The #CopaACB campaign is rolling for another year. The ACB folks are flooding social media with photos, videos, statistics, previews and quotes from Vitoria-Gasteiz, where the ACB’s flagship, the Copa del Rey, has landed in 2013.
Attempts by other European leagues to build a cup tournament of comparable popularity and magnitude by copying the event’s format have been rather unsuccessful. And you are unlikely to succeed in the future – social media offensive or not – unless you field a team of eight participants that can take on a Euroleague Top16 group.
Unlike any other league in Europe, ACB players do not see a significant performance drop-off in Euroleague games over a multiyear period. It is likely that the average Spanish Euroleague team’s ACB schedule is not significantly easier than their Euroleague schedule. And why should it? Even relegation-zone ACB clubs have long been outbidding teams from the lower- and mid-Euroleague levels for players.
Throughout the last three years, Valencia were one- and Bilbao two wins away from making the Euroleague Final Four in their sole Euroleague appearances. They are kept out simply for the fact that more than four to five Spanish teams are not wanted in the Euroleague.
The following is neither a preview nor particularly balanced. I am merely dropping off a bunch of comments and numbers. Since any sophisticated numbers I possess are from Euroleague games, this is inevitably going to center around Real Madrid, Baskonia and Barça, well-aware that only one of the three can reach Sunday’s final.
As is widely known, point differential trumps winning percentage for predictive power. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage translates points scored and conceded (even better: Offensive and Defensive Rating) into an “expected” (pythagorean) winning percentage that mirrors performance far more accurately than actual winning percentage. Strength of schedule should be less of a factor here (in contrary to the Euroleague), since we’ve only just passed the halfway mark.
|Real Madrid||19||1||95.0 (1)||33.0 (2)||70.9 (8)||120.1 (1)||101.7 (6)||+4.0||91.0 (1)|
|Caja Laboral||17||3||85.0 (2)||31.8 (4)||74.8 (2)||113.3 (2)||102.8 (9)||+5.5||79.5 (2)|
|FC Barcelona Regal||12||8||60.0 (4)||29.2 (9)||73.5 (3)||107.7 (6)||98.3 (1)||-18.0||78.0 (3)|
|Valencia Basket||12||8||60.0 (4)||33.7 (1)||68.3 (17)||108.3 (4)||101.2 (5)||-12.2||72.2 (4)|
|CAI Zaragoza||11||9||55.0 (7)||27.1 (13)||72.4 (4)||107.1 (7)||100.9 (4)||-14.6||69.6 (5)|
|CB Gran Canaria||13||7||65.0 (3)||32.5 (3)||72.2 (5)||104.7 (8)||99.3 (2)||-2.7||67.7 (6)|
|Bilbao Basket||12||8||60.0 (4)||26.6 (15)||70.4 (9)||107.9 (5)||102.7 (8)||-6.4||66.4 (7)|
|Asefa Estudiantes||11||9||55.0 (7)||31.5 (6)||69.2 (15)||108.8 (3)||105.3 (11)||-6.2||61.2 (8)|
|Obradoiro CAB||9||11||45.0 (10)||28.8 (10)||74.8 (1)||103.4 (9)||102.5 (7)||-8.1||53.1 (9)|
|Unicaja Malaga||9||11||45.0 (10)||31.3 (7)||70.9 (7)||98.1 (16)||100.5 (3)||+3.2||41.8 (10)|
|FIATC Mutua Joventut||10||10||50.0 (9)||28.1 (12)||69.5 (14)||101.2 (13)||104.8 (10)||+12.2||37.8 (11)|
|Iberostar Canarias||8||12||40.0 (13)||27.1 (14)||72.1 (6)||101.5 (12)||105.4 (12)||+2.8||37.2 (12)|
|Cajasol Banca Civica||7||13||35.0 (15)||31.5 (5)||69.6 (13)||100.9 (14)||107.2 (15)||+5.0||30.0 (13)|
|UCAM Murcia||9||11||45.0 (10)||26.2 (16)||69.9 (12)||103.0 (10)||111.1 (18)||+19.1||25.9 (14)|
|Assignia Manresa||4||16||20.0 (17)||23.7 (18)||66.7 (18)||102.1 (11)||111.0 (17)||-4.0||24.0 (15)|
|BDR Valladolid||8||12||40.0 (13)||30.8 (8)||69.1 (16)||99.2 (15)||108.6 (16)||+18.1||21.9 (16)|
|Baloncesto Fuenlabrada||6||14||30.0 (16)||24.8 (17)||70 (11)||96.1 (17)||107.1 (14)||+11.9||18.1 (17)|
|Lagun Aro GBC||3||17||15.0 (18)||28.5 (11)||70.2 (10)||93.6 (18)||106.2 (13)||+0.3||14.7 (18)|
Safe to say: the eight best-performing teams are all playing in the cup this year. They also carry the eight best Offensive Ratings and six of the top eight Defensive Ratings.
Barça, currently 12-8 in the win-loss column, have been disappointing, but they do perform far better than their winning percentage might suggest (see “Luck” column – actual winning percentage minus expected winning percentage).
Difficult to say why Unicaja is performing at such a poor Offensive Rating (16th in the ACB). My best guess: 1) Their Euroleague regular season group was really, really poor. 2) Euroleague-Calloway and Euroleague-Williams have been far outperforming their ACB selves thus far. Calloway’s True Shooting Percentage varies from a very poor 48 percent (ACB) to 67 percent (Euroleague). Point guard scoring performance seems to be one of the keys for this Unicaja roster, which isn’t exactly blessed with shot creators, especially in the front court.
El Clásico #2
Since Pablo Laso is unlikely to have Pepe go after Juan Carlos Navarro, the task will be on Sergio Llull, Dontaye Draper, Jaycee Carroll or Sergio Rodriguez.
Real Madrid have been fantastic in fourth quarters this Euroleague season. Their most productive sequence, when they’re posting a close-to-140 Offensive Rating versus 80 Defensive Rating between the beginning of minute 34 and the end of minute 37 (the fat lines are the three-minute running averages) is when what I would call the core “second unit” (S-Rod, Carroll, Reyes and Slaughter are more often than not in it) is in the process of finishing its second long oncourt sequence.
While I don’t think there are any particular competences in closing out games behind their top-notch record in close games so far, this is undeniably a top two European basketball team this year, now sitting atop the ACB in expected winning percentage while ranking second (behind Barça) in the Euroleague, schedule-cleaned.
Marcus Slaughter, singled out recently as Real Madrid’s defensive difference maker, has his lineups performing a 93.4 defensive rating when on the floor. Real Madrid are 105.0 in defensive rating when Slaughter is off the floor.
Heurtel is one of the Euroleague’s top shot creators, a metric that combines unassisted field goals (excluding putbacks) and assists and is minute- and tempo-free. Heurtel is back to being a pure pass-first playmaker after registering an uncharacteristic 0.28 assist-to-FGA ratio in the Euroleague last year (ACB: 0.43). The 0.83 (Euroleague) and 1.03 (ACB) he is posting this year are closer to the level of his Pro A years with Pau-Orthez.
Granted: Heurtel, too, has shown better performances overall in the Euroleague than in the ACB, which he has been rewarded for with extended playing time (19.8 minutes per game in the Euroleague, 15.7 in the ACB).
Heurtel has started all 36 of his combined Euroleague & ACB games, but whether or not he starts second halves appears to be conditional (11 of 16 times in the Euroleague).
When you have a tandem as different as Maciej Lampe and Tibor Pleiß sharing the center position, you might want to know your matchups. Tabak has been relatively consistent with his substitutions, with Pleiß usually checking in for Lampe around the first quarter break and playing large parts of the second quarter (the chart below underrates Pleiß’ playing time since he sat out three Euroleague games due to injury).
Pleiß’ main weekness at this point is post defense against physically strong back-to-the-basket centers, so stretching out Lampe’s starting sequence a little longer until the powerful Nathan Jawai comes off his first oncourt sequence (Pasqual uses far shorter substitution intervals for his centers) could turn out to be a wise move.
(The chart below displays the number of times a Euroleague player has been on the floor minute by minute. Add and remove player to/from the chart by executing the filter on the right. This is Euroleague 2012/13 data only. The x-axis has minutes 1-40, the y-axis has appearances (a maximum of 16).)
Pleiß played one of the best games of his season in an overtime loss to Real Madrid in October, finding great timing on his rotations towards Madrid’s scorers/slashers after their curls around the baseline screen, and frequently altering shots simply by positioning his 2.15m-frame with outstretched arms in the paint. Real Madrid could be a better fit for Pleiß – but Caja Laboral have to oust Zagaroza first, who should have won more games than they eventually did, according to expected winning percentage.
A bunch of spider charts.
All negative actions (turnovers, opponent eFG%, opponent free throw rate, opponent offensive rating – which is defensive rating) are displayed in reverse. (Example: Lowest opponent eFG% = 100%)
Caja Laboral’s inability to get to the free throw line has led to some ugly stretches of pure-jumpshooting (it is only ugly when they don’t fall) this season, but Zaragoza appear to share some of the same issues.
The Real Madrid offense has been flat out dominating, as their fantastic 120 offensive rating shows. They’ve been shooting well from all areas plus avoided turnovers, which is truly unusual in combination since creating quality looks is usually turnover-riskier than going for “safer”, but less efficient shots.
Valencia steal the ball a lot, which is just about the only of the key defensive statistics where they are above average. Somehow, however, all defensive characteristics add up to one of the better defensive ratings in the ACB.
The Granca defense, second in the league in defensive rating, has been fantastic thus far, through a combination of keeping the opponent off the free throw line, keeping opponent field goal shooting in low percentage areas, and securing the defensive rebound on an above-average rate.