Winning titles or medals, remarkable team achievements or wins and reputation. Those are some of the main reasons that a player can be attracted by a team during negotiations. A lot of them however have another strong motivation to offer : personal development. A vast amount of players at some point of their career are looking for a club that can give them the chance to earn a better contract or join a stronger side in the future.
This research aims to shed light on European basketball transfer market. More specifically, on Euroleague Basketball. The purpose of the author is to examine under which conditions a player can move to a better team, and where is more probable to achieve that. To do so, all relevant transfers of participating teams from 2005 and afterwards are analyzed using a point system. The results displayed address to answer whether or not there is a team that offers better conditions than others to a player to show his potential and ability in order to make the next step up in his career.
Purpose and case study of the research
Reaching the peak in basketball rarely can be achieved rapidly. Athletes have to pass through various stages before managing to join a successful club in their country or in a more competitive league. European basketball could not be an exception to that. A lot of teams, especially those that are not considered strong ones, have been a “step” for players. This will be the main topic of this research as well. Specifically, in which Euroleague Basketball team and why players can found the biggest room for development and earn a better contract.
Even though there are many teams that can be a strong candidate for this unofficial title, this research will emphasize only in Euroleague clubs, since it is the most prestigious competion in Europe. Having this in mind, the following conditions should be met :
- The team participated at least for one season in Euroleague Basketball between 2005 and 2017.
- After leaving the club, the player joined another Euroleague or NBA side. Or at least the team that won the Eurocup Basketball the following year.
Teams will be divided into three levels. The criteria used will be their reputation, recent achievements, strength of squad and consistency. There are some teams that always belong to the top level, such as CSKA Moscow, Panathinaikos Athens and Barcelona and others that always belong to the lowest level, such as Cedevita and Alba Berlin. Furthermore, there are a few special cases. For example, Real Madrid now can be found in the top level. But back in 2006 or 2007 it was not so successful. In fact, it was below Barcelona, Baskonia (or TAU Ceramica) and even Unicaja Malaga probably.
The researcher will try to give an answer to the main question mentioned before. To do so, a point system will be used to evaluate the success of a team in producing or discovering prospects. According to this system, one point will be awarded if the next team of the player belongs to the same level, two points if it belongs to one level higher etc. If he moves to NBA five points will be awarded to the team. Only his first transfer is taken into consideration.
Further clarification of consistency and strength of squad
It is important to point out the “consistency” and “strength of squad” factors for that classification. Lokomotiv Kuban has qualified once in the Final – Four in two appearances in the competition. However, this does not make it a level “A” team. Probably a level “B” team, since it has not appeared again since then. Strength of squad also plays an important role for a team when moving one level up or down. The strength of squad at the beginning of the season should not be confused with its final record. Olympiakos Piraeus in 2010 – 2011 was a level “A” team, with 2 consecutive appearances in the Final Four. However, one year later major changes happened to the team, the budget was reduced dramatically, and in a few months it moved one level down. It is interesting though that at the end of that season, Olympiakos won the trophy.
Short Euroleague Basketball history
From 2005 to 2017, 65 different teams have participated in Euroleague Basketball in total. However, only 9 of them have not missed a single season. These have a guaranteed contract. Throughout those years, approximately one third of this number has appeared at least 4 times (22 teams). Some domestic leagues are so competitive, that every year a different club qualifies to Euroleague Basketball. And there is no better example than France. Despite being the country with the most clubs that have appeared in the competition since 2005 (12 in total), none of them has made it more than 3 times.
Most points awarded to a team
That being said, it is obvious that by using absolute indexes, teams having advantage are either those that have many appearances and/or those that belong to the mid or low level, since they have more options to send players. This is evident on the below chart, with the top – 10 teams in terms of total points. Only Partizan Belgrade and Brose Baskets Bamberg have missed more than 1 season.
Saski Baskonia leads the list. Not only it has earned the most points, but also provided the most transfers only behind Anadolu Efes. Barcelona’s position is probably what should be pointed out. Despite being in level “A”, the 62 points are quite an impressive number, especially in comparison with the other teams of the same level. This is due to the fact that a lot of players have moved or returned to NBA after Barcelona. Ricky Rubio, Ersan Ilyasova and Alex Abrines are just a few names.
What happens with teams with less appearances
If the list is compiled in terms of average indexes, there is a significant difference in the result. Only teams which have at least 2 appearances are eligible for this classification. Now, Crvena Zvezda Belgrade claim to unofficial title. This time, teams that do not have long history or great achievements in the competition, see their position getting improved. Crvena Zvezda is in its 5th season this year. Since 2013 however it has boosted the career of 10 players, most of them Serbians. Lottomatica Roma, Galatasaray and Khimki Moscow can be found high in that list. The four of them have 17 appearances cumulatively in Euroleague Basketball, but their percentage of minimum success (defined by qualifying to quarter – finals for a level “B” or “C” team such as them) is only 11.76% .
The paradox (?) of average points
But which team provides the best transfers? In other words, which has the highest average points per transfer index (again minimum 2 appearances)? A few paragraphs earlier, Barcelona was mentioned. Below the reader can see that on the relevant graph Barcelona is by far on the 1st position. It is the club that has sent to NBA the most players out of the 65 included in this research. 12 in total.
Even though it would be a fair assumption that level “B” or “C” teams could appear often in this list, 50% of teams in this final list have always or most of the times been level “A” teams. How can this be interpreted? That NBA teams often pick players from top European clubs, either because they have already proven their value (and therefore their potential is less unknown maybe) or because they have experience playing under pressure to succeed.
The final pie chart displays the distribution of those transfers. As it is probably expected, the majority of transfers are from and to teams of same level. What is surprising though is that the numbers of transfers to NBA is nearly double the number of transfers to one level up and the same as two levels up. 42 out of 105 transfers to NBA were from level “A” teams, an impressive number provided that there are no more than 6 or 7 clubs considered to be top every year.
The obvious reason is that NBA is a dream for the majority of players. So the answer to dilemma “NBA or Europe” is quite obvious usually. Furthermore, when a team is underachieving some of its players are underachieving as well. So it is more difficult to evaluate their true future or current abilities.
The “king” of transfers in Euroleague
Combining the results of all the previous graphs and analyses, it would be a fair point to make that Saski Baskonia is the team that enables players to unleash their potential the most. It is a team that has established itself amongst the top – 8 most successful in Euroleague Basketball since 2005. In addition, many players have developed a lot during their presence at Vitoria. Luis Scola to Houston Rockets, Tiago Splitter to San Antonio Spurs, Mirza Teletovic to Brooklyn Nets, Shane Larkin to Boston Celtics and many more. Their transfer to Baskonia proved to be a crucial decision in their careers.
The team based in Basque country is great at finding and selling players. Most of those players either were Euroleague rookies when they joined Baskonia or had not reached their peak yet. Its president José Antonio Querejeta is also a great businessman. Due to his negotiation skills, Baskonia has been paid million of euros in buyouts. This is very important, since in basketball the majority of transfers are free. Tornike Shengelia and Johannes Voigtmann are the next prospects.
The remarkable cases
Apart from Baskonia, there are three more teams worth looking at for different reasons.
- Partizan Belgrade. The historic team has not played in Euroleague Basketball since 2013, but has been great at developing players through its own academies. Many of those who became famous at Partizan, were part of its youth system or joined the club at a young age.
- Brose Baskets Bamberg. Year by year the German side is probably improving its reputation, even though it has not made it to quarter – finals yet. By taking a closer look to Bamberg, it bears many similarities to Saski Baskonia. Getting relatively unknown players and then making them popular is what they are good at. Kyle Hines had played only 2 years of professional basketball in Italian LegaDue, before joining Bamberg in August 2010. 11 months later, he moved to Olympiakos Piraeus. Now he has won 3 times the Euroleague title.
- Anadolu Efes. 31 players have moved from Efes all those years to other similar or better teams. However, it is a total different case than Baskonia or Bamberg. The reason is that every year it invests million of euros to attract some of the best available players. But the results are very discouraging. 4 appearances in the quarter – finals could not be considered as an achievement for a team that usually has one of the biggest budgets. Therefore, massive changes in their squad take place quite often.
Overall, it seems that teams which belong to the second level are usually the ones which could play the role of a “step” in the career of a player. The results of the research probably confirm the assertion that playing for sides such as Baskonia, Bamberg or Partizan can help a player to earn a great transfer. Moreover, another interesting conclusion was that it is more probable to move to NBA from a top level team than a mid or low level team.
Euroleague.net. (n.d.). Turkish Airlines EuroLeague – Welcome to EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL. [online] Available at: https://goo.gl/ZPxrJJ [Accessed 31 Jan. 2018].
Basketball-Reference.com. (n.d.). EuroLeague Statistics and History | Basketball-Reference.com. [online] Available at: https://goo.gl/xkHkWG [Accessed 31 Jan. 2018].