Tactics Board - Qualified
MADRID (Spain) -The Round of 16 in the Basketball Champions League is nearly upon us, and three teams have already qualified for the next stage of the tournament. In this column, we will take a quick look at the best plays that these teams ran in their most recent games. Whether you are a casual fan or a hardcore basketball enthusiast, this column has something for everyone. So let's dive in and explore the tactics of the three qualified teams in the Basketball Champions League...
In case you were wondering why that intro was slightly mechanical or not written in the usual tone of the BCL, that's because it was written by AI.
Unfortunately - or fortunately depending on your view on these things - AI isn't (yet) able to analyze basketball clips and translate those observations into consumable content. In the not-so-distant future, we will no doubt be consuming web articles written by AI and possibly even watching games where the coaching decisions are almost entirely made by AI. For the time being, however, we still have fantastic human beings making the calls on our sidelines and drawing up some of the finest Xs and O's you could hope to see. So, for now, let's focus on the coaches that are qualified and the teams that have qualified for the Round of 16 already.
We start with the first team to qualify and that is Ibon Navarro's Unicaja. If anything, Unicaja were flying under the radar but not anymore. They were top of our last Power Rankings and they are positively cooking at this point in the season. The first play we want to look at is an absolute humdinger from Ibon Navarro's tactics board to start the second half against JDA Dijon.
Watch how they use a staggered screen and two "Ghost" screens on the ball to disjoint the defensive coverage, then the misdirection of #14, Dedovic running off a screen on the strong side, only to throw the lob to a wide-open David Kravish. Wizardry from Navarro.
The second play we have cut is Unicaja's use of an action that is trending across Europe this year; a "Flare" screen for the ball screener. In this case, watch how they use the #4 Kalinoski as the ball screener then instantly run him off a flare screen going away from the action. His defender chases him over the screen so he turns back and uses the same screen again to get open for the 3-pointer. When Unicaja have players like Kalinoski, Carter, and Brizuela that are all able to create on the ball or run through screens to shoot when they are off the ball, they are a very very tough team to guard.
Mid-season coaching changes are never easy, especially when they involve a coach like Lassi Tuovi that is so ingrained into the culture of the club. However, winning isn't easy either and SIG were ready to do what they felt needed to be done. So far it looks like a decision that is paying off as the team is flying domestically and just sailed past UCAM Murcia into the Round of 16. The next play illustrates exactly how much influence Luca Banchi starting to wield.
If you saw this play live you could have been forgiven for only noticing the crazy finish off the top of the backboard from Leo Cavaliere but watch for the conversation between Banchi and Cavaliere just before the action. Banchi had perfectly predicted that Murcia would want to trap the late-clock pick-and-roll so advised Cavaliere to slip out early. This allowed him to be wide open on the free throw line and get a shot right at the rim.
Telekom Baskets Bonn
We have already covered this Bonn team so much this season and for good reason. Tuomas Iisalo's squad, along with the arrival of T.J. Shorts has been nothing short of sensational. It's a testament to that sensational start that despite being drawn in what looked like the toughest group of the Regular Season, it came as no surprise they were the first team to make it to the Round of 16.
The play we have chosen from Bonn this time gives us an opportunity to pick out one of the unsung heroes of their hot start. The headlines may have gone to names like Shorts and Morgan so far but if we did collect stats for "Screen Assists" Leon Kratzer would have got two in one possession in this play. Watch how he notices the Pinar Karsiyaka defense has shrunk into the paint when the ball goes into the post, then signals to Morgan to throw the skip pass to the opposite corner. Kratzer uses his frame to practically screen two Karsiyaka defenders as the skip pass is in the air and then seals the deal by preventing his defender from playing help on the drive and slam from Malcolm. Excellent, blue-collar stuff from Bonn's hardworking big man.