Today, we have the honour of “hosting” Jan Sodoge of Go-to-Guys with his “mini-analysis” of the easyCredit BBL (Basketball Bundesliga) playoffs. More interesting things from Jan can be found on his twitter and more from Go-to-Guys on their website (which, although mainly in German, is definitely worth checking out!).
When on May 6th Brose Bamberg took a loss in the first game of this year’s playoffs, skepticism quickly rose in German basketball Twitter feeds. Indeed, the series between the current champion and their eager competitor, Telekom Baskets Bonn, turned out to be a closer match than a second vs. seventh seed, EuroLeague vs. EuroCup team series, might indicate at first glance. However, the sceptics exist for a reason. To cover that, flashback to this year’s easyCredit Basketball Bundesliga regular season.
Bamberg, faced with an incredible schedule of 30 Euroleague games in addition to domestic competition, in an 18 teams-strong league, started out well in autumn. It took them until mid-December to record their first domestic loss after some very serious blowouts e.g. vs. Munich 90:59. Still Bamberg managed to win 29 out of 32, though it seemed they had curbed their energy level on the court since New Year’s.
How did Bamberg manage not to land in the first position of the regular season table with winning percentage above 90%? The reason is that someone else stole the show:
It was ratiopharm Ulm, setting a new German record, winning 27 league games in a row. However, they ended the regular season with two losses in the premier spot. During the streak, Ulm pulled out an outstanding offensive rating of 123, as well as the third best defense in the league.
Led by top-scorer and regular season MVP Raymar Morgan, Ulm set a perfect example of how to succeed based-on skilled small-ball lineups. Giving Morgan the official role of center, measuring 2.05m tall, they played with height disadvantages – however still he managed to control the boards in an outstanding manner. Looking ahead to next season, Morgan might be a legit candidate for a Euroleague team. Though, as he relies on his high-energy style of play, he might not be able to play heavy starter minutes for most teams at the highest level. Also one must take into consideration his constant fou issues.
Going further in the roster, Chris Babb established himself as a major part of the Ulm organization. The 27-year-old former Boston Celtic has now played two seasons in Ulm. Babb might be a legitimate candidate to win every basketball award for aesthetic appeal, as his shooting motion is textbook and his footwork so well trained. He’s used to the the NBA three-point line, and it shows, as he continues to ignore the shorter European distance.
— Chris Schmidt (@ChrisSchmidt27) January 9, 2017
With 42% success rate on his three-point tries, combined with his athletic ability and ball handling skills, Babb is hard to stop and a key option for Coach Thorsten Leibnitz in crucial need-to-score situations. With that in mind, and shooting 39% as a team from beyond the arc (on avg. 25 attempts per game), the team from southern Germany is established as the legit most-likely league pass candidate. Coming into the playoffs with two regular season victories vs. Bamberg, Ulm did not enter the post-season without a bit of an underdog’s mindset. Despite the streak and the overall regular season record, it still was not a “we’ll-win-it-all” regular season for Ulm. As team captain Per Günther noted, they got beaten up in Eurocup several times and took a loss in Ludwigsburg in the qualification round for the Championship- Cup.
It was a designated final matchup between Ulm, Bamberg and FCB Basketball (Munich).
Bamberg, as mentioned, started out their mission in the first round vs. Telekom Baskets Bonn. Bonn, after playing a horrific 15/16 season, built-up their team around the core of Ryan Thompson (former top-scorer and champion in Bamberg in 14/15, then Trabzonspor where he dealt with knee injuries), point guard Josh Mayo (15/16 at Scafati Basket in Italy, equipped with a deadly three-point shot and drive) and center Julian Gamble (who played two years in Brussels before taking his sneakers to Bonn). All three took major part in the team’s success. Bamberg coming off cruise-control mode in the last weeks of the regular season seemed somehow surprised by the energy brought to the court by Bonn in the first game. Since that first lost, though, the Euroleague team managed their qualities in a well-rounded way to then end the series after three more games. Nonetheless, Bonn got respect around the league for offering a tough series to Bamberg.
Ulm had to take on Ludwigsburg over an intense five games, then faced the number five seed EWE Baskets Oldenburg in the second round. When you think Oldenburg, then you think Rickey Paulding.. Paulding (34-years-old) signed his first contract in Oldenburg in 2007. Since then, he has never left Oldenburg — thus Oldenburg became Pauldingburg. Equipped with shooting, ball handling, footwork, and still very high athletic ability, the US-citizen does not age on court, already having played 405 BBL games.
— easyCredit BBL (@easyCreditBBL) 28. September 2016
In the five game series vs. Ulm, Paulding averaged 20 points per game, shooting 40% from long range and 50% from the field overall. Since it would not be fai, to not mention his teammates, though as this season review shouldn´t develop into a text overkill, let´s keep things short with a brief aside on point guard Chris Kramer. Coach Mladen Drijenčić rarely needs a backup to Kramer. Over the year, Kramer averaged over 35 minutes per game (in playoffs up to 36.5 minutes). Despite the heavy minutes load, he is known for his energetic high speed basketball in transition, going from coast to coast. Great conditioning.
Ulm appeared slightly less energetic in this series, or at least Oldenburg was better off in hiding their tiredness – which led them to winning games two and three and, to finally close out the series in game five (78-75 including 27 points from Paulding). Indeed, nobody had Oldenburg on their mind as a team likely to reach the finals. The series against Ulm turned out extremely close in most areas. In the end, both teams would’ve deserved the chance to go play for the championship.
To reach the final playoff stage, Brose Bamberg didn’t take long in round two. Bamberg schooled Munich in a sweep. Faced with a missing point guard that would have been tasked with organizing the team’s action on court, Munich was not able to compensate for their weaknesses. Meanwhile, Bamberg used their tremendous spacing and ball movement abilities to take advantage and dominate.
When Munich entered the league in 2011 fans feared the team, based on the financial powerhouse (the men´s soccer team) that stood behind the basketball organization. In terms of the last three years, that fear hasn´t become reality. This year’s roster, coached by Aleksandar Đorđević, was not able to offer a serious five game series to the champion. Since then, Marko Pešić has faced more and more criticism.
As for Bamberg, public reactions indicated the series vs. Munich would have been preferred despite Oldenburg’s great journey up to that point. Either way, Bamberg continued their streak, winning three games and consequently the championship. Oldenburg seemed even more tired than Ulm in the semis, and so was not capable of keeping up with Bamberg.
Winning the championship, Bamberg has perhaps established an era. Coached by the genius Andrea Trinchieri, the team managed to replace Brad Wanamaker in a proper way.
Bamberg is known to play the so-called “modern/ European” style of basketball. Based on spacing, passing, and individual skills Bamberg’s foundation is built. Bamberg found a way to play without one true point guard but rather uses Zisis, Lo, Strelnieks, and Causeur in various combinations. Further, forwards like Miller and Melli use their intelligence and passing qualities on court, so it is hard to identify one playmaker and cut him off from the ball. The oft-used phrase “to give up a good shot for a better one,” is heavily applied by this team, implemented by Trinchieri. At least in the playoffs, there was no other team able to approach Brose Bamberg’s quality and results.
— Chris Schmidt (@ChrisSchmidt27) 11. Juni 2017
From the business management perspective, Bamberg found a way to sign players with more than one year contracts and to build a sustainable core. Also, Trinchieri’s contract situation is settled for the upcoming season.The next challenge is already on BB’s board, as Nicolo Melli (EuroLeague’s MVP for the month of December) was crucial to their game in controlling the boards and scoring, and he’s on his way out (possibly to the NBA, Fenerbahçe is also rumored to be making a move).
Before coming to an end, we must name and congratulate the team of medi bayreuth. Last summer, bayreuth signed Raoul Korner as their new head coach and gave him power in terms of general team and organization management. Years before, bayreuth spent most of its time in the lower domestic ranks. Korner, who is known to demand and also display professionalism, developed the club. The team finished in fourth place this year, and Korner has already been able to sign some core players for the upcoming season. Understanding the importance of sustainability in basketball, bayreuth is on a very interesting path.
The playoffs, in the end, turned into a highly competitive race this year. During the regular season this was sometimes hard to see, as differences between middle/lower-class and top teams became obvious, and most games in those scenarios were lacking tension.
What remains interesting though, is how teams will shape their rosters during summer. Will Munich find a fit for their point guard position? How will Bamberg deal with players leaving to play for other Euroleague teams? Will Ulm keep Babb and Morgan? Which players will teams like Oldenburg, Bonn, Ludwigsburg, and Berlin sign to pursue a playoff run?