Welcome back to Hack a Stat! Let’s start the new season by analyzing the basketball roles and then crossing them with the line-ups, to understand how much and how the players’ skills influence team performance.
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During the summer break, I worked on various data available on InStat in order to assign a very specific role to every player. The purpose of this work was to define the modern roles of basketball: the classic playmaker, center, guard, and wing are not enough in describing a player. With tracking stats instead, it is possible to accurately analyze the playing style of each player and therefore identify a series of roles that I have defined as Advanced Roles. You can also consult all the Advanced Roles of the players who played the Euroleague 2019-20 here.



I added up the minutes played for each role and then found the percentage value considering the total minutes. We can, therefore, observe how the most used roles are the Primary Ball Handlers, the Scorers, the Off-ball Players, the Pick and Rollers, and the Double Threat Big Men.
Considering the percentages of minutes played of these roles, we can say that the union of these five roles creates the Euroleague typical line-up.


As for shooters, Spot-Ups seem to be the most common. The Off-screen Shooters are few compared to the total number of players: the firsts that come to mind are Carroll, Bertans, Milaknis; very few others have obtained the Advanced Role of Off-Screen Shooter.
Moreover, the tendency is to prefer static shooters because they can create offensive spacing without using active possessions as Off-screen Shooters do; they require some screens. Yes, of course in almost all cases the Off-screen Shooters are good in spot-up shooting too, but their skills have to be used when are on the court. Spot-ups, on the other hand, do not require screens and plays and, at the same time, they create spacing by just stay still. Lastly, the same concepts expressed for the Off-screen shooters are valid also for the Pure Shooters.


Looking at the big men instead, it is clear how today the post-up is used differently than in the past: only 7% of the minutes played is reserved for players able to score and also to create from the post. It is clear that today teams are trying to reach different types of shots, but if they have some good players in post-up situations, teams tend to use them. Double-teams are common when a player is in the low post. A double-team generates defensive rotations: a player who can read defensive rotations while in the low post can create shot chances for his teammates. Shengelia or Sikma are two perfect examples: they were both among the offensive leaders of Baskonia and Alba last season.


Now let’s go back to the typical line-up described previously: it is clear that even in Europe spacing is a fundamental requirement for attacks. One of the two big men is now almost always able to shoot from beyond the arc; the scorers are basically always good from the 3-point line. Ball handlers and shot creators, with few exceptions, cannot be left alone behind the arc. Therefore, there is a particular focus on the 3-point shot, which guarantees better spacing to play the pick and roll. A large spacing also allows greater chances of cuts and movements without the ball.

And is this typical line-up efficient? To find out, let’s cross the various line-ups and roles. Taking into consideration only line-ups with at least 50 possessions played, the average Offensive Rating of this group is about 101. The typical line-up instead averages an Offensive Rating of 108. In other words, this line-up composed of a Ball Handler, a Scorer, an Off-ball Player, a Pick and Roller, and a Double Threat Big Man can create a higher offensive efficiency than the League average.

We can intersect line-ups and roles again to also understand how the synergy between players is maybe more important than the players themselves. There are some line-ups in which there are one or more Ball Handlers or Shot Creators, but there are no Pick and Rollers or Double Threat Big Men. In other words, they are line-ups in which the PNR dangerous is halved, as the big man has not the skills to be dangerous after the screen. In this case, the average Offensive Rating for this type of line-up is 94, well below the League average. This value explains how pick and roll is a basic game situation for every team: when teams play it without a good screener (or a good handler), the defensive job is way too easier.

Thanks to the Advanced Roles and the line-ups we have observed how teams tend to set their offensive line-ups: at the same time, they always have to take into account the defensive phase. The complexity of basketball is often underestimated from this point of view: the offensive and defensive balance (which also depends on the opponent’s roster) has to be considered when composing a line-up.
Through the Advanced Roles and some advanced statistics, as we have seen, teams can have a clearer picture of how the used line-ups have worked.

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