They live and die off streaks but Efes need to find what they are if they are to make a legitimate Final Four push according to Emmet Ryan
On paper this team is stacked. Heurtel, Saric, Granger, Diebler, Dunston, Tyus, Osman, are the type of names that belong on a Final Four roster. This side is stacked to compete both in Turkey and Europe yet in neither has it really stepped up and shown the consistency of a team to be feared.
It’s more than sluggishness or a failure to gel, were it that simple this would be a series of tweets not a column. No, Efes are a team with a problem that is just not what you expect from a Dusan Ivkovic team. They disappear with regularity, en masse, but somewhere along the way put together a crazy 10 to 15 minute run that either ends a game or makes a bad defeat look like it was avoidable.
Streakiness has been the identity of the Istanbul club throughout the autumn and as they hit the meat of winter and spring, that’s the facet of their game that needs to go. Removing it might finally look plausible, in spite of a typical performance in Round 1 of the Top 16.
The clash with Zvezda was by the book Efes this season. A team they should beat takes the game to them, Efes look done, then a furious late rally saves the day. Through 9 games of the regular season, this was the norm and they only fell into the second seed (and with it avoided Group F) due to putting together their first real 40 minute performance of the season. Even that requires an asterisk as Olympiacos had nothing to play for and didn’t want to risk getting anyone hurt. Oly were happy to let Efes find themselves at the SEF while they made sure their core players didn’t tweak anything.
Were it just in Euroleague, this situation could come down to the effort of trying to fight on two fronts. It’s not secret that the league in Turkey is absolutely stacked this year, giving far fewer soft games than in recent seasons, but we have seen with their wins over Trabzonspor and Usak along with defeat at Gazientep that these Jekyll and Hyde displays are pretty common in league play too.
The good news for them is that there is nothing there that can’t be fixed. They aren’t in a hole anywhere. At 9-3, they are part of a crowded top end of the table in Turkey. Having avoided dropping that game to Zvezda, they have avoided a rough start to the Top 16 and are still clearly favoured to emerge from Group E.
The big focus has to be on the start of the offence. There is far too much reliance right now on Heurtel being healthy and we can take it to the bank that a pure PG of his standard isn’t coming in as back up. Heurtel’s a great fit for this system but Efes looked disjointed without him. Who the creator was didn’t seem obvious. That’s where you look at your alternatives. In Granger, Saric, and Osman, you have guys who can create their own shot and, more importantly, make room for those around them to take on more of the creative duties. Diebler was brought in to be a threat from and he’s made a good career out of that but even he can play a role here. Diebler’s three threat is expected so ask him to take on some of the duties and look for ways to get him to work off Osman whose usage is still shockingly low considering the motor he has.
Most importantly, Efes don’t have to try any of what I just said and they still have a wealth of options. When you are stacked you have to look at what you do with that. Fener are only just working that out but they are well ahead of Efes in that learning process. Efes are too focused on putting the load on Heurtel. He can take it but why should he have to? Indeed, what’s the upside in making him do so?
Duda has a really deep roster here and so far the focus has seemed to be on getting everyone in the game, not finding new ways to use these guys. Granger has never played with a roster this talented, Diebler has never played with one this deep, and Dunston has never been featured like this. Those are big adjustments and just getting them reps is only part of the deal. It’s about finding ways to make these clearly talented players involved that the opponent doesn’t see coming.
If this sounds like Basketball 101 that’s largely because it is. The puzzle of Efes is that they have a tremendous mind behind them and he’s not doing what we expect of him, which is usually some form of marvellous sight. He’s got the players to do it and, most importantly, he’s got 13 more games to get them flowing.