19 September, 2017
06 May, 2018
6 Paul Lacombe (FRA)
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Highlights - a closer look at AS Monaco

MIES, Switzerland (Basketball Champions League) - Dominant. There isn't really another word to describe Zvezdan Mitrovic's AS Monaco this season. Then again, this shouldn't really come as a surprise, AS Monaco had the best Win% of any club in a European competition last season. Last year's squad is still making it's presence felt, but on different rosters; Zack Wright and Dee Bost at SIG Strasbourg and Jamal Shuler at Nanterre 92, have all played starring roles for their clubs. This years squad is potentially even better. The focus since Gameday 1, has been lazer-like. From the starting gun, AS Monaco have looked like a team with only one acceptable outcome: winning the Basketball Champions League!

Zvezdan Mitrovic guiding a dominant force

The cliche says that "Offense wins games but defense wins championships". AS Monaco have been consistently good on the defensive end for two years now - the difference this year, is that they have been equally good on offense. The core of this team is a powerful, defensive engine but the shell has resembled something more like the kind of body-work you might see on 'Pimp My Ride'. Poster dunks, lobs off the backboard, no-look passes, transition threes, we have seen it all. If it's fun to watch, AS Monaco have served it up this season. When we compile our end of season highlights, red and white will feature heavily.


The biggest stat for AS Monaco coming into the Play-Offs, was 13-1. The Roca Team were one game away from a perfect Regular Season and up until they lost in Izmir to Pinar Karsiyaka, they hadn't even come close to losing - only EWE Baskets had got within 10 points. Exactly as you would expect, the stats reflect that dominance. An Effective Field Goal% (eFG%) of 56.7% and a Steal% of 14.7% are both top in the #BasketballCL. They force more turnovers than any other team as well, with an opponent Turnover% of 20.6%. An Assist% of 66.4%, also makes AS Monaco the best passing team in the Final Four. Put it all together and you have a top three Offensive Rating of 116.5 points per 100 possessions and the number one Defensive Rating at 95.3. For every 100 possessions, AS Monaco are 21.3 points better than their opponents and 6 points better than any of the other Final Four teams.


Monaco's defensive scheme is built around keeping teams in front of them and frustrating them. If you watch these next two clips, you'll see that their most common coverage on screens is to fight over and recover. The screeners man drops, to slow down any dribble penetration until the guard recovers. The communication is almost always outstanding and there is a high degree of trust in the back-side rotations, to cover the roller if they need to stay longer until the guard recovers. In the first clip below, all of the above are present. In the second clip, watch how three defenders swarm the post catch and force the ball back out again. This team plays like they take everything on defense personally.

The leader of this team defensively, is almost certainly Aaron Craft. The former Ohio State star, is probably the toughest defender we have in the Basketball Champions League. Quick feet, quicker hands and the quickest mind on the court, are what makes Craft so valuable to Monaco's defense. Sometimes too quick for the officials. The number of times we have seen Craft called for a strip on the ball and the replay has show it to be clean, is well into double figures now. This next clip is a typical Aaron Craft play this season. Not many players would back themselves to gamble and come from out of view, to steal the ball from behind their mark. It's a calculated risk though and the reward of a certain lay-up, made the odds worth taking.

There is a couple of theme alerts in that clip. Firstly, AS Monaco turn offense into defense, quicker than any team in the #BasketballCL, often producing highlight-reel moments in the process. Secondly, watch the steals in this reel and - bar the last one - notice how all of them, are as a result of the defender disturbing the ball from behind the offense. As a team, AS Monaco are very good at understanding where their opponents eyes are directed and taking advantage.


It's not all run and gun on the French Riviera. Coach Mitrovic has his team executing some of the more innovative actions and sets in the Basketball Champions League. On Gameday 5, AS Monaco took on the best offensive team in the competition; EWE Baskets. As expected, their defense smothered and disrupted the Germans but their offensive execution was the real standout. During that game Monaco's chemistry was already evident, as they ran this set from their "2" series twice in a row, with a different read each time.

Here is Monaco in the Play-Offs going much deeper into the options of that "2" series. Watch how the guard enters the ball, then receives a back screen, before setting a back screen himself and getting into some screen-the-screener action. More often than not, all this action just serves to destabilize the defense, before the pick-and-roll action that Monaco are actually looking to score from. What you are watching is a team that can kill you in transition but are also just as comfortable, executing a slow-down game.

There is also a level of creativity and innovation to the way Zvezdan Mitrovic's men play. Monaco's Out Of Bounds (OOB) plays, are as good as it gets. Both of these plays in the video below, have deception and force the defense into impossible decisions. The first clip you see Gladyr come up through the 'Elevator' screens and curl into the lane. The defender has no choice but to chase through and give Gladyr the curl. In the second clip, the back screen for Kikanovic, after the hand-off, is essentially impossible to guard. Either you allow Cooper to get into the lane, or you help and risk him threading the pass to Kikanovic on the roll. 

Star Men

AS Monaco are deep. With Amara Sy healthy again, Zvezdan Mitrovic can legitimately play eleven players - in the Play-Offs! The amount of quality Monaco have, has meant nobody on this roster has played more than 25 minutes all season. To put that in perspective, if you look at Monaco's stats, per 36 minutes, four players would be averaging over 20 PPG and DJ Cooper would be averaging a double double with assists and points. So many of these guys fit perfectly into their roles, making it very difficult to pick out star men. Elmedin Kikanovic has been outstanding all season. The 2.11m (6'11") Bosnian Center has contributed on both ends and has not only made our team of the week but also been in the MVP conversation.

Chris Evans has been a human highlight reel. Almost every week has seen him feature in our Top 5 Plays. Since the Play-Offs began however, DJ Cooper and Gerald Robinson have taken things up a level. If Aaron Craft leads the team on the defensive end, the DJ Cooper is the orchestrator on offense. Pin-point, bullet-passes from that left hand are so common, it would be easy to take them for granted. In another team, DJ Cooper could probably average 20PPG but he doesn't need to for AS Monaco and it's a good thing for us that he doesn't - his ability to pick out the likes of Gerald Robinson and Chris Evans, is must-watch.

Gerald Robinson has flipped a switch since the Play-Offs started. If he gets it going in Athens, then Monaco are going to be tough to stop. If Robinson gets hot, he can score in a hurry.

Up Next

MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. The battle between the rock and the hard place. Both teams are extremely physical and force a lot of turnovers. AS Monaco are probably favourites and are the better team offensively. MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg turn the ball over less and crash the offensive glass. If anyone has the depth to match Ludwigsburg's rotations and stay fresh, it's Monaco.

Will the length on the perimeter and the press bother DJ Cooper and Aaron Craft? 

Have Ludwigsburg ever successfully pressed a guard duo like Cooper and Craft?

The two teams look perfectly matched. AS Monaco have the experience of last year and the added motivation from not winning that Semi-Final. Ludwigsburg are the first German club to make the Final Four and will have a point to prove. Both teams come into the game with confidence from domestic wins - AS Monaco cruised past Elan Chalon and MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg survived another battle with medi Bayreuth.

Will any of that make a difference?

There is only one way to find out and we don't have to wait long.