In recent years, defense has played a key role in which teams make it to the 7DAYS EuroCup championship game and there were no shortage of impressive defensive efforts in the first round of the 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16. Synergy Sports Technology tracks 11 different play types, but three of them make up half of all offensive possessions in the EuroCup. A team's ability to get stops in those three situations drives its overall defensive efficiency and – should trends hold – the ability to make a deep postseason run.
Spot-up possessions are the most common offensive outcome at nearly every level of basketball and account for 22.5% of all possessions in the EuroCup. Teams are converting spot-ups for an average of 0.97 points per possession this season, which is identical to the league average for overall points per possession.
UNICS Kazan currently ranks as the EuroCup’s fifth-most efficient defensive team overall and its ability to close out shooters is a big reason why. UNICS falls into two key groups that separate it from the pack. First, UNICS is one of only five teams that have allowed spot-ups on less than 20% of the possessions it has faced. Second, UNICS is similarly one of five teams to allow an adjusted field goal percentage of under 50%.
Typically, quality defensive teams do one of two things well against spot-ups; they either consistently get a hand up on shooters when opposing teams do create spot-up opportunities by being smart with their rotations or they close out so aggressively that they prevent spot-up attempts entirely. Every team on the list above does at least one of those two things, UNICS ranks first because it does two.
Pick-and-roll ball handler
17% of all EuroCup possessions are used by a ball handler dribbling off a pick. Pick-and-roll ball handler possessions have resulted in an average of just 0.79 points per possession this season as ball handlers tend to not score the ball efficiently themselves. However, teams lean heavily on ball-screen actions due to how efficient the opportunities created by passes out of the pick-and-roll tend to be.
Unlike spot-ups, which teams tend to defend in a fairly cut and dry manner, there is a wide variety of different approaches to defending pick-and-rolls. ratiopharm Ulm ranks as the top team in the EuroCup this season, opting for a very aggressive approach that has helped it force opposing pick-and-roll ball handlers into turnovers at an unprecedented rate. What sets Ulm apart from other teams that force a lot of turnovers is that its defensive field goal percentage does not suffer as a result of that approach; Ulm still manages to contest the shots it does allow pick-and-roll ball handlers to attempt as consistently as most of its peers on this list with the way it mixes up its coverages.
Partizan NIS Belgrade is the exception to that, as its guards play with tremendous intensity on the defensive end, getting around screens with impressive quickness to seldom allow a quality look to opposing ball handlers. Partizan is the only team remaining in the Top 16 allowing an adjusted field goal percentage of under 39%.
Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and AS Monaco share some similarities in how they have defended the pick-and-roll on paper by forcing turnovers and contesting shots at a strong rate while limiting their fouls. The key difference between the two is that opposing offenses have made a far more concerted effort to attack AS Monaco in the pick-and-roll. No team in the EuroCup has defended as many pick-and-roll situations as Monaco this season, but it ranks second in comprehensive pick-and-roll defensive efficiency, defending not only ball handlers well, but also contesting the shots that they create impressively. Opposing teams have not been shy about using screens to alleviate Monaco's ball pressure and draw the big men to the perimeter, but that has not yielded much success.
Transition opportunities make up 12% of all offensive possessions in the EuroCup and are converted for a highly-efficient 1.14 points per possession. Due to their relatively high value, the best transition defenses prevent transition opportunities entirely. However, some teams have found decidedly more success than others getting stops when opposing offenses inevitably do find a way to get out in the open floor.
UNICS has been the competition's most efficient transition defense doing an excellent job of hustling back, matching up and swarming would-be scorers inside. UNICS holds a small edge over MoraBanc Andorra, which tends to be peskier in the passing lanes than most EuroCup teams, and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, which does a good job of sending defenders back in a timely manner to prevent run outs to the rim.
Monaco does not have too many distinguishing characteristics defending in transition than the other teams on the list, but some of the things that make it effective in the pick-and-roll aid the team in the open court, namely the speed of its guards and their length and quickness in spots on the wings.