European Basketball Analysis

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Eurobasket 2011 Roundup

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PG Tony Parker, France, 29.3 years, 188cm

Parker was a man on a mission, determined to realise his maybe last chance of reaching the Olympics. Not a whole lot of methodical pick and roll passing, but he can certainly score. He took the most field goal attempts per game of any player in the tournament, was tied for first in free throw attempts, and finished third in usage rate, behind Nowitzki and teammate Traore. His eFG% of 48.5 wasn’t outstanding, but he still had an efficient scoring performance via his trips to the foul line.

#1 Similarity Score¹: 93.5% similarity with … Bo McCalebb 2011.

PG Bo McCalebb, FYR of Macedonia, 26.4 years, 178cm

McCalebb had a phenomenal tournament, playing a major part in FYR of Macedonia’s sensational run to fourth place, although it was far from a one-man-team. He was fifth in the tournament in points per 28 minutes, on a solid 58.5 TS%. Tied for first with Parker in free throw attempts per game despite being far from an established star on the international scene. Fantastic performance, though not totally out of the blue for Euroleague followers. Top three US-player in Europe. Going back to the US an option?

#1 Similarity Score: Tony Parker 2011.

SG Juan Carlos Navarro, Spain, 31.3 years, 192cm (MVP)

Navarro had 26, 35 and 27 in the quarter,- semi,- and finals respectively, which makes it difficult to argue this MVP choice. One of the most skilled players to ever set foot on a basketball court, having developed a full arsenal of moves that allow him to score against far longer and more athletic players despite his own physical limitations. Floaters, runners with his off-hand, step-back moves, ultra-quick release, running three pointers, the madness doesn’t end. Latest victim: Batum.

#1 Similarity Score: Himself in 2010. The next non-Navarro-performance is Manu Ginobili 2008.

SF/PF Andrei Kirilenko, Russia, 30.6 years, 206cm

Kirilenko showed the type of allround game so rare in basketball, which is why his statistical performance doesn’t really compare well to anyone else. He led the tournament in steals percentage, but also provided rebounding, shotblocking, as well as 14.8 points per 28 minutes pace-adjusted on 59.1 TS%.

#1 Similarity Score: Himself, twice (2007 and 2001), then Saulius Stombergas in 2004. Only goes to show you that there isn’t, and never has been, a second Kirilenko.

PF/C Pau Gasol, Spain, 31.2 years, 215cm

Pau had one of his most productive tournaments ever, statistically. Led the tournament in points per 28 minutes pace-adjusted (20.1) and finished in style, posting double-doubles of 22/17, 19/16 and 17/10 in the knockout round. He constantly brought opposing big men in foul trouble, in part because he’s overprotected. Certainly an MVP-level performance only overshadowed by Navarro’s heroics in the knockout games.

#1 Similarity Score: Himself, three times. Later: José Ortiz 1996, Yao Ming 2006.

Honorable Mentions

  • Victor Khryapa finished with 8.4-5.3-5.4 per 28 pace-adj. (7.9-5.0-5.1 per game) which puts him into a group of elite players. (Similarity: Toni Kukoc, Croatia 1994)
  • Nicolas Batum was exceptional for France on both ends of the floor. Repeatedly asked to guard the opponent’s best perimeter player (everything from one to three) and scored effectively himself. Moves like a gazelle, joy to watch, effective. (Similarity: Brad Newley, Australia 2008)
  • Marc Gasol was certainly a big piece of the puzzle. Two 215cm-centers led to mismatches. Passing was spectacular. (Similarity: Semih Erden, Turkey 2010)

More on individual performance

  • Mirza Begic was excellent for Slovenia and finished fourth in efficiency per 28 minutes pace-adjusted, twelfth in PER. Second in the tournament in offensive rebound percentage, fifth in total rebound percentage. Showed nice moves on offense and certainly gained a bit in mobility and finesse over the last couple of years. Towering above the defense, he finished first in blocks percentage. Real Madrid suddenly doesn’t look so dumb anymore. (Similarity: Roberto Chiacig, Italy 1998)
  • Emir Preldzic was excellent for Turkey. Emir finished twelfth in efficiency per 28 and seventh in PER. Ran the team better than Hedo. Fenerbahce has a real difference maker at their hands. Expect Emir get more attention as playing time increases, as productivity is excellent. (Similarity: LeBron James, USA 2008)
  • Enes Kanter and Jonas Valanciunas did not disappoint. Valanciunas’ performance was widely expected, but Kanter hadn’t played a whole lot of organised basketball prior to the tournament, so Turkish fans must have been thrilled. Jonas scored on a high percentage (69.4 TS%) but 4.7 turnovers per 28 were a bit of a problem. (Similarity: Kanter – Kosta Koufos, Greece 2011; Valanciunas – Aleks Maric, Australia 2010)
  • Chris Kaman led the tournament in total rebound percentage, followed by Joakim Noah and Ömer Asik.
  • Ricky Rubio? What we expected. His ability to still lead a team in a more prominent role remains in question, but none of that was going to be answered this summer anyway, not on this roster, with these teammates. His job was to set up plays, direct the basketball where it needed to go, play defense, provide a bit of rebounding at the point. He did all of that. His shooting, and finishing in general, though, remains remarkably poor. (Similarity: Ronn McMahon, Canada 1994)
  • Ante Tomic was ridiculously productive offensively, not enough to heave Croatia out of the first round. (Similarity: José Ortiz, Puerto Rico 1996)
  • Sarunas Jasikevicius showed up big time for this tournament. He paced Lithuania with his passing, made big shots, but one problem remains: turnovers. 4.7 per 28 minutes. (Similarity: Gianmarco Pozzecco, Italy 2004)
  • Dirk Nowitzki’s (Similarity: Andrea Bargnani, Italy 2011) much-anticipated first appearance for Germany since the 2008 Olympics, and first basketball appearance (excluding preparation) since Game 6 of the NBA Finals, was kind of a non-story. Dirk looked tired, forced midrange shots, didn’t get as many calls as he would have liked, took plays off on defense. EFG% again below 50. Never has been as effective scoring the ball in international play, as in the NBA.
  • Antonis Fotsis (Similarity: Jorge Garbajosa, Spain 2004) fills the boxscore. He played outstanding defense all tournament long, covering the holes that Ioannis Bourousis (Similarity: Gregor Fucka, Italy 1999) left with his careless defensive performance. Bourousis is a beast if he truly wants to play. He did so only in the knockout phase. As is typical, the lion share of the blame was put on Zouros.
  • Chart: True Shooting Percentage and Usage Percentage
  • Basic and per28 stats for all players aged younger than 23 as of today.

Team thoughts


Serbia, though short of defensive capability through the absence of workhorse Novica Velickovic, was well on course before a wide-open miss by Savanovic at the overtime buzzer against France obviously pulled the fragile roster out of balance. They conceded 100 points against Lithuania where they played some of the poorest pick and roll defense to be witnessed in European basketball and lost to Spain in a blowout. An indisciplined bunch that was getting technical fouls whenever things were taking a wrong turn, personified by their supposed leader Teodosic (Similarity: Sarunas Jasikevicius, Lithuania 2007), who committed nine turnovers in the quarter final exit at the hands of Russia.

Turkey went out on a last-second-miss by Ilyasova, but it was just as much as they deserved. A roster that is oozing with talent but suffers similar problems as Serbia: Their floor leader is not acting as such. Türkoglu (Similarity: Nikos Zisis, Greece 2010) may not be the ticking bomb that Teodosic is, but his poor shot selection cannot possibly be a motivational factor for his teammates. The point here is not to scapegoat single players for team failure. But when your leader is playing soft, it puts the coach, who needs to communicate top-level effort and good decision-making to his (younger) players, into a bad position.

(That goes for the Gasols and Scariolo, too, to some extend, though it would be absurd to claim that the Gasols are anything but a blessing for this Spanish team. They possess spectacular talent, are aware of that fact, and simply take days off on defense, as seen in the games against Poland and FYR of Macedonia. That leaves the impression of underperformance and puts Scariolo into an unadvantageous position – in Spain’s case maybe less in front of the roster, which knows the moods and habits of the Gasols very well, than in front of media and fans, who are quick to scapegoat the Italian for poor performance against lesser opponents. The players, after all, are holy cows. None of that matters though in the grand scheme of things, as Spain regularly shows up for the big games in spectacular manner.)

Lithuania played up to their capabilities for most of the tournament, but certainly the quarter final defeat to FYR of Macedonia must be considered a major disappointment. Turnovers, as so often, killed them in the end. We would not be talking about them if Songaila didn’t make a catastrophic decision against FYR of Macedonia, though, and I am not going to overvalue the effect of randomness.

Germany and Italy arrived with big hopes, which weren’t fullfilled. Germany did perform up to expectations though, the problem is, their games were fairly unattractive. Dirk finished first in usage percentage, Kaman sixth. The duo took nearly half of the team’s shot attempts and more than half ot its free throw attempts. Plus, it is safe to say that Kaman is a black hole (“have ball, will shoot”), so this was no more and no less than the expected.

Italy? Struggled in recent years in the absence of Gallinari (Similarity: Predrag Stojakovic, Serbia 2000), unfortunately the Denver Nuggets forward couldn’t solve the issues, far from that. He contributed to soft performances with a lack of aggressiveness. Italy would often implode towards the end of games, due to their leaders’ bad shot selection.

For whatever reasons, Goran Dragic (Similarity: Vassilis Spanoulis, Greece 2008) and Erazem Lorbek (Similarity: Maciej Lampe, Poland 2009) did not perform up to expectations in this tournament. Slovenia had always played at a halfcourt pace so that is hardly the issue. The shot-making abilities of Nachbar could have made a difference, but I certainly did not watch enough of their games to go into in-depth analysis. Lack of defensive quality is killing Croatia. Even without Roko-Leni Ukic, they were expected to make it out of the first round.

Positive surprises

Upsets are rare in basketball. This is a sport where you need to execute in 65 to 80 possessions to win a game, both on offense and defense, which is impossible without talent. Since FYR of Macedonia somehow did it without a high-profile roster, the next step is to identify the talent. In FYR of Macedonia’s case, mostly on the defensive end. FYR of Macedonia finished with the fifth best defensive rating (third among knockout teams) and tied for first in steals. The frontcourt tandem Antic-Samardziski, who defended the post + pick and roll extremely well, and the McCalebb-Ilievski duo in the backcourt, particularly excelled. Vojdan Stonajovski was eighth in the tournament in steals percentage, McCalebb tenth. The offense, 15th in tournament, second from bottom among quarter finalists, never was anything special.

France cannot be considered a surprise, however, the run to the Eurobasket final is the first real success in the Parker era. They were widely expected to dominate through defense, but it is the offensive rating, fourth in the tournament, that stood out. They were second from bottom among quarter finalists in assists per 70 possessions, meaning they executed well via individual matchups.

Finland made the most of its opportunities and even went to a knock out game with Slovenia for the eighth quarter final spot. The Latvians, youngest team in the tournament, lost all five but showed a competitiveness not expected from such a young roster.


  • Same procedure as every year. We once again wondered how reliable a predictor the preparation results would turn out to be. Here’s a table with schedule-adjusted point differential from the preparation games². All teams with four or more games are in the equation, that includes non-European teams that played enough games against European teams. They are not on the list though. Not even accounting for the imbalanced schedule, these are solid results. Three of the top four finished top four, three of 5-8 finished 5-8.
  • The Eurobasket 2011 numbers have been integrated into to FIBA history stats (per28min-stats). If you wonder why they might look slightly different to the exclusive Eurobasket 2011 stats presented on this site, the reason is that those are scaled towards FIBA history pace (just decimal differences, if at all), and more  importantly, blocks are not part of the efficiency equation. Here it is per game for players, per game for teams and advanced for teams.

¹More here
²Source for game results:

Written by sJacas

September 19th, 2011 at 1:38 pm