes all the difference and is the weapon of Trinchieri’s team in their effort to make it to the playoffs. Strelnieks, Zisis and Causeur have more responsibilities than the rest, while Staiger’s case is also interesting as he has executed 36 three-pointers and only one two-pointer!
9 Olympiacos (PIR: 6,9)
Four teams are tied in ninth place. First up, Olympiacos, who have Vassilis Spanoulis as their leader and around him a pretty good supporting cast that cannot move along his performance standards, and as a result, even though the Red-and-whites are third in the EuroLeague standings, their backcourt is ranked lower.
– Barcelona (PIR: 6,9)
Keeping company to the Piraeus team is the “confused” Barcelona of the resourceful Tyrese Rice and the many injuries (Ribas, Koponen, Navarro, Renfroe) that have disrupted the Blaugrana’s guards.
|3||Juan Carlos Navarro||10||59||8/27||11/35||20||16||44|
– Maccabi Tel Aviv (PIR: 6,9)
The Israelis have rich individual talent in the guard positions, but they lack in team work and specific roles on the court. This is why their ranking in general as well as in terms of the best backcourts is low.
– EA7 Armani Milan (PIR: 6,9)
The Italians are in a similar situation with Maccabi. Simon, Hickman, Kalnietis and Dragic are experienced and quality solutions among the guards, but cohesion and effectiveness are not profuse in the team and their course thus far betrays this fact.
13 Crvena Zvezda (PIR: 6,8)
The Serbs’ amazing progress in this year’s EuroLeague cannot be accurately reflected in the ranking of their backcourt. This is because playing time is allocated to many players, most of whom don’t collect many points in the rankings, even though they’ve played in all or in most games.
14 Baskonia (PIR: 6,6)
The same conclusion emerges with Baskonia as well, as they have Shane Larkin as their point of reference but at the same time they’ve used various players whose performance levels so far have been low. Pablo Prigioni and Josh Akognon are a thing of the past for the Basques.
|6||Pablo Prigioni *||3||0||0/2||0/0||6||3||5|
|7||Josh Akognon *||5||19||5/7||3/14||6||3||5|
– Galatasaray (PIR: 6,6)
Aside from the consistent Sinan Guler and John Diebler’s… bursts, the other guards are lacking in quality, and this is why Galatasaray are at the bottom of these rankings. The departures of Russ Smith and Justin Dentmon have also played an important role, as they didn’t “gel” with the whole and left.
|6||Justin Dentmon *||8||98||15/31||18/45||18||7||76|
|7||Russ Smith *||7||49||14/33||2/12||6||6||24|
16 Zalgiris Kaunas (PIR: 6)
Zalgiris Kaunas are last in the rankings of the guards. They might be a well-worked unit by Sarunas Jasikevicius but, as is natural because of the Lithuanians’ meager budget (the lowest in the EuroLeague), they can’t manage to get among the top teams even though they have gotten some resounding victories throughout the season.