The phrase soon spread like wildfire and has become one of the sounds of the year in the world of sports. Noah Lyles stood out in the press room after winning gold as 100 meters champion at the World Championships in Budapest. The American sprinter charged against the old conception that the NBA champion is the world champion: “World champions of what? The United States? The United States is not the world. We need to get out of our bubble”.
His phrase came to complement a mantra that has more and more speakers within the world not only of basketball, but of sport in general. And it is no longer just in the mouths of fans. Players of the caliber of Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been some of those who have put the image on the radar. “The game is harder in Europe than it is in the NBA”assured the Greek.
An opinion that was also defended by Pedrag Danilovic, one of the first European stars to succeed in the NBA, in conversation with Relevo: “It is easier to play in the NBA than in Europe and I’ll explain it to you. In the Euroleague two or three players defended me. Not in the NBA. In the NBA, only one person defended me, so I just had to go to the corner and shoot.” But what is true in this statement? Why do European NBA stars say that basketball in the Old Continent is tougher than in the American league?
“In the Euroleague two or three players defended me. Not in the NBA. In the NBA only one person defended me, so I just had to go to the corner and shoot”
If we look at the advanced statistics of the two competitions we see that There is not that much difference, for example, in terms of defensive rating. That is, the points awarded per 100 possessions. Right now In Europe, the team with the best rating is Real Madrid with 100.5 points awarded per 100 possessionsaccording to 3stepsbasket statistics, while in the NBA at the beginning of the season The best team is the Minnesota Timberwolves with 100.4 points.
There is hardly any difference between the defenses of both competitions, just as there is no difference when it comes to measuring the offensive power between one basketball and the other. If we measure it in the same number of possessions, Barça, the team with the best offensive rating in the Euroleague right now (120.1) would be the second best team in the NBA only behind the Indiana Pacers (121.5). Another myth dismantled, which speaks of a more offensive basketball than in the past on the other side of the Atlantic.
Where there is the most difference is in the pace of play between both competitions and that can be seen by looking at the pace, that is, the number of possessions per minute played on both sides. In the Euroleague, at the beginning of the season, The team that plays the fastest is Real Madrid with 74.3 possessions per 40 minutes. That is to say, 1.98 per minute. In the NBA, more attacks happen in less time, being the Washington Wizards the team with the most offensive rhythm with 106.21 possessions for every 48 minutes. Or what is the same 2.21 possessions per 60 seconds.
Different defenses and different rules
“When I came to the NBA I was surprised. I didn’t expect to be so good at scoring. It’s 100% simpler”. The person who speaks like this is Luka Doncic, the second highest scorer in the NBA today and MVP of the Euroleague in 2018. The Slovenian came to the American league as a versatile player, capable of creating favorable situations for his teammates and capable of attacking at any time. situation. Two characteristics that have been enhanced in the United States thanks to rules that seek greater dynamism and that favor the 1v1 attack in which the quality of the attacker prevails.
You just have to look at Doncic’s data, who is the player who attacks the most times in clearing, taking advantage of the spaces left by his teammates and technical superiority. Or players who take advantage of their physique and his power at the start to leave his pair behind to score with ease. These are aspects that differentiate one basketball from another and why European players talk about being easier to attack in the NBA.
In the American league, the attacker is more protected and therefore contact or the use of hands is punished more, favoring the freedom of the player and the spaces that the attacker can generate. Thus In 2004, the rule sanctioning contact when the defender uses his hands was changed.
The typical video of Nikola Jokic adding 35 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals against GSW as if nothing had happened.
The typical Nikola Jokic video of any night. pic.twitter.com/JmVy1TuGZA
— NBASpain (@NBAspain) November 9, 2023
But perhaps the rule that changes basketball the most with respect to FIBA is that of the three defensive seconds, and that some players have known how to exploit it to take free kicks, which prevents a defender from spending more than that time in the restricted area unless he is actively defending the opponent. “In Europe a player like Rudy Gobert can be in the zone for an unlimited time”Doncic said in his speech on former player JJ Redick’s podcast. “Just because of that rule, a player in the NBA can score 10 points more easily.”
Not only the rules or the defenses – in the NBA individual ones predominate and there is hardly any help or changes – have allowed the paradigm shift between defensive toughness between competitions. The largest width of the court in the NBA (28.7×15.2 compared to the 28×15 measured in FIBA basketball) and the spacing in today’s basketball they mean that the NBA has a little more time to make decisions, as Nikola Jokic pointed out when asked about the differences between one basketball and another. “The court is smaller and you have to think faster. In the NBA you can see the help coming. In Europe, when you want to realize it, you already have it on you so you have to think before.”
“The field is smaller and you have to think faster”
Myths and truths about a paradigm shift in the conception of basketball and where the NBA was previously seen on a much higher plane than European basketball, now it seems that both dimensions are increasingly closer, as recalled Frank Kaminsky, who this season has changed the United States for Belgrade. “The game is more physical“Although there are differences in the rules, it is definitely more difficult to score here.” Perhaps that is why more and more players decide to change their scene in the opposite direction to what they have done all their lives.
Passionate about basketball since he was a child, Guillermo García has managed to make the sport of basketball his profession. Graduated in Humanities from the Carlos III University and with a Master in Journalism, he began working at Marca in 2003, where he had time to do everything from football to reports and opinion, including the closing section. In 2011 he began as an editor on the official NBA website in Spanish and since then he has covered basketball information with special attention to what is happening in the United States. In addition, he has covered two Eurobasket, two World Cups and two Olympic Games, along with a multitude ACB playoffs, NBA and Euroleague Final Four games. He has also been able to interview figures from other sports such as Usain Bolt, Simone Biles or Armand Duplantis. …
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