Partizan Belgrade and Bayern Munich are two very different teams. Partizan play at a slow pace and have the third-worst offense in Euroleague. Bayern play at an above average pace and have the third-best offense in the competition. Partizan have the youngest roster in Euroleague. Bayern’s average player is near his prime years. Bayern have money to spend. Partizan need money to survive.
However, when these teams met at the Audi Dome last week, it became apparent that they share one common trait: they rely on power forwards who can’t spread the floor with their shooting. Joffrey Lauvergne, Djordje Gagic, Deon Thompson and Chevon Troutman practically invite opponents to help off them when they step outside the paint. As it has already been discussed, this deficiency tends to hurt pick and roll execution. However, the power forward is not the only frontline position which can contribute to spacing. Bayern look to John Bryant, their starting center, for help in this area:
After cruising past Barca in Sunday’s Clasico, Real Madrid are 23 and zero to open the season¹. Average margin of victory? 21.3 points.
Luck, to go along with top-notch quality, is usually a factor in long winning streaks, but Real Madrid’s so-far flawless record is the result of flat-out domination: Dropping offensive ratings of 121.9 (Euroleague) and 117.1² (ACB) points per 100 possessions on opponents while holding them to ratings of 88.9 and 90.5, respectively, on defense, is uncalled for in modern Euroleague/ACB history. Only five games – road wins in Murcia, Gran Canaria, Valencia, Badalona and Milan – finished in single digits.
It is easy to assume Real Madrid’s dominance starts with stops on defense, but there is arguably a hidden context to their rock-solid defensive performance (first in defensive rating in both Euroleague and ACB): Having watched all ten Euroleague matches, five to six ACB encounters and a number of corresponding statements from coaches and players, I would speculate that a bunch of opponents have been sacrificing offensive performance in pursuit of the mysterious “controlling the pace”. I understand the raw theory behind this: slow the game down, take in-control shots when the backcourt is sufficiently covered, keep their shooters out of rhythm. The problem is that offensive output is likely dropping when you are playing out-of-character offense, like Bamberg did in Madrid in week 2. And: Real Madrid are not different from anyone else in that they are playing better offense off stops (steals, defensive rebounds) than dead ball situations. You want to score on them whatever way it is possible – granted, easier said than done – rather than sacrificing quick high-value shots in order to extend possessions.
Rodhig and sJacas join for a podcast to discuss the predictive power of regular season metrics, shot charts and the death of the mid range game.
0:00 The Victor Sada effect
38:41 Shot Charts / Mid Range Game / Turnover Locations
Mega Vizura and Partizan field the youngest rosters of active players in top level European basketball. The ABA league, traditionally a hotbed for basketball prospects, maintains its status as the youngest league.
In weighted roster age, which accounts for individual minutes played and therefore fully accounts for players that play large minutes and ignores those who don’t play at all, the ABA League heads the list of my arbitrary list of top ten domestic European leagues, at 26.0 years.
Mega Vizura (3-4), Partizan (6-1) and CajaSol (2-3) are the somewhat expected top three youngest rosters on the continent, followed by the lesser known Leuven Bears with early season sensation Tu Holloway, who stand at a respectable 4-3 in the Ethias League.
You see, this has not been just a Cinderella story. This was a first glimpse at a rising power. Partizan’s method allowed them to make the playoffs two seasons in a row back in 2008 and 2009, before selling the rights to their core players (Nole Veličković, Uroš Tripković, Nikola Peković, Milenko Tepić) and advancing to the final four in 2010. If financial considerations do not tear this team apart, the rest of Europe should consider themselves warned.
That was what the future looked like (from where I was sitting at least) for Partizan 11 months ago. Having been knocked out of the top-16 in heartbreaking fashion, the Belgrade club had a lot to look forward to. And after surviving another summer of financial uncertainty, they entered this season ready to shock a world that somehow expected to be shocked. Vladimir Lucic, an energetic forward who had come to personify Partizan’s fiery playing style was dealt to Valencia. But the front office managed to keep the core of the team together and reinforce it with a couple of exciting French prospects. Then the season tipped off and we experienced a letdown.