The Basketball Champions League - A Point Guard's league?
LONDON (England) - In true BCL style, the Round of 16 threw up a couple of genuinely shocking scorelines, incredible performances and then in even more BCL fashion, left us with some impossible questions to answer. Questions like those asked by Igor Curkovic's column "Eight Burning Questions after the first legs of the Round of 16". One of the questions Igor asked was on the subject of Banvit finding an answer to Tyrese Rice and Elias Harris, and on the flipside, Bamberg finding an answer to McKenzie Moore and Gary Neal.
Tony Taylor got it done for Virtus Bologna
These were questions that I had also been wondering. In particular, the question of Banvit finding a matchup for Tyrese Rice. Rice himself clearly didn't think the Bandits from Bandirma had an answer. Watch the clip below of Bamberg executing a super creative set by Coach Perego. Down the stretch, Banvit had decided to attach Alex Perez to Tyrese Rice like a new tattoo. Perego's answer was to use Rice as the back screener in a Spain Pick-and-Roll (knowing that Perez wouldn't leave him). Then instead of popping to the top of the key, Bamberg set a back screen for the back screener and Rice sprinted to the corner for a dagger 3-ball. Perez couldn't hang on that occasion and Rice quickly let him know by signaling to the Banvit bench for a sub - outstanding entertainment and we really shouldn't take it for granted how much fun it is to watch Tyrese Rice, in his prime and competing this hard.
Coming back to the man guarding Rice in that clip, Alex Perez,.....the Mexican had a great game himself, scoring 17 points and dishing 8 assists. It's clear that Bamberg will also need to find an answer to Perez themselves. Which got me thinking - as one does - about all of the key matchups in our Round of 16 and which positions were most dominant. The pattern of backcourt dominance was consistent in every single tie. Kendrick Perry produced an all-timer against Venezia, Paris Lee was equally ascendant against Murcia and Tamir Blatt recorded a double-double for Jerusalem. So, how about this as the question from the Round of 16: Is the Basketball Champions League a Point Guard's league?
The data certainly suggests so... If you go position by position, 45.% of all points in the Round of 16 were scored by ball-handling guards. Over the course of the Regular Season, the number is also almost identical at 44.8%. Sure, there is much more fluidity to playing positions these days, so not all of these points were scored by Point Guards in the strictest sense. However, players like Kendrick Ray and Kevin Punter may be listed as Shooting Guards but when they are bringing the ball up the floor and acting as a primary playmaker, they are Point Guards in role, if not position. The other thing to consider when discussing playmakers is, of course, the assists they manufacture for their teammates. If you look at the combined points produced by the best Guards in each game so far, there is little debate that the overarching theme is that playmakers ruled the roost.
Nikos Gikas guided Promitheas to huge a 12 point lead
Kendrick Perry v Umana Reyer Venezia
34 points, 6 assists and those 6 assists also produced 14 points. Altogether, Perry was responsible for 50.5% of his teams points. Perry was also nominated as one of our (unofficial) Defensive Player of the Year candidates. Is there a better two-way player in the BCL? and how do Umana Reyer Venezia find a way to slow him down in Venice?
Alex Perez v Brose Bamberg
17 points, 8 assists and those 8 assists produced 20 points. That is 2.5 points per assist and the highest yield for anyone in the Round of 16 so far. In total, Perez was responsible for 46.8% of his team's Points. How important might this last assist be?
Paris Lee v UCAM Murcia
21 points and 5 assists. Combined Lee was responsible for 41.3% of Antwerp's points in their first ever, European, Play-Off game. That performance, that last shot, and the subsequent mean mug will be remembered by the Antwerp fans for many years to come.
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Kendrick Ray v Segafredo Virtus Bologna
21 points, 4 assists and 40.5% of Le Mans' points in his first game in France. Welcome back to the BCL Kendrick. In a game when both team's big guns misfired, Kendrick Ray's scoring and playmaking probably kept Le Mans in the tie - the definition of a game-changing signing for the French Champs. The pass in the clip below was my personal favorite. The vision to see that Kelvin Martin had dropped off Bigote too early, and the ability to make the pass across his body before Martin could recover, was truly impressive.
Tamir Blatt v Neptunas Klaipeda
11 points and 10 assists that produced 22 points. Combined, Blatt Jr was responsible for 38.4% of his team's points. A double-double in your first BCL Play-Offs game isn't half bad. The way Blatt goes about his business is also pretty special. If you don't enjoy Tamir Blatt throwing lobs to Josh Owen's, then you are probably watching the wrong sport.
Tyrese Rice v Banvit
20 points and 5 assists that produced 9 points. Altogether the Riceman was responsible for 35.8% of Bamberg's points in Freak City. Nikos Zisis has played with some incredible players in his time and if he says that Tyrese Rice is one of the top 3 clutch players that he's ever played with, you need to pay attention to that. Banvit will certainly need to pay attention, that much is for sure.
Other notable PG performances included Tony Taylor and Nikos Gikas leading their teams to pick up important results and Askia Booker doing his best to keep Murcia in the tie. Of course, players in other positions had decisive contributions; Feldeine, Butler and Thomas all excelled for Hapoel Jerusalem, Lahou Konate was huge for Nanterre 92 and Elias Harris was too much for Banvit. That's without mentioning that Tony Meier was completely out of his mind against Iberostar Tenerife. Still, the point stands, if you want to know where to look for decisive contributions on the return legs of the Round of 16, the Point Guard battles will be must-watch basketball.
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