Preview: Featured Player Combinations in Vitoria-Gasteiz

The defending champion Real Madrid, the ‘dethroned’ Fenerbahce Beko, CSKA as the regular participant of the final four of every year since 2012 and Anadolu Efes returning to the final four after 18 years… Two Istanbulites in the semi-final for the final scene of the Turkish basketball’s peak season as well as CSKA Moscow-Real Madrid as the revenge of the previous semi-final game. This article emphasizes the strengths and weaknesses of each team before the final four in Vitoria-Gasteiz where is the capital city of the Basque Country.

As the leader of the regular season, the agenda of Fenerbahce Beko undoubtedly focuses on the players who cannot take part in the final four due to injury. At this point, top-5 players, who were on the court while Anadolu Efes made highest PTS difference, range from +180 to +237. This would be described as a dilemma for Fenerbahce Beko. Despite the high quality and efficient in-game activity of Vesely, Melli, Sloukas, Guduric and Datome who were main triggers to Fenerbahce’s rate to the leadership, the dependency to these players endangers by their potential absences.  Considering almost all of the best doubles, triples and quadruples consist of their different combinations, the dependency comes to the fore once again!

As for the assist network, it is obvious that Jan Vesely is everything of Fenerbahce Beko’s offensive structure! All players – involved in the top network map except Melli – had fed Vesely with assists and had played a crucial role in making Czech player the most influential pivot of the whole tournament. However, it should be noted that he performed below the expectations in the 2018 finals. Moreover, it is possible that he won’t take part in the final four due to his injury. Therefore, Fenerbahce fans hope that Vesely will return with his full performance to the court and won’t disappoint them once again! In addition to Vesely, Kalinic’s situation is expected to become clear at the last minute as well as Datome and Lauvergne will not be able to take part in the final four. Given that Sloukas was the origin of the assist network and Muhammed came to the fore with his extra performances during clutch times, they are envisaged to be key players of the team throughout their final four journeys.

CSKA Moscow had not even a single player with more than +200 PTS difference, and this was mainly stemmed from having a much wider rotation than their opponents. Hunter and Hines, who are not even listed in top-5 players in terms of team’s PTS difference, take part in the majority of trios, quartets and quintets. This also highlights the power of CSKA’s wide squad rotation.

One of the most striking results for CSKA is the fact that Rodriguez and Higgins, who are not in any of the best double, triple and quadruple combinations, appear frequently in the worst combinations. However, De Colo and Higgins stand at the forefront as one of the main assist receivers while as Rodriguez with outpacing the level of 150 assists. What’s more, De Colo had made over 200 PTS from assist that amounts to less than 45% of his total PTS throughout the season. In this regard, De Colo, Higgins and Rodriguez are envisaged to come to the fore as offensive leaders on the court.

As for the defending champion, Real Madrid, it is clear that the gap of Luka Doncic, who was the most valuable player of the 2018 final fours, totally filled with Campazzo. Given taking part in 17 of the top 20 combinations, Campazzo appears to be indispensable for Real! It is not difficult to predict that Fernandez, who stands at the top of the top-5 players with highest PTS difference and appears in 75% of the best combinations, will be one of the most important trumps of Spaniards in the final four. 

Randolph, who established the most effective assists network with his team-mates, had made 286 PTS from assists, and this made him the second player who scored the most PTS from assist right after Moerman (289 PTS) from Anadolu Efes. Randolph also holds the leading scorer title of the team player on back of being fed by Campazzo, Llull, Taylor and even Ayon. Therefore, if Randolph’s pass network on the court cannot be cut off, the opponents will have their work cut out for them! Campazzo-Fernandez connection stands out as Real Madrid’s most advanced assists relationship and Ayon has a pivotal role in assisting Randolph and Carroll. Therefore, opponents should take into account these relationships on the court. Considering the PTS from assist ratio of Llull and Campazzo are below 30%, they are expected to have a direct impact on Real Madrid’s final four journeys with their individual performances.

In Anadolu Efes; Simon, Moerman, Dunston and Micic stand at the forefront by constituting almost all of the best duos and trios on the court. Balbay, who entered the top-5 player list in the last, is far behind the four players and Larkin does not appear in the list that is perceived as not a surprising result considering his performance throughout the season. On the other hand, it may be surprising to have Pleiss replaced by Dunston in the best quintet on the floor. In order to defeat Anadolu Efes, the importance of the minutes that Motum and Anderson are involved in the game is also revealed in the analysis.

Micic is seen as the origin of the assist network in a total of 122 assists to Pleiss ve Dunston. Larkin-Dunston tie is not so strong, which seems to be a major handicap in the name of Anadolu Efes. Moerman’s leadership on the parameter of PTS from the assist and his strong assist relationship with Micic, Simon, Beaubois and Larkin stand out the key part of the Anadolu Efes’s offensive structure. The importance of Simon’s secondary role on playmaking is also proven by the data. Simon’s PTS from assist figure also indicates that he will support Larkin and Micic by having the game in his hand in critical moments of the games.

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