Scorers. Subconsciously considered as the best players. Scoring matters more than playing defense, that is hard to deny. Scorers earn the applause and the heavy paychecks, no matter what efficiency and value for the team. Euroleague has plenty of scorers of very different kinds. How they are different, that’s what this post is trying find out. An attempt at measuring where the league’s top five in points scored are effective, and where they aren’t.
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KEITH LANGFORD (1983 / SHOOTING GUARD / BC KHIMKI) 18.7PPG
Langford, who had a successful NCAA career playing alongside the likes of Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collinson and Aaron Miles, took the regular season scoring title via a 35-point outing against Zalgiris in Week 10. The 27-year-old’s two-year-contract, reportedly worth 2.6mio US-Dollar net in total, expires this summer. Langford should have generated plenty of interest from both sides of the Atlantic by now.
After all, he’s not just a guy whose only goal is putting points on the scoreboard no matter what. His eFG% and TS% are on a solid level (53.1 and 58.3% respectively) and his decision making has improved dramatically over the course of his career. Langford played as de facto point guard for Khimki in half court (plenty of high pick and roll action) and provided a consistent scoring threat in those situations, while not ignoring his teammates either. His turnover percentage is below average in league-wide comparison.
I find shot location charts particularly useful for understanding a player’s scoring game. However I’d advise you not to compare shot location data between leagues. There’s a tendency in Euroleague statkeeping to include short floaters and hook shots in the two pointers / midrange category, hence the midrange shot is not necessarily a clean midrange jumper (it might qualify as a close range shot in other leagues), although in most cases it is.
Langford is showing some versatility in his scoring game. 39.7% of his field goal attempts are registered as close range attempts, which he is making at a 61.5% clip. Looking at the statistically best slashers in the league (unassisted close range field goals per minute for backcourt players), Langford ranks sixth in the league behind Bo McCalebb, Darius Washington, Theodoros Papaloukas, Jeremy Pargo and Jamont Gordon. Midrange shooting (42.9% success rate) and three point shooting (35.1%), with 11.1% of midrange shots and 38.5% of three pointers being created by an assist, are both on a solid level.
His seismic scoring monitor shows remarkable consistency. Langford scored between 17 and 22 points in 7 of 10 games. A slight scoring slump in Week 4 and 5 (Maccabi, where he had 5 assists however, and Zalgiris), as well as his 35-point explosion are his only games outside the 17 to 22 area.
Part of his reliable scoring output is surely the ability to take the basketball to the hoop consistently, as is evident by his close range attempts and 51.1% FTA/FGA%, highest among the top five scorers in the league.
OUTLOOK: Charles Smith, Drew Nicholas, Igor Rakocevic, Marc Salyers and Linas Kleiza won the Alphonso Ford Trophy since its establishment in 2004/05, and it is evident that not everyone has had a blistering European career before and after taking the award. But Langford is no Salyers. An able pick and roll player with magnificent scoring abilities, who is fourth in the league in oncourt/offcourt plus/minus on top of that, will be a hot commodity on the market.
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BOJAN BOGDANOVIC (1989 / SHOOTING GUARD-SMALL FORWARD / CIBONA) 18.0PPG
’89-born, yet undrafted Bogdanovic is under contract with Cibona until 2013, but we all know too well that he is unlikely to remain with financially troubled Cibona for next season. Cibona needs the buyout money, the NBA Draft is knocking on the door and there should be plenty of interest from within Europe to secure the services of Euroleague’s second leading scorer this season. Options everywhere.
It is unusual for a 21-year-old to carry a Euroleague offense, but then, Cibona has a young roster that lacks veteran experience and quality to compete in this league. They finished 0/10 but still had interesting contributions to this 2010/11 regular season in offering intriguing prospects Bogdanovic, Leon Radosevic and Tomislav Zubcic the stage to showcase their skillsets. None of the three disappointed.
Bogdanovic, leading the league in shot attempts, was Cibona’s clear-cut first option and obviously encouraged to take difficult shots from time to time. It shows in his shooting efficiency numbers of 46.7 eFG% and 51.9 TS%. Scouts however will still be impressed with his almost exclusively self-created (6.7% assisted) 44.1% midrange shooting.
Bogdanovic’s game by game scoring output this season has seen several ups and downs. It might be worth noting though that Bogdanovic isn’t impressed by the big fishes, dropping 28 and 26 in two meetings with Regal FC Barcelona. Surely not coincidentially, his two lowest scoring games (4 points on 1/7 and 6 on 2/11) came versus Montepaschi Siena, league leader in defensive rating, who confronted Bogdanovic with David Moss, Marco Carraretto and Malik Hairston. Bogdanovic then finished the season in style, but 28 points were never enough to prevent Cibona from finishing the season without a single victory.
OUTLOOK: Advanced numbers are popping up left and right, but pure scoring still impresses. Bogdanovic is a possible first round pick (Draftexpress Mock Draft) and could be off to the NBA sooner than expected, depending on the lockout situation.
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MIRZA TELETOVIC (1985 / POWER FORWARD / CAJA LABORAL) 16.8PPG
Bosnian forward Teletovic signed a 4 1/2-year contract with Basque powerhouse Caja Laboral in 2009, giving ACB defenders sleepless nights up to 2014 if everything goes according to schedule. NBA rumours have been popping up now and then, with Teletovic’s notorious agent Mirza Raznatovic mentioning the interest of several NBA teams. We don’t know whether or not this is true. Surely, Teletovic offers a unique skillset intriguing enough to generate overseas interest.
Mirza Teletovic is a crazy, crazy shooter. He is a guard in a power forward’s body, shooting jumpshots in motion, fading away, with a super high release point and ultra quick release. His shot selection is questionable however. 45% of his shot attempts are three point shots. That is reasonable for a stretch four who is consistently shooting around 40% from beyond the arc over the last couple of seasons. Problematic is his still high number of midrange attempts (26.4% of all shots), successful only at a 37.8% clip. Teletovic can do better than 49.3 effective field goal percentage.
Caja Laboral needs the Bosnian at his most productive: He’s averaging 21 points in five Euroleague victories versus 12.6 points in five losses. Spectacular games in Gdynia in Week 2 (video) and Kaunas in Week 8 (video) were particularly impressive as far as three point shooting goes, 5/12 and 9/13 respectively from beyond the arc respectively. A really subpar individual stretch from Week 3 to 7 resulted in five consecutive defeats, but Teletovic turned it up right in time for the crucial encounters versus Khimki (23 points) and in Kaunas (32).
OUTLOOK: Teletovic has successfully guided his team to Top16 and there is no point in discussing his future at this early point in the season. As for improving his shot selection, I see little hope. A player that can make shots from anywhere, at any point, often lacks reasonable understanding of what is a good shot. The few who do – like Manu Ginobili – are winners on any level.
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IGOR RAKOCEVIC (1978 / SHOOTING GUARD / EFES PILSEN) 15.8PPG
Rakocevic has been a controversial figure in European basketball. Despite being a regular among Euroleague’s best scorers season after season, even on solid percentages, he’s been accused by fans of not really helping his team. Once a bad rep has been established, it is difficult to reverse. Facts are: oncourt/offcourt plus/minus net rating had him at -7.74 per 40 minutes pace adjusted for the 2009/10 season and -6.5 for the 2010/11 season. That matches perception, but there’s plenty of noise. Value is difficult to put into numbers and there’s a chance the criticism is unfair. It is a given though that Efes expected a little more team success out of their heavy investments, including Rakocevic’s reported three years, 5.5mio Euro net deal.
Two-times Alphonso Ford Trophy winner Rakocevic is shooting a super 42.9 percent (65.4% when translated into two-pointers) from beyond the arc on 3.9 attempts per game. He is shooting an impressive 44.7% from midrange, with 36.8% of his overall shot attempts fitting the midrange criteria, more than each of the two other shot types. Scoring efficiency (eFG% and TS%) leaves nothing to be desired.
Rakocevic started off extremely productive, averaging 21 points per contest over the course of the first five games, but averaged only 10 over his last four. None of this could ever bother Efes’ two-faced nature: At home they win, on the road they lose. Rakocevic’s scoring output has been fairly independent of Efes’ team performance.
His scoring numbers have a similar standard deviation from his season average as Mirza Teletovic‘s: 4.4 points. Not terribly inconsistent, but not McCalebesque either. You’re gaining a notion: I can’t wait to talk about Bo.
OUTLOOK: In his second year under contract with Efes, Rakocevic is having a legitimate chance getting back to the Euroleague quarter finals. He has to come up big for that in the decisive games. Other than that, there is nothing else to say. Rako is 32. He was rumoured to have had a contract offer from the Houston Rockets after his spectacular season with TAU 1 1/2 years back, but if it even existed, it never materialised.
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BO McCALEBB (1985 / POINT GUARD / MONTEPASCHI SIENA) 15.5PPG
Fresh off college, McCalebb arrived in Europe in 2008, signing for Mersin in Turkey who he went on to average 17.4 points per game for. Then came summer 2009, Partizan, as always, was waiting long for the prizes to drop and finally got what they wanted only days from their first Euroleague game against Unicaja in Pionir. They lost. Everything that followed is history. Now under three-year, worth 4.5mio US-Dollar net contract with Montepaschi and performing incredibly well, McCalebb has joined the prominent group of Euroleague’s elite. There’s lillte doubt about it.
Any American point guard has a difficult time in Europe. Many have failed, but McCalebb has mastered it with incredible ease. Not a creative passer, but his decision making is flawless and his low turnover rate (1.6 per game) as well as his unique shot location chart illustrate that. Bo is taking 71.9% of his shot attempts right at the basket, finishing 65.2% of those. He rarely shoots from his weakest area, midrange – 12.5% of all shot attempts, 33.3% shooting percentage – , and takes relatively few three point shots (15.6% of all shot attempts), which has never been his forte, which he’s been successful with this season though, netting three pointers on a 46.7% clip. 57.1% of his successful three point shots are created by an assist, indicating that a forced three pointer off the dribble is a rare sight. The 65.2% from close range as well as his 70.0 effective field goal percentage on three pointers reveal that here’s a guy who knows exactly what he’s doing and what his limitations are – and a coach who is utilising those skills perfectly. I might add that McCalebb is second in the league in steals percentage, and he’s arguably the best in the league in taking it coast to coast.
Bo has been fairly consistent in scoring on top of that. He’s stayed in single digits only once in ten games, a much expected win in Zagreb where he was more passive than usual. He’s had three turnovers only once, Week 10 in Barcelona. He had 20+ point games on great percentages in Montepaschi’s two losses of the season, in Istanbul and Barcelona. Speaking of Barca, Ricky Rubio and Victor Sada are still having nightmares. Bo used his super quick first step and intelligent patience for the right moment to catch those two on the wrong foot repeatedly (video).
OUTLOOK: Bo took Partizan all the way to the Final Four last season and had a heroic effort against Olympiacos in the semis. Who knows what he has in store? Next summer he still has two years left on his contract. Possibly with NBA opt out. Montepaschi has shown an abilitiy to protect their holy cows though.