A look at the most efficient players currently in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague gives a clue as to why FC Barcelona and CSKA Moscow have the most victories.
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv hosted Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in a matchup of teams looking to climb back into the middle of the EuroLeague pack. With both entering their game having lost five of the previous six, it was a key opportunity for one to right the ship and start a new chapter in the 2020-21 season. In a competitive game that saw Zvezda make a furious comeback to close a 14-point second-half deficit and take a one-point lead mid-way through the fourth quarter, Maccabi ultimately pulled away thanks in large part to the play of Scottie Wilbekin and Elijah Bryant, who combined to score 45 points and shoot 7-for-12 from beyond the arc.
EuroLeague Efficiency Leaders
It was not the first efficient performance that duo has put together this season. Bryant and Wilbekin rank 12th and 22nd in scoring efficiency among the 52 EuroLeague players using over 10 possessions per game. As offensive performance has trended closer to historic norms following a somewhat sluggish start caused by the unique circumstances of the 2020-21 season, efficiency remains at a premium.
The table above lists the EuroLeague’s most efficient scorers among those using over 12 possessions per game and those using between 5 and 12 per game. For comparison purposes, players in those ranges have averaged 0.93 and 1.00 points per possession, respectively. That offers some insight into just how valuable it is to have a first option who can score in bunches without needing a huge volume of shots to do so.
Nikola Mirotic has been this season’s most efficient volume scorer thanks in large part to the fact that he is shooting an absurd 83% inside of 2 meters. Despite a mediocre jump shooting season by his lofty standards, he has been nearly unstoppable operating one-on-one in the post.
Mirotic is far from the only FC Barcelona player who has shined offensively thus far. Kyle Kuric and Alex Abrines are not only spacing the floor consistently with their three-point shooting but are also adding a dimension to Barca’s offense with their off-screen efficiency.
Mike James and Will Clyburn of CSKA Moscow are the EuroLeague’s most dynamic duo to this point. Clyburn has bounced back from an injury-shortened 2019-20 campaign in impressive fashion while James is on pace for the most efficient season of his career – no small feat for a scorer as explosive as he is.
Marius Grigonis is among the most interesting names on this list. His shooting has been a major plus for Zalgiris Kaunas all season, but it is his improvement over the last several years that stands out. Grigonis served as a complementary threat for Zalgiris while averaging 8.7 points two years ago. He has continued to improve into his late 20s, blossoming into one of the EuroLeague’s most reliable perimeter threats with 14.4 points per game this season.
Alec Peters and Vladimir Lucic warrant mention here as the two players who have achieved perhaps the most impressive blend of usage and efficiency on the year. Kevin Punter falls into the that bin as well, having wasted no time rounding into form following an injury that held him out of action in the early going. While Lucic and Peters may not serve as the first options for their respective teams, they have both produced at that level by virtue of their remarkable consistency.
Given how much of the season there is left to go, it will be interesting to see if Mirotic can maintain his sterling pace and how the roles of players like Lucic continue to evolve.
Looking Ahead to Round 13
Round 13 features the best offensive matchup of the season on paper as the EuroLeague’s top-ranked offensive team in terms of efficiency, Valencia Basket, hosts the second-ranked team, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, in La Fonteta. Valencia leads the EuroLeague in efficiency around the rim, but it is their jump shooting that has been their x-factor this season. They are scoring an absurd 1.49 points per unguarded catch-and-shoot jump shot in half-court situations, but a dismal 0.76 points per guarded catch-and-shoot jumper, while producing the competition’s highest volume of such opportunities. Ranking on opposite ends of the spectrum this season based on how those shots are defended, Valencia puts huge pressure on opposing defenses with spacing, ball movement, and consistency in scoring around the rim.