It’s all in the stats for Maccabi: Defensive rebounds to 3-pointers, Yellow & Blue need to analyze the numbers

Dec 5, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Let’s face it, Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Euroleague 2022/23 season is heading towards being a disaster. There is no way around that fact and there’s no sense in trying to sugar coat it. The yellow-and-blue have played way below expectations and the most concerning part is that they seem to have been regressing over the past six games as the weeks go by and the contests are checked off from the continental schedule. With a third of the season now in the books, Oded Katash’s team is 5-6, one game under .500 while only having won once in their last six games. There’s no question that Maccabi are in trouble. 

It’s clear that at this point of the season the yellow-and-blue should be coming together more and more like a team rather than coming apart at the seams which has been the case over the past week especially with the Darrun Hilliard suspension for unspecified reasons. While Hilliard has been reinstated, Katash has to hope that any damage within the team can be overcome and the fact that many top of the line Euroleague players and former stars publicly came to his defense most probably did not help matters. 

Darrun Hilliard – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

In the front court, big man Alex Poythress seems to have played his last game of the campaign as he will need to undergo surgery on his hand which will keep him off the court for 4-6 months. Poythress tried to play through the injury but at the end of the day will need to go under the knife sooner rather than later leaving yet another hole that Maccabi will need to fill. 

Add into the mix an Israeli league loss against Hapoel Jerusalem in the Israeli Classico and at home nonetheless and the pressure is mounting around the club with a tough schedule ahead in continental action. A blowout victory over Hapoel Beer Sheva in domestic play is nice but it’s not really a litmus test as to where Maccabi needs to be. With a trip to Italy for Milano and Bologna, a jaunt to Germany for ALBA Berlin and home dates versus surging Valencia and two-time defending champions Anadolu EFES awaiting Katash this will most certainly be a pivotal month for the team. To get a better sense as to why Maccabi has struggled mightily one must dive into some of the  statistics to see why they are sitting where they are right now in the month of December. The team defense has somehow sunk to the bottom of the Dead Sea over the past half dozen games. After holding opponents to 76.4 points over the course of the first 5 games of the season which led to a 4-1 record, Maccabi has given up on average 91.5 points per game over the past six contests, more than 15 (!) points per game than they had earlier in the season. It’s very, very hard to win in the Euroleague when you are giving up over 90 points a game on a consistent basis. In fact, it’s almost an impossibility.

On the offensive side over that same time period, Katash’s squad moved from 81.2 points per game to 83.5 points which of course is nowhere near they have to be should they be giving up over 90 points per matchup. It should be also noted that of the past 6 games, 4 were on the road while only one of the first five were away from the friendly confines of Yad Eliyahu. However, it’s crystal clear that the defense is a disaster zone with no improvement in sight. In terms of fouls or lack there of, Maccabi Tel Aviv is also in trouble having had issues getting to the charity stripe as they sit in 17th place with only 207 fouls drawn. The yellow-and-blue are 12th overall or 16.3 per game in free throws attempted but they still need to see a marked improvement on that number as Monaco are well over 20 a game in first with 22.5. In today’s game, it’s also crucial to be able to play beyond the arc and also be able to hit 3-pointers at a decent clip. Unfortunately, Katash’s charges are struggling in both departments shooting only 23.6 triples per game good for 12th place while only hitting 34.6% of them for 14th.

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

To add insult to injury, over the last six games, Maccabi has allowed their opponents the opportunity to go 66/156 for 42% from deep whereas the first five games they were able to protect the 3-point line to the tune of 42/126 for 33%. Those numbers are just not going to cut it and Katash will need to improve his exterior defense if the team has any designs to compete with the big boys.

One of the more disturbing stats is the lack of defensive rebounding which sees Maccabi in 16th place, pulling down 21.5 boards per game. On the offensive glass the yellow-and-blue are first checking in with 11.7 for an overall average of 33.2 good for 9th of 18 teams. The issue is that not only is Katash’s team so weak on the defensive boards, but that two of his bigs in Josh Nebo and Alex Poythress have had issues in the defensive paint with 2.3 (last season 3.8) and 1.9 (last season 2.5) rebounds respectively which place them in 71st (12th) and 101st (61st) overall with Lorenzo Brown and Wade Baldwin ahead of them. The pair of guards would be better off on the receiving end of those rebounds so that they can run the fast break which is what they are good at instead of getting the rebounds and then making the outlet pass first. 

If one digs even deeper into the advanced statistics on the boards, the situation is even worse for Nebo and Poythress. Looking at defensive rebound percentage which is the estimated percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained while on court, the pair sit 89th (13.2%) and 162nd (8.5%) respectively. For the sake of comparison the top 10 are at 19% which makes the Maccabi duo’s production even more concerning. Last year Nebo was in 14th with 20.3% and Poythress was 42nd at 15.8%. What has happened to the bigs? Poythress will now be on the shelf while Nebo admitted that he needs to be more assertive on the defensive end, it’s obviously not all on them and Katash has got to find a way to work to Nebo and a yet to be signed big man’s strengths. 

Alex Poythress – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Yes, Maccabi leads the league in blocked shots with 4 players in the top 25 including not only Poythress and Nebo but also Bonzie Colson and Roman Sorkin as they average 4.5 blocks per game. But while the blocked shots are a positive, the overall defense has suffered and suffered mightily over the past 6 games.

If we look at the guards Lorenzo Brown and Wade Baldwin on the offensive side of the ball, the assist to turnover ratio also takes a hit as well as the former went from 2.05 to 1.45 while the latter shot down from 2.56 to 1.69. 

In order for Maccabi Tel Aviv to make an impact this season in Europe and find their way back to the postseason, they not only need to get the house in order but also need to find a way to improve on the areas listed above. So not only has the defense suffered but so has the offense As the playmakers have been pressured while ball handling.

Lorenzo Brown – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

In the day and age where statistics are used across the board in sports of all types, Katash needs to use that as a blueprint in order to wade through the waters and make the right moves to get the team back onto the right track. 

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