BBL Maths digs into the details behind the BBL Cup Finals

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This is it, this Sunday – the first major final of the season is HERE! The Leicester Riders defend their BBL Cup title against the London Lions and we’ve teamed up with BBL Maths to take a deep-dive into the analytics behind both finalists! Read on for some incredible insights from BBL Maths’ Ali Gilfillan.

The Depth Chart

In recent years, the Riders have ran a primary nine-man
rotation consisting of two bigs, three ball-handlers and four wings all getting
significant minutes. It’s been enough to land them five of the last six BBL
Championship titles (excluding the 2019/20 season), as arguably the deepest
squad in that period, but the London Lions’ depth this year is on another

Competing in the 7Days EuroCup, the Lions have invested in more players, with inactive lists that would make for fairly formidable BBL starting fives. Coach Schmidt has an embarrassment of riches, as we can see here, as the Lions have more quality (more players with a higher Box Plus/Minus) across all positions.

How these two teams perform

We have the two best teams in the BBL facing off against
each other per net rating. The Lions lead the way for defensive rating and rank
second in offensive rating, which the Riders top, with the Sharks pushing
Leicester into third on defensive rating.

Breaking into the Four
Factors of Success
(see below!), Riders and Lions take the top two spots in
effective field goal percentage scored and allowed, demonstrating that these
are two teams who know how to generate great shots for themselves and force bad
looks for their opponents.

An area for Leicester to focus in on with regards to chinks in London’s offence would be turnovers. London rank third in terms of forcing teams into turnovers with their defensive intensity, but are the second-worst themselves at turning the ball over. This will surely be a key area of focus for both teams.

• Shooting: effective field goal percentage: adjusts raw FG% by to reflect the value of 3 point shots made.
• Rebounding: the % of rebounds secured after a missed shot.
• Turnovers: estimate of the number of turnovers by the team per 100 possessions.
• Free-throws: the number of made free-throws divided by the number of field goals attempted.

The Floor Generals

With back-to-back BBL MVP Geno Crandall moving on from
the Morningside Arena this summer, it is no secret – nor is it surprising,
given his immense talent – that the Riders have struggled to fill the hole left
by their former play-calling talisman.

Having relied heavily on last year’s backup guards Conner
Washington and Kimbal Mackenzie so far this season, they’ve landed on their fourth
import point guard in Carrington Love, who will suit up for the first time for
Leicester in the final. In this setting with this team, he is a complete
unknown quantity, but boy would the Riders love a Crandall-esque performance
from him in Sunday’s showdown.

Taking to the court for the Lions to run the plays will
likely be another mid-season acquisition in Jordan Taylor, who is fast
establishing himself as one of the BBL’s best floor generals.

Comparing the guards who have been running the offense since the beginning of the season, we see some contrasting abilities. Luke Nelson is the more creative of the two, but Mackenzie’s security is superior. They have similar passing abilities, but Nelson is a bigger three-point threat, more able to spread the floor and open space for cutters inside.

• Creativity: An estimate of the number of open shots created for team mates per 100 possessions.
• Security: Turnover % adjusted by Box Creation. Punishes primary ball handlers less than traditional turnover %.
• Passing: An estimate of the quality of a players passes, based on box score and play-by-play derived stats.
• Spacing: Three point percentage adjusted for frequency, component of Box Creation. Higher volume shooters are bigger threats, so space the floor more.

The gunslingers

In the BBL’s (unofficial) Mid-season awards, Sam Dekker
was unanimously selected as the favourite for the season-ending MVP award. The
three BBL pundits
are backed up by Box Plus Minus calculations in
predicting Dekker as the Player of the Season, however he’s played fewer
minutes than Leicester’s top player by BPM, Marc Loving. There is almost
nothing to separate these two players in terms of True
Points Added
for their respective teams, but the caveat is that Dekker is
producing this level of impact in almost half of the minutes that Loving plays.

Comparing the two’s player profiles shows the gulf in BPM. Dekker’s is historic – last season’s MVP Geno Crandall posted a league-leading BPM of 9.1, compared to Dekker’s 13.9 so far this year. The other striking difference is in shot charts. Dekker relies on shots at the rim with some threes thrown in, in a classic NBA-style efficient shot profile. Loving will take more shots in the midrange, whilst also staying outside the three-point line more than Dekker.

It’s another key match-up to watch: if Loving gets hot from deep, and Dekker misfires on the perimeter, it could be decisive.

Whilst the statistics show the Lions in the ascendancy in many key areas and why many pundits have dubbed them as favourites for Sunday’s showdown, the Riders and their Head Coach Rob Paternostro have the experience in BBL finals to get the job done as well. One thing is for sure: I can’t wait for this one!

Ready for the action on Sunday afternoon!? Click below to tune into the game LIVE on Sky Sports’ YouTube.