Teams in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague do not always push the tempo, but when they do, they tend to be extremely efficient. According to Synergy Sports Technology, transition situations make up 10% of all possessions this season – a number that has remained stable over the last decade. Those chances have been converted for an average of 1.19 points per possession, ranking transitions among the most efficient offensive actions in the 2018-19 EuroLeague.
Despite their high value, transition opportunities are always difficult to come by at this level. EuroLeague teams make a concerted effort to limit open-floor opportunities by consistently putting the brakes on opponents who attempt to push the tempo of the game or gain an odd-man advantage. With all 18 teams averaging between 6.9 and 13.4 transition points per game this season, transition scoring is driven by opportunism rather than blind aggression.
Transition Scoring in the 2018-19 EuroLeague
The graph above displays the placement of every player in the EuroLeague in transition scoring compared to transition usage this season. It reveals some notable trends pertaining to how teams operate in the open court.
Few teams rely on a single individual player to push the ball or score in transition. In fact, Mike James leads the league in transition usage, but still only accounts for 29% of AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan’s transition possessions this season. More than half of the 205 EuroLeague players who have used at least one transition possessions this season have used no more than 10 of them through the end of Round 18. Just 16 players have used more than 25 transition possessions. For most EuroLeague players, transition offense starts with a combination of hustle and being in the right place at the right time.
Despite the relative balance of transition scoring across the lineups of most teams, efficiency can vary significantly from player to player. Among the 16 players to use over 25 transition possessions, scoring efficiency ranges anywhere from 1.56 points per possession to 0.78 points per possession. Not all players approach attacking the defense in the open floor the same way, and it shows on paper not just for high-volume players, but for low-volume ones as well.
On top of that, not all transition opportunities are created equal. Among the most notable ways players score in transition, possessions used by the ball handler result in 1.05 points per possession; possessions used by players running the wings are converted for 1.22 points per possession; and hit-aheads or leak-outs generate an average of 1.47 points per possession. It is unsurprising, then, that a player like Will Clyburn of CSKA Moscow – who uses almost two-thirds of his transition possessions off the ball – holds a decided advantage in efficiency over a player like James, who handles the ball on more than three-quarters of his transition possessions.
Even with each player’s role factoring prominently into transition efficiency, every type of transition possession except those used by trailers results in a more-efficient scoring chance than the average half-court possession. As a result, there’s value in players who can create something out of nothing in the open floor as well as defenses that can regroup quickly and limit those chances. The battle for transition supremacy in a EuroLeague game is not the chess match that pick-and-roll defense tends to be, or even the grind resulting from teams vying for an advantage on the boards, but it is one worth monitoring in many games.