Round 3 of the 7DAYS EuroCup had its fair share of wild matchups, but some trends are here to stay.
Buducnost VOLI Podgorica was the EuroCup's most-efficient offensive team through Round 2 as they imposed their will on opposing defenses inside, averaging 67.5 points per game in the paint. Matched up in Round 3 with a Unicaja Malaga team whose defense around the rim is stingy, Buducnost still scored an impressive 52 points on tremendous 77% accuracy in the lane. Shooting 11-for-17 from beyond the arc, as well, Buducnost had one of the more complete shot-making games of the season so far, but due to a -10 turnover margin, was unable to close out a road win.
It is not hard to see what has been working for Buducnost early on. Willie Reed, Dragan Apic and Danilo Nikolic have shot a combined 27-31 in non-transition finishing situations around the rim. All three have done damage rolling to the rim after screening, but each brings something a little different to the table, making their team a tough puzzle for opposing defenses to solve.
Part of the efficiency of those big men has been is due to Buducnost generating an unprecedented amount of offense from pick-and-rolls.
The list above displays the top four teams so far this season using pick-and-rolls in half-court offensive situations. What's intriguing is not who ranks where or how heavily each relies on the pick-and-roll, but rather how different their paths and results have been.
It's no surprise to see Buducnost at the top: the same team headed the same list last season with 54% of its possessions created out of the pick-and-roll. Just like this season, the effectiveness of the Buducnost roll men was key then, too. What sets Buducnost apart now, however, is that returning guards Nikola Ivanovic and Justin Cobbs, while continuing to set up their teammates well, are also becoming steadier at looking for their own offense. Their efforts are a big reason why Buducnost leads the EuroCup by scoring 1.13 points per possession.
Nanterre 92 finished just behind Buducnost in pick-and-roll usage last season as well, but rank 18th in overall offensive efficiency this year. Nanterre's roll men are scoring as much as any other team's, but overall, it's pick-and-rolls have nor produced consistent shot-making.
Isaiah Whitehead, Jacob Pullen and Derek Needham give Mornar Bar multiple scoring options out of ball screens. So far, Whitehead has delivered most consistently scoring the ball.
Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana is the most interesting case on this list after creating a league-low 34% of their half court possessions out of the pick-and-roll last season. They have reversed course under coach Jurica Golemac, who has looked to Kendrick Perry to lead the team's reworked offense.
Even though pick-and-roll play is the most common answer for the EuroCup's top offensive teams – accounting for 44% of all half court possessions, up from 42% last year – it is not the only one. The only team this season that has created fewer pick-and-roll opportunities than Cedevita did a year ago, JL Bourg en Bresse, nonetheless ranks second in overall offensive efficiency.
Looking Ahead to Round 4
Only one group has two unbeaten teams, and they face off next week. AS Monaco will travel to Italy to take on Virtus Segafredo Bologna at Paladozza in Round 4's headliner. Monaco's inside game has thrived on both ends of the floor while Dee Bost gives the offense an added dimension with his exceptional efficiency on the perimeter. Virtus, meanwhile, has struggled a bit offensively but boasts the EuroCup's top defense by a significant margin. It will be an interesting to see whether Monaco's balance or Virtus's polarizing excellence wins out.