08 October, 2019
04 October, 2020
Thomas Päch (BONN)
Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider
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Tactics Board: AEK cooking and Bonn stay sweet

MADRID (Spain) - Gameday 1 is  ✅  and we are off and running. For the first installment of the Tactics Board this season, the performances of AEK and Telekom Baskets Bonn caught my eye. 

AEK Cooking

Regardless of the result, the first game for AEK under new coach Ilias Papatheodorou was always going to be a story. The rebuild has seen big names on the way in and out of the revolving doors. On one hand, AEK without the likes of Sakota, Laurentzakis, and Xanthopoulos is going to take some time to feel right. On the other hand, however,  AEK with Langford, Ray, Gikas, Chrysikopoulos, Jankovic and  Slaughter, et al, is already feeling pretty good. 


This new look AEK may have had an indifferent start to their domestic season in Greece, but in the BCL they were cooking from the opening tip and looked a very different beast. As the chart above shows,  their performance on the offensive end was ruthless - they shot above the league average in every zone they attempted a shot.

Obviously, when we see 100% shooting from any area on the floor, we know that number is extremely unlikely to maintain over an extended period. But even a sample as small as one game can tell us a story, and in this case, it does. The Queen shot 100% from the right low post on 4/4 shooting and didn't attempt a single shot from the left block. Also telling is that all of those shots were attempted by Keith Langford and Linos Chrysikopoulos. In the video below you see AEK use the same set twice (masked by different entries) to get the ball into Langford and Chrysikopoulos on the block. Watch how both men turn away from the double team coming from the middle and bank some early points. Having a matchup advantage on the low post with both their Power Forward and Shooting Guard is going to be a colossal headache for AEK's opponents this year. 

The other thing that the chart tells us is how well AEK shot from deep - 48% overall and 50% or more from four of five zones. The main reason they were able to shoot so efficiently from outside was their ability to create wide-open catch and shoot opportunities. All but one of AEK's shots from three were assisted.

AEK also used the same set I showed you in the first video, and the same scoring threat of Langford and Chrysikopoulos to create kick-out passes to wide-open shooters. Pay extra attention to the second clip - EB Pau-Lacq-Orthez adjusted and sent the double team on the baseline side. Langford read it quickly and made the pass to where the double came from. 

It was far more than just Langford and Chrysikopoulos that clicked for AEK. Howard Sant-Roos was at his uber-efficient best - 15 points (43% 3P), 6 assists and ZERO turnovers! But it was the pick-and-roll combo of Nikos Gikas and Dimitris Mavroeidis that caught my eye. 

AEK got 14 of their 23 assists from Forwards or Centers, and big bad Mavroeidis was the chief initiator, with 5 assists from the center position. Watch the video below and notice how astute the pair of Gikas and Mavroeidis were when it came to reading defensive coverages. Clip 1 and EB Pau-Lacq-Orthez are in a "hard hedge" coverage. Mavroedis correctly made the short roll and Gikas finds him with the jump pass.

Mavroeidis then instantly transferred the advantage by kicking the ball to where the help came from. Clip 2 and the defense was in a "drop" coverage. This time the pass to the big man wasn't there and Gikas went straight to where the help came from. An extra pass later and AEK splashed another one of those wide-open, assisted 3-pointers. 

Shooting Guards scoring from the post and centers providing the assists, This AEK rebuild is already taking a very different form to last year. Of course, it's early in the season and teams will find ways to slow them down, but next time you watch AEK lookout for the way they utilize the low post and the ease that Nikos Gikas and Dimitris Mavroeidis unlock defensive coverages. 

Side note: We wrote an article last week where we experts picked the "Ten players to watch" this season. Not one of us picked Keith Langford or Linos Chrysikopoulos....Next time we should probably just call it "some blokes from the BCL have a couple of wild stabs in the dark". 

Bonn Stay Sweet

Another team that started the season with a new coach and another team comprehensively outshot the rest of the league on Gameday 1. Telekom Baskets Bonn are yet to make the Play-Offs in the BCL. After this performance, I am going to stick my neck out and predict that they will break the drought this year. After knocking Bayern out of the German cup, Thomas Päch's new look Bonn completed an almost perfect week by beating one of many people's pre-tournament favorites, Casademont Zaragoza. 

As you can see, the Germans spread their shooting more than AEK but still managed to shoot at the league average or above in nine of the eleven zones on the chart. Again, the outside shooting and low post scoring point to some interesting areas to investigate. For Zaragoza, they may well have been warned of Bonn's hot start to the season. This shooting performance is far from a freak occurrence. The tweet below highlights the way that Thomas Päch's team has been shooting in the German BBL so far. The similarities are there to see. 

When you watch Bonn play the first thing that jumps out is the urgency to push the ball up the floor. They relentlessly leak out for easy transition scores and launch transition three's whenever they get a look. The main difference, however, for Bonn in this game, was the number of shot makers on their roster this season; Simons, Dileo, Subotic, Polas-Bartolo, Zimmerman and Frazier all shot above 40% from behind the arc and in total, six players shot over 50% from the field for Bonn. 

The real killer for Zaragoza, however, was Branden Frazier. At times the Spaniard's defense was disruptive and they regularly forced Bonn to take tough shots. Frazier just consistently made them. For example, look at the work that (#21) San Miguel put into denying Frazier the ball in the clip below. Frazier eventually caught the ball with the clock winding down and found a way to separate in the Pick-and-roll. 

Coach Fisac tried just about everything to slow Frazier down. Since Scariolo and Spain enjoyed so much success at the recent world cup with their 1-2-2 zone, we can probably expect to see plenty of teams - especially from the ACB - using it this year. In the fourth quarter, Zaragoza went to the 1-2-2. Frazier scored 6 points vs the zone in the fourth quarter alone and effectively broke the game.

Watch the clip below and see how focused Zaragoza were on communicating about the corners. Bonn used a simple "45 cut" to blur the responsibility for the corner and Frazier timed his lift perfectly.


The strange thing about Bonn's performance is that despite the impressive shooting numbers, there is definitely room for them to improve the execution on the offensive end. The high tempo style and talented shooters will see them pose a threat regardless of how well they play, but if they do put that together with a game when they really execute, that is a game you want to make sure you watch. 


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Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon is a basketball coach and analyst living in Madrid. Constantly digging in the crates of box scores and clicking through hours of game footage. Diccon is on the hunt for the stories within the stories. If you like to get a closer look at what’s going in the Basketball Champions League, you have found it.