Euroleague line-ups breakdown

Welcome back to Hack a Stat! In this new stats analysis, I will not focus on any team or player; instead, this article will be focused on the composition of the Euroleague line-ups, using also Advanced Roles. Let’s go!

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I think it is always interesting to observe how the Euroleague teams set their offensive and defensive games starting from the roles. Obviously, I’m not talking about the classic roles, but about the Advanced Roles, created by me in order to divide all players regarding what they do on the court, using InStat data. Here you will find all the various roles, explained one by one.


To understand how the teams tend to play, I took all the Euroleague line-ups used so far and I analyzed the composition of each with respect to the Advanced Roles. By grouping the Advanced Roles into macro-roles, it is possible to notice some interesting trends. First of all, let’s identify the macro-roles, starting with the offensive ones.

  • CREATORS: Primary and Secondary Ball Handler, Primary and Secondary Shot Creator, Slasher, Pass-first Player, and Post-up Creators. Examples: Rodriguez, James;
  • FINISHERS: Scorer, Post-up Scorer, Pick and roller. Examples: McCollum, Mirotic;
  • SHOOTERS: Off-screen Shooter, Spot-up Shooter, Pure Shooter, Roll&pop, and Post&3. Examples: Roll, Zipser;
  • OFF-BALL: Off-ball Player and Marginal Offensive Player;

Instead, for the defensive macro-roles:

  • GOOD BACK-COURT DEFENDERS: Perimeter Defender, Average Perimeter Defender, and Switch Defender. Examples: Abrines, Henry;
  • GOOD FRONT-COURT DEFENDERS: Interior Defender, Average Interior Defender, Defensive Rebounder, and Switch Defender. Examples: Randolph, Davies;
  • RIM PROTECTOR: Rim Protector. Examples: Tavares;
  • NON-DEFENDER: all other players;

Macro-roles’ usage and efficiency

Therefore, knowing the basis with which I grouped the Advanced Roles, let’s now observe the trend in the number of possessions played by the various Euroleague line-ups in which there were a certain number of players who belong to the same macro-role.

Offensive phase

Let’s first analyze the offensive phase:

The graph shows the percentages of possessions played by the different macro-roles when on the field there are 0, 1, 2 …, 5 players belonging to the same macro-role. The first easy consideration is on the usage of marginal players: a good (almost of) 20% of the possessions played in the Euroleague do not include players of that type. As for the Creators, most line-ups have one or two of them. Two or three Finishers, on the other hand, are easier to find in a line-up.

However, we can see a fairly homogeneous distribution of macro-roles; the only macro-role that is able to have at least 4 players on the court is that of the shooters. This to underline once again how the 3-point shot is now a fundamental element for every team.

So, the trends are interesting, but what matters most is analyzing the offensive efficiency of those Euroleague line-ups. In fact, in the table below you will find the Offensive Ratings calculated with the same principle as the previous chart. Note that the average of all the line-ups examined is 109.

euroleague line-ups
Offensive Rating trends

Let’s go by macro-role: as it is easy to guess, the greater the number of Creators on the field, the better the Offensive Rating. This is because they are game facilitators and are therefore able to improve the team’s offensive efficiency. However, it is difficult to keep on the floor more than 3 Creators, as there would be fewer places available for other key roles.

On the other hand, for the Finishers there is a first increase and a subsequent decrease; even with 4 Finishers on the court (although the number of possessions is around 2%), the Offensive Rating is less than 100 points. This is because Finishers are excellent players at finalizing the work of teammates, but they don’t want (or are not able) to work for others. When there are three or even four Finishers, it is more difficult to optimize the movements without the ball and the creation of advantages; as a result, the Rating falls.

Then, shooters have a fairly constant trend: although it is necessary to take into account a relatively low number of possessions for Euroleague line-ups with 3 or more shooters, there is no doubt how these values confirm the importance of the 3-point shot in modern basketball. Not only for the higher value of the shot but also for the spacing. The highest values of Offensive Ratings calculated are in fact found for this macro-role.

Finally, for the Off-ball Players, as was to be expected, as their number on the court increases, line-ups’ efficiency drops. Clearly, the players who fall into this macro-role are unlikely to be able to continuously build offensive advantages; therefore, if their number is more than two units, the Rating suffers.

Defensive phase

Let’s move on the Defensive phase:

In this case, the trends are very similar. All the possessions of the two macro-roles of good defenders decrease as the number of players increases. Obviously, the macro-role of non-defenders is the one that also presents five players at the same time on the field, since both back-court and front-court players fall into it. Finally, there is no line-up with more than one Rim Protector.

Moving to the Ratings, here’s what happens (in this case the average is 105):

euroleague line-ups
Defensive Rating trends

As is to be expected, the two macro-roles in which good defenders fall (whether they are back-court or front-court) improve as the number of good defenders on the field increases. However, there is a peculiarity: the line-ups’ efficiency decreases when they have more than three b.c. players or more than two f.c. ones. This is probably because in those cases you could have a mismatch: for example, there will be a guard who will have to defend a forward or vice versa. This, therefore, leads to a decrease in defensive efficiency. A big difference can be seen for the role of Rim Protector: when there is a player of this role on the field, the Defensive Rating improves by 7 points.

Lastly, as expected, the greater the number of non-defenders on the field, the worse the Defensive Rating.

Macro-role conclusions

This part of the analysis has therefore shown in the first place the reliability of the Advanced Roles. Everything that could be expected was confirmed by the line-up data. Secondly, it was possible to understand even better how the Euroleague line-ups are composed: the coaches tend to balance the offensive line-ups with 1/2 creators, 1/2 finishers, then completing them with shooters or off-ball players. The defensive side, on the other hand, partly constrained by the choices made for the offensive one, is made up of 3/4 good defenders and 1/2 non-defenders. This in general, then during a match there can obviously be many situations in which coaches need to change something to break the game’s trend.

For the offensive phase, we have observed how filling the roster of shooters facilitates the increase of offensive efficiency; this is the direct effect of the spacing. This aspect is more impacting on the Offensive Rating than inserting more finishers or creators.

Instead, to improve the defensive phase, there are not many secrets: the addition of rim protectors or good defenders helps. However, coaches have to keep a balance of the line-up regarding modern basketball, where most of the players are back-court ones.

Euroleague line-ups composition and efficiency

The next step is to go into detail even more. It’s time to look at line-ups’ composition and efficiency. To do this, I calculated the possessions and ratings of each line-up made up of the same set of macro-roles (to be taken into account, a line-up has to have at least 10 possessions played); once I found the most used line-ups, I only selected those that have accumulated at least 50 possessions. So let’s start from the offensive phase.

Offensive phase

I’ve sorted the various line-ups for Offensive Rating: we can see some interesting features. The most efficient Euroleague line-ups always have at least one Creator, never more than two Finisher, and almost always we find one or more shooters. What was previously observed is therefore confirmed again; Euroleague coaches do not use many Finishers. In fact, at the bottom of the table we find line-ups that show once more how without creators or with too many finishers, the efficiency drops significantly.

As a further analysis and comparison tool, I think it is interesting to intersect the Offensive Rating and the TS% of the various lineups in a scatter chart, to observe their distribution.

As already highlighted in the chart, macro-areas can be identified in which similarities between the various lineups can be noted.

Defensive phase

For the defensive side instead, here’s what the data say:

As might be expected, the further you scroll down the table, the easier it is to come across a line-up with 1 or more Non-Defenders. The second line-up is instead the classic composition with which you would like to face every defensive possession.

Therefore, in conclusion, I think that it is now much more obvious and clear how the Euroleague teams set their line-ups. Optimize a line-up so that it is efficient on both sides is not a simple task; moreover, depending on the needs of the moment, it is necessary to insert one or more players of a certain role to change the game trend.

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