Identifying Fast-paced Euroleague Teams

In the previous blog post I plotted Spanoulis’ field goal attempts over the years. The heatmaps provided us with an overview of how his offensive game has evolved over all those years. In this post, I will attempt something less visually appealing, but hopefully the results of this analysis would give some useful insights. If you have watched all of the Euroleague games of the last few seasons you are able to understand which teams have fast pace in their game and which don’t. My target is to assign a metric for each team that would somehow quantify their pace level.

From all the previous work that has been done in the NBA, the recommended way to do so is by counting the possessions per game for each team. The analytics on the team and player possessions are not something new and they are already used in the advanced stats of NBA.com. Because it’s not feasible to watch all the games throughout the years, certain formulas have emerged which try to estimate the possessions of teams/players based on the boxscore statistics.

However since play-by-play data are available for the Euroleague, I thought I could use them to rank the Euroleague teams for the last 3 seasons. Just to be clear, a possession is terminated by a team when they make a field goal or when they miss a field goal without getting an offensive rebound.

Euroleague 2015-2016

The fastest team of this year was Laboral Kutxa Vitoria with 76.41 possessions per game with Unicaja Malaga and Zielona Gora ranking last with almost 3 possessions less than the next team.

possesions2015

Euroleague 2016-2017

Besides 2016-2017 being one of their best seasons, Anadolu Efes was also the fastest team with 78.43 possessions per game. The slowest team for this year was Unics Kazan with 70.82 possessions.

possesions2016

Euroleague 2017-2018

This year highlights the importance of efficiency, as even though Maccabi was the fastest team with 78.14 possessions per game, they didn’t even make it to the playoffs. They recorded only one more victory compared to Valencia which was the slowest team with 72.92 possessions per pame.

possesions2017

Conclusions

It’s evident that the Euroleague teams are becoming faster over the years. The slowest team of 2017-2018 season (Valencia) would rank close to the middle in the 2015-2016 season. Moreover, the gap between the first and the last team in this ranking is becoming smaller, going from approximately 8 possessions to just 5.

These rankings also clearly show which are the traditionally fast-paced teams, being ranked in the top-5 in these years: CSKA Moscow, Baskonia and Real Madrid. Another interesting case for these last 3 seasons is how drastically has Maccabi changed their game adding every year almost 3 possessions per game.

Finally, the volume of possessions is highly important as it forms the basis for a wide range of statistics. We can evaluate much better the performance of each team/player on a per possession basis. For instance, as a player it’s much more efficient to score 12 points in 10 possessions than 25 points in 30 possessions.

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