For our SIG Strasbourg preview, we are honoured to be hosting basketball coach, analyst and columnist Diccon Lloyd-Smeath. Diccon wrote about the French side for the official BasketballCL website recently and took a chance to share a couple of thoughts with us as well.
Strasbourg had a rough start to the campaign, but have won their last four straight and are now one of the form teams going into the playoffs. Vincent Collet has done an excellent job to integrate Miro Bilan and Dee Bost mid-season, and they are now one of the deepest rosters in the Basketball Champions League. They certainly have one of the most expensive rosters in the BCL. The club went all out to get the big Croatian Miro Bilan and he’s looked a decent investment. Dee Bost has lit a fire under Zack Wright and David Logan, as well. Wright and Bost were outstanding in Monaco last year, and the combination is working again. Strasbourg has won the French Cup and Leaders Cup under Collet, but are yet to really land a punch in European competition. Last year they didn’t make it to the playoffs. This year they look as close as they have ever been to shuffling the trophy cabinet around a bit when their continental season finishes.
All the numbers point to an interesting contest. Neptūnas is an excellent offensive rebounding team with an ORB% of 30.4, but Strasbourg is one of the better defensive rebounding teams in the competition with a DRB% of 76.7. Neptūnas is the better passing team of the two, with a higher Assist% and lower Turnover%, but Strasbourg is a top three team for Steal%. Neptūnas has the better Offensive Rating…matched up against Strasbourg, a top-five Defensive Rating team. Statistically it’s tight, but Strasbourg has the edge.
Tactics and Coaching
A lot depends on Louis Labeyrie. If his hand is healthy enough to play, Neptūnas doesn’t have a match up for him. He is a rebounding, rim-running, screen-setting machine for Strasbourg and is also an underrated passer. If he’s on court, Neptūnas will struggle to get offensive rebounds and that’s huge for them. He also offers Strasbourg a lot of line-up flexibility. Collet has had a lot of joy with a three-guard unit, allowing Wright, Bost, and Logan to cause havoc defensively and create all kinds of advantages, attacking bigger defenders off the dribble. It also means they have three legitimate pick-and-roll playmakers on the floor. Even if Labeyrie isn’t able to play, it’s hard to see how Neptūnas is going to live with the smaller line-ups. Bilan is also a huge problem for the Lithuanians. Big, skilled, runs the floor, rolls to the rim and passes well to Strasbourg’s perimeter threats.
The coaching battle will be interesting. Collet has the experience advantage at the senior level. His record with France is excellent and he has this team clicking. The schemes are sensible and the pieces fit the puzzle right now. Maksvytis is by no stretch out matched, though. His record with youth-level National Teams in Lithuania is pretty much unparalleled, and he’s very shrewd in late game situations. They have a squad with a lot of home-grown Lithuanian players and if there is one thing Lithuanian teams are used to doing, it’s finding ways to win when they are physically outmatched.
Strasbourg looks like the favourite to get this done. The team’s home court will be rowdy and behind them for the final leg, too. The next question is, can Strasbourg win the Basketball Champions League? The answer is yes. In terms of tournament favourites, Tenerife and Monaco are in a tier by themselves at the moment, but Strasbourg’s turnaround has put the team firmly in that second tier with the likes of Beşiktaş and Ludwigsburg. However, I’m not sure they have enough shooting to win a final. When it comes to a one-off game, the ability to stretch defences is huge – as we saw with Tenerife in last year’s final. Logan is shooting it really well from deep this season, but they certainly don’t have depth in this area.
Text edited by: Nick Flynt