The regular season is winding to a close, but the league’s most efficient scorers have not felt the pressure.
In the marquee matchup of the 2020-21 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague regular season, FC Barcelona went on the road to take on then-second-place AX Armani Exchange Milan in Round 30. Barcelona did not turn in a an overwhelmingly impressive offensive performance scoring only 0.92 points per possession—well below their 1.00 season standard—but held this season’s second most efficient offense to only 0.70 points per possession. Limiting one of the top jump shooting teams in recent history to just 2-15 from beyond the arc, Barcelona has put themselves on the cusp of becoming the first EuroLeague team to allow under 0.90 points per possession during the regular season since the 2015-16 season.
As much as Barcelona’s defense is the cornerstone of their success this season, their offense remains an x-factor and much of their potential on that end can be traced to Nikola Mirotic who scored 15 points over only 9 possessions in their Round 30 win.
Leading the EuroLeague in efficiency wire-to-wire as the graphic above suggests, Mirotic’s shot-making and instincts have made him a force this season. He may not be on the same record-breaking pace that Shane Larkin was on last season, but he does fall far from it as he figures to become only the fourth player this decade to score over 1.20 points per possession while using over 12 possessions per game. Shooting a ridiculous 67% going one-on-one in the post while shooting 63% finishing around the rim in the half court, and 46% on catch and shoot threes, Mirotic has put together one of the most well-rounded campaigns of all-time.
Only 9 other high-volume scorers have averaged over 1.00 points per possession this season with Jalen Reynolds, Kevin Punter, and Marius Grigonis on pace to finish the year about 1.10 and Nemanja Nedovic leading that group in possessions per game. If nothing else, what stands out about this group this season has been their overall consistency as there has been little movement on this side of the leaderboards from the mid-point of the season. Granted, the depth of EuroLeague rosters make it easy for players to have a quiet night when someone else steps up, but in terms of efficiency, this group has not dipped much as the year has worn on. In fact, Mirotic, Reynolds, Punter, and Larkin have all been more efficient over their last 10 games than they were prior to that stretch.
The players on the other side of the leaderboards have not seen the same rise late in the year, but have not fallen off much either. Kyle Kuric remains this season’s most efficient scorer thriving in his role as a jump shooter for Barcelona. He is joined by snipers like Jaycee Carroll, Luigi Datome, and Alec Peters, but this group is also deep with centers as Hassan Martin and Nikola Milutinov have been mainstays atop this list. Sertac Sanli is the only new addition towards the top of the list seeing his role expand significantly around New Year’s. At 212 cm, Sanli has been a reliable finish for Efes in a minor role for the past several years, but his growth as a jump shooter this season has made him a more versatile weapon at the center spot. After attempting only 8 shots from beyond the arc over 33 EuroLeague games prior to this season, Santli has shot 38% on over 1 attempt per game this season.
Looking ahead to Round 31
Though there are 7 playoff spots still open, Round 31 only has a couple games with playoff implications for both clubs. In a scheduling quirk, the matches between TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz and AX Armani Exchange Milan, Valencia Basket and FC Bayern Munich, and Olympiacos Piraeus and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul will shape the playoff picture heading into Round 32 unless an upset-minded team makes a splash against a team toward the top of the standings.