Bamberg has the best offense in Euroleague. Wait, what?
Who would have thought? Not CSKA, nor Real Madrid. Not even Fenebarhce of Obradovic-all mighty, neither the American-breed Efes and Maccabi. Bamberg -yes Bamberg- is featuring the best offense in Euroleague after 16 games of play.
The team with the third lowest budget, right above Red Star and Zalgiris, is producing the best PPP (Points Per Possession) among the 16 top European clubs: 1.044. Only CSKA and Real Madrid enjoy a PPP over 1.00. If you like old-school stats the Germans are scoring 81.56 points per game, less than CSKA (88.4), Real (87.4), Efes (84.2) and Baskonia (81.6), but they have showcased the best per possession ratio, holding the first rank in terms of efficiency.
They have the best PPP both in half-court offense (1.029) and transition (1.292), despite the fact the have scored less than anybody else on open court (less than 6 points per game). You didn’t need to read the stat lines or explore the abyss of Synergy to get the feeling that Bamberg is not an up-tempo team. They don’t like to hit the fast-break no matter what, take rushed shots early in the 24'’, or try to overtake their opponent in a open field battle. That’s why Andrea Trinchieri prefers to control the game, taking speed and transition off the table. To get back to numbers: Bamberg’s games are decided in the second fewest possessions in the league (158.4), right before Barcelona, the team of another notorious tactician, Giorgos Bartzokas, who also loves to hold the reims using plays with a lot of motion.
The best coach in history, Sun Tzu, the Chinese general and mastermind, was the one to say: “Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories”. And Andrea Trinchieri is transfering Sun Tzu’s book “Art of War” on the hardwood. He knows Bamberg’s strengths and weaknesses. He proves that you don’t need million-dollar players to get buckets. You just need players who understand the game, want to follow the game-plan, can shoot the ball and like to share it.
Last summer the Italian coach lost his best player, the American scoring-guard Brad Wannamaker who was the apple of Discord for many top-notch clubs, but didn’t even blink. He replaced him with an experience Bossman player, Fabien Causer, the lefty combo guard who likes to shoot first and then ask questions. He also added Vladimir Veremeenko, a skilled big man with good hands and scoring touch around the basket, to the front-line and the talented Maodo Lo to the back-court.
The rest of the team was the same that growed along him during the past years in Upper Franconia. Zisis, a never-nervous type of floor-general and the deadly-shooter from Latvia, Janis Strelnieks are the other pieces of the perimeter puzzle. At forward Darius Miller is starring. He is the go-to-guy of the team, a prolific scorer (13.3 points) who has a rare -for Bamberg’s roster- 1on1 skillset. Staigger and Heckman provide the local support to Miller.
As for the frontline Nicolo Melli is the man to watch. The fellow countryman of coach Trinchieri, is Bamberg’s MVP with 13.1 points, 8.3 rebounds (league-best) and 20.3 PIR (2nd-best in the league). He plays at “4” and “5” providing mismatch opportunities either at the post, or at the three point line, where he shoots with an astonishing 56%. Daniel Theis is a hustle kind of big-man, that has survived Trinchieri’s first season along with Harris and Strelnieks. He is the best pick-and-cut player of the team, who can also shoot for threes. The same in-and-out game characterizes Leon Radosevic, a quality tweener (4–5) with a solid mid-range shot.
Bamberg is like Cantu, the team that introduced us Andrea Trinchieri back in 2011. A team filled with veterans with high-basketball IQ and great shooting/passining abilities, that wants to play team basketball and only lacks athletic abilities.
Players who will get what the defense gives them and make the most out of it. This is what Bamberg does. One blink, one slpi, one wrong rotation, one defender beaten, one weak-side player overhelping and you count three points.
Trinchieri’s receipe for the best offense is de-li-cio-so
So, what it takes to build the best offense in Euroleague?
A) Shooters. A bunch of them. The Germans are making the most three-pointers in Euroleague (10.2) and at the same time are shooting with the best percentage (43%). Causer shoots with 35%, Heckman with 44%, Lo with 48%, Miller with 43%, Staigger with 50%, Strelnieks with 43%, Theis with 47% and Melli with 56%. Important note: the last two are the two starting big men. The only guard with a 3P% lower than 34% is Nikos Zisis, but everybody knows that his 29% is misguiding. As a matter of fact he has 31% beyond the arc in his career and was shooting with 39% last season.
Bamberg gets the most points (302 in 16 games) from spot-up shots besides Efes (326) and CSKA (313), as they enjoy the second best PPP (1.182). Catch-n-shoot opportunities are the main scoring option for the Germans, who get the 24% of their total offense from those situations.
The other jewel in their crown are the points scored from the players who run the pick-n-rolls (20% of the total points). Zisis, Causer, Strelnieks and Miller have scored 224 points. Only Darussafaka (272) and CSKA (239) have scored more, but that’s something that goes without telling.
To conclude the shooting triathlon Bamberg is also considered the most efficient “off the screens” team in terms of total points and PPP (1.322), beating the former pin-down and stagger Queen, Real Madrid, which loves running those screen away plays.
B) Big men that face the basket. You can find great resemblance to the last season’s upsetting team, Lokomotiv Kuban. “Loko” thrived on an offensive system based on the fact that all five players were face-up threats. Everybody could shoot the ball, or drive it to the basket. The same goes with Bamberg.
Melli, Theis, Radosevic, even Vereemenko are skilled big men. They can shoot pop-out or take the midrange jumper after the short roll. They can pass and spread the floor.
The other side of the coin is their lack of athleticism. Bamberg exploits its ability to shoot and pass the ball, but has to live knowing they are the worst rebounding team in the competition. But, that’s a token Andrea Trinchieri is willing to pay.
C) Know your strength. And give them the ball. Remember Sun Tzu. The Germans play like everybody know what they are doing. They are all marching to the beat of the same drum. They know their advantages and they are prepared to follow the game-plan night in and night out. The difficult part of the job for Bamberg is to create the advantage on half-court. That’s why often they struggle against switching defenses. If they manage to create the advantage, the easy task for them is to punish the defense. They do it with quick reactions, good reads, great spacing and solid shooting.
If you have to avoid one thing playing against them, make sure you don’t get in the middle of their drive and kick-out game.
But, again: 1on1 is not their game. After all, they are the worst team in “iso” situations in the league and the one that draws the fewest fouls. They don’t have the athleticism to support that playing style. So, they have to search hard to find their advantage. That’s why they find comfort by placing the ball to the hands of Nicolo Melli and Darius Miller. Melli is the guy that creates the most mismatches playing against weaker opponents at the 4-spot. He can score and he can pass. He can also punish switching defenses after he sets the pick-n-roll. He is the main offensive weapon posting-up, playing away from the basket where he can shoot for 3s or beat the close-out, or doing his favorite slip-the-screen action.
Meli can post-up
Meli can pass from the post
Did I mention Meli can pass from the post?
Meli can pass. Period.
Meli can drive to the basket
Meli is the slip-the-screen sensei
Darius Miller on the other hand is the only player with the ability to play 1on1. He is a one-of-a-kind player for Bamberg. And coach Trinchieri tries to get the most out of him. He uses Miller as a ball-handler, as a screener himself, or as the player who will go off the screens to shoot. He often puts him at “4” when the option of a “small-ball” line-up seems fitter.
D) Take the original pick-n-roll and mix it up a little. Imagine Andrea Trinchieri in a tratoria. He is the chef and he is taking the original recipe of the pick-n-roll and its most important ingredient: players that can shoot of the dribble. No defense can leave Causer, Zisis, Strelnieks or Miller unnoticed when they run the pick. Then, chef Andrea wants to spice things up and pours back-screens, fake picks and screens-away to the salsa. De-li-cio-so.
Bamberg cannot play by the book. They have to empty their bag full of tricks on the floor. They have to get everything from everyone if the want to beat teams with bigger budgets and more talent. And that’s what they have been doing.
With the term “shadow” we can describe the defense’s reaction to a potential threat. Imagine the Warriors and the points they get because the other teams are focused on Steph Curry. And Steve Kerr puts his biggest offensive weapon to screen, getting other guys open. The same with Bamberg. They are getting many points by shooting and many points by the threat of shooting. That’s how the Germans wants to get out of the pick-n-roll.
PnR and back screen
Pnr and screen away
Rebember the “result significance”? It tell us more about Bamberg than the standings and their 7–9 record. They have lost many games literally at the last shot (Fener, Darussafaka, Panathinaikos, Barcelona, CSKA) and have been fighting each opponent home and away. They were also unlucky. They are 8th when summing up the home games (-1.94) based on the “result significance” criteria and 9th when taking under consideration the away games (-0.06). That tells us a lot about what they have done, about their winning streak (3–0) and about what they can do until the end of the regular season. Are you sure 30 games will be the end of Bamberg’s run?