Tactics Board: Coach of the Month for November
MIES (Switzerland) - We don't actually give an award for Coach of the Month but, if we did, AEK BETSSON BC's start to Season 8 would surely have been enough to see Joan Plaza adding some more silverware to the mantlepiece.
We should probably also add another caveat: AEK reaching the four-win yardstick also includes late October results, so his look at the hypothetical "Coach of the Month' accolade in actual fact extends a bit longer than a calendar month.
After a home win against MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and a road win at Banco di Sardegna Sassari, AEK and Plaza's November schedule had double helpings of King Szczecin served up.
AEK and Plaza managed the back-to-back with ease, starting with a road victory on November 8 and then following up with a home win two weeks later.
They had answers for every question the Polish side asked of them and grew into themselves as a team over the course of both games. If we look at their domestic record in November, things get even more impressive. They won three out of four in Greece, with the only loss being by just a single point on the road at Panathinaikos.
The chart above shows us the Net Rating landscape of the BCL for the month of November. We see AEK in fourth place, at +23 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents.
AEK scored at a rate of 116 points per 100 possessions across the month and only conceded 93.4 points per 100.
Coach Plaza's offense really shifted up a gear from the 107.66 points per 100 possessions they scored in October. Almost 9 points per 100 better.
The video you see below is AEK's early or "Flow" offense that you see them use a lot in that early offense or secondary break phase of the game.
They reverse the ball twice as quickly as they can and then run their playmaker off a staggered double screen to receive the ball at the top of the key. This is followed by a middle pick-and-roll with the big man. It's a great way to get two of your most dangerous players in the action as early as you can in the offense.
In the two clips you see that when teams try to cover the pick-and-roll action 2v2, playmakers like #3 Chasson Randle can punish them, or if opponents send two players to the ball, AEK can throw lobs to guys like Justin Tillman and Mfiondu Kabengele. It's very efficient and effective offensive design from Coach Plaza.
Of course, any offense designed for this AEK roster is going to be based on a heavy volume of Tillman post-ups.
In the first clip of the video below you can see that Tillman can be the finisher on the end of a home run sequence when AEK flow through every option in their offense.
In the second clip meanwhile, you see that AEK are also ready to run something very simple and hit the single by just throwing the ball straight to Tillman and letting him do his work.
The shot you see him make, a jump hook from almost the free-throw line, is very easy to underrate. It's far from an easy shot and Tillman has been making them look easy all season.
The post up threats don't end with Tillman either. AEK have matchup advantages all over the floor and Plaza has designed this offense to hunt them out. Veteran Lithuanian forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas is the chief of those matchup threats.
In the first clip watch how they inbound the ball to #19 Kuzminskas and instantly put him in a ball screen with #2 Langston Hall, knowing that Szczecin will switch. From there, it really is a very simple matter of finding Kuz in the post, where he can punish the switch.
In the second clip we see another dangerous string in Plaza's bow: out-of-bounds plays. AEK have been able to count on a reliable flow of points from dead-ball situations and again here we see a simple inbound and their Lithuanian veteran fakes the hand off, then goes to work.
December will see AEK and Joan Plaza run out the Regular Season with a home game on December 5 and then a tough trip to Ludwigsburg just before Christmas.
Plaza has done a great job of getting great production out of his star assets so far, with five players scoring over 10 points per game (Tillman, Randle, McRae, Kuzminskas, and Kabengele) and McLemore not far behind, with 9.3 points per game, as he gets more and more adjusted to life in Europe with each passing week.
If that run of form continues, keep an eye out for AEK going undefeated for the whole Regular Season. The Queen is looking dangerous again.