Final Four Analytics Preview

The Euroleague 2016-2017 season is now over and it sure was an exciting one. Games played during the season more than doubled this year which was great news for Euroleague fans and us geeks.  After many ups and downs, only four teams are left in the race for the valuable trophy. Real Madrid, CSKA, Olympiacos, and Fenerbahce have clinched the four tickets to the big event in Istanbul and will be facing off on Friday 19th of May for a spot in the ultimate final.

All four teams that have made it in the final 4 are excellent, arguably within the twenty best teams that have ever competed in Euroleague, but who do you think is the best? Our excitement for the upcoming Final 4 is so big that we decided to generate some advanced basketball analytics that will illustrate a better picture about the level of each team. We used two methods to assess the teams:

  1. Offensive and Defensive Rating which is an estimate of how many points were scored per 100 possessions both in offense and in defense
  2. Four Factor’s of Basketball success which suggests that the level of a team is equal to a weighted function of Shooting, Turnovers, Rebounding and Free Throws.

The data used for the analysis were all games from regular season and playoffs of the 16-17 season. Let’s dig in!

Offensive / Defensive Rating

Let’s start with the first method and in particular, let’s focus on offense. Offensive Rating is a simple formula that estimates how many points a team scored in every 100 possessions. This advanced statistic evaluates the efficiency of a team’s offense.

ORTGAs you might have guessed, the two offense-oriented teams, Real and CSKA, dominate in this evaluation by scoring around 120 points. The defensive-oriented teams of Olympiacos and Fenerbahce only score 110 points in the same amount of possessions.

The Defensive Rating conversely paints a different picture. This advanced statistic estimates how many points your opponent scored on every 100 possessions. Therefore, keep in mind that a low rating is a better one because it means that you kept your opponent from scoring.

DRTG

As expected, Olympiacos is the most effective team in this category by allowing opponents to score less than 105 points per 100 possessions. This analysis reveals that Olympiacos wins games by keeping their opponent at a low score whereas Real reaches the same objective by scoring high. That is in fact in line with the results of this regular season. Olympiacos dropped only one game out of the 16 games where they kept the opposition under 75 points. Similarly, Real dropped one game out of the 12 games where they scored over 90.

We evaluated both offense and defense so now we can merge these two statistics and find which team has the highest net rating. As you can see in the figure below, it looks like Real and CSKA fight for the top spot with Real having the slight edge. Olympiacos and Fenerbahce are not viewed that favorably from this assessment method.

NETRTGpng

Four Factors

The second method we will be using was suggested by Dean Oliver, a pioneer in basketball analytics. According to Oliver, basketball teams win games based on these four factors and weights:

  1. Shooting accuracy – 40% weight
  2.  Turnovers – 25% weight
  3. Rebounding – 20% weight
  4. Free Throws – 15% weight.
  • To represent shooting accuracy, we used the Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) which is very similar to the FG% but accounts for the extra point of the 3PT FG.
  • For Turnovers, we used Turnover Percentage (TOV%) which is an estimate of turnovers per 100 plays.
  • For Rebounding, Offensive / Defensive Rebounding Percentage (ORB% / DRB%) was used which shows how many of the offensive / defensive rebounds available the team grabbed.
  • Lastly, Free Throw Ratio (FT Ratio) was used for the last factor which is a statistic that captures both how often a team goes to the line but also how often the team makes the FT shots.

The figure below illustrates the results. Once again Real and CSKA are competing for that top spot, Olympiacos and Fenerbahce are following. This method, however, crowns CSKA champion and leaves Olympiacos in the last spot.

4Factors

The two methodologies have slightly different outcomes, however, it seems they both agree that Real and CSKA are at a higher level than Fenerbahce and Olympiacos. That said, in a Euroleague Final 4 tournament anything can happen. It was at the very same stadium 5 years ago that, Olympiacos pulled off one of the biggest upsets of modern basketball by beating CSKA with a Printezis game winner. It could be argued that even though Olympiacos might not have the numbers on its side, they play with a never-say-die mentality so it is impossible to dismiss them. This mentality is embodied by their leader Spanoulis who, despite the fact that he has not had the best season, has proven that can single-handedly turn games around. Similarly, Fenerbahce’s numbers might be lower than the numbers of CSKA and Real because it was by far the most injury stricken team during the season. Bogdanovic and Sloukas, two pillars of the Turkish team, missed a significant amount of games and now that they are back in the mix the team seems to be a lot better.

Whatever the outcome, I am sure that we are going to witness yet another amazing Final 4 and I really can’t wait. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let us know and stay tuned for the analytics blog post after the champion has been crowned.

 

P.S. For those of you that are very keen, this is the full advanced statistic table:

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All formulas used for generating these numbers can be found here:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/factors.html

http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/glossary.html

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