With the 7DAYS EuroCup Quarterfinals now upon us, there is plenty to be learned from a look back at what has transpired on paper prior to this point.
Efficiency in the 2017-18 Regular Season and Top 16
In a season highlighted by decisive final games in the last round of both the 7DAYS EuroCup Regular Season and the Top 16, one of the defining characteristics of the 2017-18 EuroCup has been the offensive parity that led to heated competition for opportunities to survive and advance.
The graphic above shows which teams stood out during the regular season in offensive and defensive points per possession relative to competition averages, illustrating the comparatively small gap in efficiency between many of this season's teams on offense relative to defense.
The graphic above, specific to the Top 16, shows that defense continued to be a key separator between many of this year's best teams and the rest of the pack, but to a lesser extent than it was in the regular season. In the Top 16, the top offensive teams in this year's competition stood more over the six-game slate. Buducnost VOLI Podgorica has the unique distinction of being the only team to post significantly better-than-average efficiency numbers to make it to the quarterfinal playoffs, where they will face off with Darussafaka Istanbul. Coincidentally, each of the three teams headed to the quarterfinals that excelled offensively will face a team that excelled defensively, which will give a palpable strength-versus-strength feel to most of the quarterfinal matchups.
Can any team score enough to beat Lokomotiv Kuban?
Perhaps the most obvious takeaway from the two graphs above is that Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar has been the gold standard of the EuroCup this season thanks in large part to its take-no-prisoners defense. After falling to Unicaja Malaga in the EuroCup Semifinals last season, Lokomotiv sits at 16-0 heading into the quarterfinals this season propelled by a stifling half-court defense. By allowing only 0.817 points per possession in half-court sets while holding opponents to only 49.5% shooting in finishing situations around the rim and 28.8% on catch-and-shoot jump shots—all of which rank first in this year's competition—Lokomotiv is making it harder for opponents to score than all but a few EuroCup teams in recent memory.
Player Efficiency Recap and Who to Watch For
The graphic above paints a picture of which players advancing to the EuroCup Quarterfinals have scored most efficiently within the possessions per game they get in the roles they play for their respective teams. The most obvious takeaway is just how good Marcus Eriksson—who¬ will miss the next few weeks with a wrist injury suffered while playing with the Swedish national team—has played this season. Among the top shooters in professional basketball, Eriksson leads the EuroCup's third-most efficient offense. Long considered an elite set shooter, Eriksson has shown significant improvement scoring off the dribble in pick-and-roll situations this season. He is sure to be missed, but Herbalife Gran Canaria clearly has no shortage of frontcourt contributors to look to in his absence against Lokomotiv.
For Lokomotiv's part, neither of their two high-volume players appears on the leaderboards above, though Joe Ragland comes close. They do, however, have the most efficient player in the entire competition in Ryan Broekhoff, whose adjusted field goal percentage of 93% in transition and 80% on spot-ups make his effort in this season's EuroCup one of the most efficient offensive seasons any player is having in any single competition in the world. Unfortunately, Lokomotiv has announced that Broekhoff will miss the quarterfinals, at least, with a hand injury.
The quarterfinals will be dotted with dynamic duos. Three teams have a pair of players who rank among the most-efficient volume scorers in this year's EuroCup. Kyle Kuric and Drew Gordon of Zenit St. Petersburg; Jamar Smith and Stephane Lasme of UNICS Kazan; and Scottie Wilbekin and JaJuan Johnson of Darussafaka Istanbul are each likely to play a major role in their team's ability to advance to the semifinals. FC Bayern Munich also has two players on the list in big men Devin Booker and Milan Macvan, but the latter is out for the remainder of the season.