Casademont Zaragoza v Iberostar Tenerife - a closer look
ATHENS (Greece) - These two teams just met ten days ago in the ACB. It took an overtime period to separate them. Eventually, Iberostar Tenerife ran out 91-86 winners but in reality, the game provided even fewer clues as to who might progress to the Semi-Finals.
Zaragoza are in the unique position of being the only team coming into Final 8 with a new head coach. Porfi Fisac is out and incoming is Diego Ocampo. After learning the ropes as an assistant under Pedro Martinez, Joan Plaza, and Aito Reneses, Ocampo is a graduate of some of Spain’s finest tacticians. He has a challenge to build a new sense of team chemistry having never coached a Zaragoza game in the Basketball Champions League but in his favor is the roster continuity.
The major change to this Zaragoza roster is the outgoing Carlos Alocen. This year’s best young player has gone back to parent club Real Madrid after an excellent season running the show from the point guard position. The way Zaragoza have moved to replace him, or perhaps not directly replace him could give us some clues to how the style of play may change a bit. Incoming is Rasheed Sulaimon from JDa Dijon. Sulaimon had an outstanding BCL season, averaging over 13 assists and 3 assists on over 40% from 3-point and 50% shooting overall. Sulaimon is amongst the best shooting guards in the BCL, no question.
View this post on Instagram
With Sulaimon, Dylan Ennis, and DJ Seeley, Zaragoza are fully stacked with guards that can score. Whereas Alocen leans more towards the traditional point guard style, Ocampo has only Rodrigo San Miguel that could be described as an out and out point guard. Ennis is likely to be the player that can take over the lion's share of the playmaking responsibility. He leads the team in points and assists with 12.4 points and 4.4 assists. In transition Ennis is excellent at pushing the pace to create and in the pick-and-roll, Ennis is as good as any at Final 8 when it comes to seeing over the top to pick out the right pass.
Everywhere else on the roster we know exactly what to expect from this roster. Nicolas Brussino was a finalist last year and is one of the competitions most lethal snipers. Robin Benzing at the power forward is one of the five players that averaged over 10 and had one of the best shooting nights we have seen in the BCL in Dijon. Check the video below to hear him breaking it down for you.
The frontcourt firepower was possibly Zaragoza’s biggest strength all season and they have all the major players here to do the damage. Hlinason and Thompson are joined by Sagaba Konate. Only Javier Justiz will be unable to play.
Style of Play
Zaragoza were amongst the best defensive teams in the BCL with a Defensive Rating of 102.7 points conceded per 100 possessions - good for fourth in the league. This was, in large part, thanks to their ability to protect the rim, where they blocked a fifth-best 9.1% of their opponent’s shots. Teams also shot the second-lowest, Effective Field Goal Percentage of 48.5% against Zaragoza. On the offensive end, the team from Aragon stood out statistically on the glass. They pulled down 33.4% of their own misses, good for third in the BCL. This domination of the opposition’s paint also manifested in Zaragoza shooting 76.8% at the rim, the highest percentage of any team in the Final 8.
It’s hard to know what to expect style-wise from Ocampo’s Zaragoza as we haven’t seen Zaragoza play under him in the BCL. However, there are some staple actions that were used to make the most of this roster that we have already seen Zaragoza execute well in the ACB this season. With the quality of spot-up shooters and scoring guards they have, this “Spain” pick-and-roll action from the Regular Season was an easy action to incorporate for Ocampo.
Everything points towards Dylan Ennis. The Canadian has come up big for Zaragoza whenever they needed him this year. He was the driving force behind the Round of 16 wins over Lietkabelis and who could forget that buzzer-beater to beat Brindisi on the final day of the Regular Season. Ennis is clearly a man for the big occasion.
Iberostar Tenerife are Basketball Champions League royalty. In the four years since the competition’s inception, Tenerife have made it to three of the four title tournaments and, of course, won it as hosts in the first season. Head coach Txus Vidorreta has overseen all three of those tournament runs and guided them to the Final twice.
This is another roster that has been tweaked as opposed to any wholesale changes. Primarily Bruno Fitipaldo comes in to share the load with Marcelinho Huertas. in a move that is clearly a case of the rich getting richer, Fitipaldo adds even more elite playmaking to what Huertas does and some extra defensive playmaking as well.
“We have incorporated Bruno Fitipaldo because we saw the need to have a point guard that could share the leadership of the team with Marcelinho Huertas. He is a complete player, a good shooter, a good play director, and a good defender. And he is a very compatible player with Marcelinho.”, said Vidorreta.
Sasu Salin will still be the sniper in chief but joining him is 2017 Champion Aaron Doornekamp. the Canadian is a player that Txus Vidorreta loves to work with and will bring shooting, defense, and an extra warrior on the glass. On the wing, Dani Diez is a player on an upward trajectory and has already started the new ACB season very strongly.
The frontcourt has a fresh look as well. Aaron Doornekamp returns to play the power forward and as a part of the title-winning team of 2017, he is a player that is very much a known quantity as a shooter, defender, and also as an active rebounder. Tyler Cavanaugh has also joined to play the power forward and brings some extra athleticism to the role. At the center position, Giorgi Shermadini has been as dominant as any other big man in the BCL this year. The final piece of the puzzle is Emir Sulejmanovic who will play some minutes as a hybrid between the power forward and the center position.
Style of Play
Every year Tenerife produce some of the most efficient stat lines in the league and this year is no different. In fact, they are the top-ranked team in the league for Efficiency Differential - they are 14.4 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents. This is thanks to having a sixth-best Offensive Rating at 112 points per 100, and a second-ranked Defensive Rating at only 97.7 points conceded per 100. As is always the case with Tenerife, they are one of the most functional passing teams in the league. Their Assist Percentage of 69.7% means that more of their made baskets come from an assist than any team at the Final 8.
As visualized by their best plays this season, Marcelinho Huertas runs the show for Tenerife. Huertas Assist Percentage in the BCL this year was 61.6%, which is of course the highest percentage of assists a player has ever been responsible for in Tenerife. He also broke the single-season assist total in the BCL with 130 (and counting) and equaled the single-game record with 17 assists vs Gaziantep. The usual recipients of those assists were Shermadini in transition or in the pick-and-roll, or Sasu Salin running off screens. When Txus combines all three in the action it leads to devastating results for Tenerife's opponents.
Watch this action they use when they need a 3-pointer. The play looks set to be a "Spain" pick-and-roll with Salin back screening Shermadini, but instead, they run it as a decoy, with Salin sprinting off a flare screen from Shermadini. Huertas is always pinpoint with the pass. They used it several times already this season, with the final clip being a game-winner against Gaziantep.
Ordinarily, this would have to be Marcelinho Huertas and the Brazilian is still the main man. However, he has help now with Fitipaldo and with Zaragoza being so stacked up front, the key player for Tenerife may have to be the big Georgian Shermadini. His offensive firepower will be needed if Tenerife are to make the Quarter-Finals for the fourth time.