CSKA Moscow’s Nikola Milutinov used Round 17 to redefine what it means to own the glass in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
With AX Armani Exchange Milan taking on CSKA Moscow, FC Bayern Munich heading to FC Barcelona, and Anadolu Efes Istanbul playing Real Madrid, Round 17 had multiple games with implications at the top of the standings. Bayern and Madrid both secured multi-possession victories, leaving the extremely competitive game between Milan and Moscow as the highlight of the week. In an overtime game that saw both teams struggle uncharacteristically from beyond the arc, Nikola Milutinov scored 17 points, but emerged as a hero by virtue of his efforts on the offensive glass.
Securing 16 offensive rebounds in 32.2 minutes of action, Milutinov helped CSKA dominate the possessions battle, allowing his team to overcome a lackluster shooting performance and earn the type of hard-fought road victory that is always hard to come by in the EuroLeague. Using 111 possessions while facing just 88 of Milan’s, CSKA rode a stellar effort on the boards to one of the largest possession disparities in EuroLeague history. Considering that the win came by just 4 points, there’s little question that rebounding was the difference.
From basic counting stats, to per-minute averages, to the percentage of available rebounds secured, there are a variety of ways to measure rebounding and frame a team’s porudction on the glass. In their game against Milan, CSKA broke the EuroLeague record for total offensive rebounds in a game due in large part to the fact that Nikola Milutinov shattered the individual record. Grabbing 16 caroms on the offensive end, Milutinov broke a three-way tie for the previous record of 11 first set in 2001 and last matched during the 2005-06 campaign. CSKA’s 30 offensive rebounds was similarly a significant jump from the previous team record of 25.
While counting stats provide a valuable baseline, for rebounding purposes, percentages paint a more complete picture of a player or team’s performance. For example, a player grabbing 8 defensive rebounds is not abnormal, but if that player grabbed those 8 rebounds while being on the floor for only 20 missed shots, that relatively unremarkable total become infinitely more impressive. In Round 17, Milutinov secured his 16 rebounds while being on the floor for 41 of CSKA’s missed shots or free throws, meaning that he grabbed just under 40% of the avilable rebounds on that end of the floor.
That number coincides nicely with the figure above which displays the top four teams in offensive rebound percentage this season. CSKA’s 38% mark is on pace to be the top mark in modern EuroLeague history by a comfortable margin. Much of their success can be traced to Milutinov, whose 23% mark is on pace to eclipse the all-time individual record.
As much as there’s a variety of ways to measure rebounding, the value of those rebounds also varies. 41% of all offensive rebounds result in put-backs, or situations where the rebounder immediately goes back up to shoot after securing the miss. The remainder result in passes to another player, who typically resets the rebounding team’s offense. Though resets are more common, put-backs are more efficient, worth an average of 1.14 points per possession this season. Taking that a step further, tip-ins, or situations when the rebounder bats the ball back at the rim in the air, have been worth just 0.99 points per possession while situations where the player secures the ball, lands, and goes back up have been significantly more efficient. Though not all situations allow for a quick second-chance, there are more layers of value to an offensive rebound than just an extra possession.
Looking Ahead to Round 18
Conveniently, the top two teams on the graphic above face off in Round 18 as CSKA travels to Spain to take on Baskonia in an interesting strength-on-strength affair. However, the contest between Valencia Basket and FC Barcelona is at least as interesting on paper. Barcelona has lost its last three games, but still leads the EuroLeague in points-per-possession allowed by a significant margin. Valencia, in contrast, is within striking distance of leading the EuroLeague in offensive efficiency. After falling to Barcelona at home back in Round 3, the visitors will look to take their revenge in Palau Blaugrana this week.