6 reasons why Strelnieks in Olympiacos makes all the sense in the world

After keeping Giorgos Printezis and Vaggelis Mantzaris (they both signed a new three-year-extention) Olympiacos first move on the transfer chessboard was to acquire Janis Strelnieks, the Latvian sharp-shooting guard from Bamberg. A move that makes all the sense in the world.

1) He is a top-notch shooter

Let’s take it from the top: Olympiacos is a pick-n-roll oriented team, that is build around the talents (LeBron James trademark) of Vassilis Spanoulis. So, the first criteria for recruiting is shooting (Lojeski, Green, Lafayette). They need players that will spread the floor and punish defensive rotations, allowing Spanoulis to run the offense.

Olympiacos reach the Euroleague Final twice when they had good shooters next to Spanoulis and had a terrible season when they went for defensive oriented players like DJ Strawberry and Daniel Hackett.

Back to Strelnieks. He is a deadly shooter. Easily said when he has 46% behind the arc with 1.7 makes per game. The best aspect of his shooting ability is that he can deliver the spot-up three, he can make the pull-up shot and also he can go off screens to throw his daggers. Let’s talk numbers: he has 1.316 PPP (Points Per Possession) in spot-up situations and 1.443 PPP when it comes to catch-n-shoot. Both of these stats rank on the top of the Euroleague list.

He prefers clockwise stagger screens

Important detail: Despite the fact that he prefers taking the picks and the turn outs clockwise (to his right), he is great when it comes to shoot off the left dribble. This is extremely important, because it confuses the defense. A big plus in comparison to Erick Green. Even the guy making freddo espresso in the cafeteria knew that Green can shoot only when he picked the ball from his left pocket.

He can the the rigth of the left pull-up

2) He is a great shooter, but not only a shooter

One cannot avoid comparing Strelnieks to Green. The American scoring guard is a really good basketball player. The reason the Reds did not renew his contract was not the fact that he was not Euroleague material. One of the problems was that he was only a scoring threat. He could not play point, he could not play next to Spanoulis in a small line-up, he could not be a defensive presence and above all he could only create shots for himself. He could easily go off from after a pick-n-roll or a isolation to his left hand, but that was all. During all the Euroleague Games he did not connect even once with a big man after the pick-n-roll. He had one pass and zero points converted. Zero. None. Nada. Μηδέν (Go Greece).

Strelnieks on the other hand often played both guard positions in Bamberg. Andrea Trincheri loves to play with two guards and the Latvian was 2nd in pick-n-roll possessions, after Nikos Zisis. His ability to shoot the ball off the dribble makes things happen, because the defense have to make a choice.

Olympiacos’s newcomer executed only the 40.6% of the possession he got his hands on. He passed in the other 59.4%. The exact opposite from Green. The American guard shot the 59.5% of these possessions and passed only in the 40.5% (via Synergy).

Strelnieks dished out 3.5 assists last season. And he is not only the shooting kind-of-player who can play the 2-man game (like Fridzon and Carrol) after a pin-down, but can also run the pick. He drew the 36.4% of his total points from on-ball screens. The other 26% came from spot-up shots and only the 12% from screens-away.

3) He is clutch

OK, that is something the Olympiacos fans know already. Strelnieks was the player to hit the buzzer-beating shot in 2015–16 season in Bamberg. He made the three point after Trinchieri’s special SOB play, which he took from Gregg Popovich’s “hummer” series.

The Italian tactician often ran some special plays for the cold-blooded Latvian. He tried to exploit his shooting touch in dead-ball situations. Sideline outs. Baseline outs. Trick plays. You name it.

4) He can finish near the rim

The best thing about shooter is that they take defense out of balance by just moving their eyebrows. Calathes for example has to go full speed, trick his opponent or use a pick, a re-pick and sometimes a third pick to find an open lane to the basket. Steph Curry, on the other hand can stroll down in the key all the time, because his defender prefers to contest his shot, even if that means he will risk a drive to the basket.

This is the story with Strelnieks. He is neither quick, nor explosive. But, because of his shooting he often finds ways to attack the rim. And he is a great finisher. Understatement. He was the best finisher in Euroleague. He had 1.667 PPP around the basket (non-post ups), better than big men that make more dunks than lay ups like Alex Tuys, Othello Hunter or Andrija Zizic. Spanoulis who is a great finisher, with his broad shoulders and quick first step, has 1.17 PPP and finished 99th in the same list.

Strelnieks prefers tο penetrate right when it comes to attacking the rim. And he has an effective offensive arsenal to avoid defenders. He goes with finesse, rather than contact. His favorite choice is a a high-arc right-hand floater.

Another option is to use the element of surprise. That is why he often lays the ball in on one leg. These first step finishes (left hand or with mid-air change of hands), take defenders by surprise.

But and here comes the big-but: he cannot get past by his player. He can attack the rim after a close-out, a pick-n-roll or a turn-out, but he cannot create his own shot. He is not a “give me the ball and get out the way” kind of player. Quite the opposite. He was one of the least efficient players in “iso” situations in Euroleague. Third from the bottom, only after Dangubic and Feldeine.

5) Low-risk and efficient kind of player

After shooting this is his best quality and one of the major reasons Olympiacos recruited him. “Economy” is his style. He always plays it safe. Never tries something out of the playbook. He knows his strengths and his weakness and plays along. And that is really important when you have to play in a team like Olympiacos. On-ball players cannot survive, because there are a few balls left after the picks of Spanoulis and the post-ups of Printezis.

So, the Reds need players that will not peel the ball with their dribbling. There is no room for ball hogs or rhythm players that need time and possessions to warm up and start being effective.

And Strelnieks:

  • Had the best assist/turnover ratio in Euroleague: 3.5 assists for 1.2 turnovers (292%).
  • Had a shining 1.168 Points Per Possessions. One of the best in the league and the best among perimeter players with more than 6 possessions per game.

6) He is a Trinchieri-graduate

Top teams do not pick players just by reading the stat lines. That is because they need players to fit their system and playing style. They are looking for the right piece of the puzzle, not just good players, or player that can put the ball in the basket.

So, everybody knows that if you pick a player from a good team like Bamberg or Zalgiris, you are making the right choice. Those two teams played team basketball and had great basketball programmes. That is why the Germans were targeted by every team. Wannamaker last season, Theis, Miller, Melli, Causer this season. Everybody wants them. Because, everybody knows that they are players that can fit an elite coaching program.

All, the above make Strelnieks the perfect fit for Olympiacos. He is a better creator than Green and a great shooter that can play next or instead of Vassilis Spanoulis. As “1” or as “2” along Mantzaris. He can play both on-ball and off-ball, using more passes and less dribbles.

As for his defense, it is above average. He is not a supreme athlete, or a defensive stopper, but, he can play defense using his head, not only his legs and torso. He is great on following tactics, he knows how to avoid screens and has great body balance. He avoids silly fouls or tactical errors. That means he is neither a defensive solution, nor a problem.

It will be really interesting to see who will Olympiacos pick next. Because, Strelnieks (a low-risk shooter who plays team basketball) is not the only player the Reds need. That is because he cannot play as “3” in a small line-up (like Hackett), he is not a defensive stopper (again like Hackett), or a 1on1 type-of-player.

The Reds lacked an “iso” player in the Euroleague Final against Fenerbache and in the Basket League Finals against Panathinaikos. Their offense melted down facing a switching defense. Strelnieks cannot give solutions to that problem. He also thrived in a team (Bamberg) with great off-ball action. Olympiacos, on the other hand, is a disciplined on-ball team.

So, Strelnieks will look perfect, only if the other guard will solve all the other matters.