What do FIBA stats tell us about David Blatt?

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Multiple reports have the Cleveland Cavaliers in negotiations with David Blatt to be their next head coach.

Blatt, an American, has been a head coach in Europe for more than 15 years. He was also the coach of the Russian national team from 2006-2012.

Interestingly, the numbers from his last few years of FIBA competitions paint a different picture of Blatt’s style than the last few years of Euroleague competition.

Blatt’s Russia teams have been better defensively than offensively. They’ve also played slow and shared the ball at a high rate.

Russian national team rankings

Year Event Pace OffRtg DefRtg AST/FG
2010 World Championship 17 12 5 2
2011 Eurobasket 21 6 2 2
2012 Olympics 9 5 2 2

Pace = Possessions per 40 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The high assist rate corresponds with Blatt’s Princeton background. He played under Pete Carrill at the Ivy League school. Those Russia teams did not have an offensive star, but rather a lot of solid players who worked well together.

But while Blatt’s Maccabi Tel Aviv teams have also played slow, they haven’t assisted at a high rate. And they’ve been better offensively than defensively.

Maccabi Tel Aviv rankings

Season Pace OffRtg DefRtg AST/FG
2010-11 8 1 3 12
2011-12 15 6 12 19
2012-13 17 4 7 15
2013-14 17 4 13 11

via gigabasket

The good news is that Blatt has had success on both ends of the floor. The bad news is that he’ll likely have much of the same roster that Mike Brown had this season. Under Brown, the Cavs were the seventh most improved defensive team in the league, but they actually regressed defensively after acquiring Luol Deng from Chicago and finished with below average marks on both offense and defense.

For Blatt to succeed, he’ll need to get Kyrie Irving to share the ball, put some effort into the defensive end of the floor, and take on a leadership role. Really, how well this works out is more about Cleveland’s supposed franchise player than it is about their new coach.


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  2. DreamShake says:

    wow….an NBA columnist who judges 15 years of work by 4 international competitions stats. That is great coach scouting indeed…my 4 yr old nephew could have done some deeper research. And btw, to all of those who say “no need to go overseas for coaches”…that’s the same exact thing you said when dirk, tony or manu were drafted. And last, Blatt is not even the best coach you’ll find overthere….the best is named Ettore Messina.

    Out, like Wade’s jumper.

  3. Oz Osman says:

    Blatt, like European Basketball in general, cannot be appreciated through stats. Blatt is first and foremost smart. He knows how to get the best out of players everyone else gave up on. He’s an amazing scout and talent finder. He also has a proven record of doing more with less. He’s tough and demanding of his players and yet they love him and respect him. And after years in Maccbi Tel Aviv he knows all about egos and politics. This is going to be interesting.

  4. Bade says:

    Blatt has all it need to be a great NBA coach.

    He has the European wide experience, club & country, he’s won all possible competitions (almost) & has a great ratio of wins in close games.

    His play style is flexible & he has the ability to adjust the best style to the squad he has under his disposal & the league he’s contending.

    Mind you, he doesn’t have a “slow style”, usually the European game is slower than the NBA tempo, due to different foul rules (among other elements). I guess he can accommodate to the NBA life.

    He’s a very polite, modest & nice guy as well & he’s not shy to learn, improve & rethink style.

    In his last season he started badly, there were noises that his club would consider sacking him, but he proved everyone’s wrong & went to make a historical season with a treble of European trophy & the 2 domestic trophies with style.

  5. Vic says:

    So, recapitulating, part of the 90’s was about finding ‘gems’ overseas (players), now let’s find some new ‘gems’ (coaches) overseas!!! There is maybe a new Popovich hiding there!! Hohoho…

  6. Israeli says:

    First of all Israel is in the middle of 3 continents – Asia Africa and Europe so technically we can choose where to play or compete. years ago we played the World-Cup through competing against Asia’s teams. Right now we are part of Europe by so many ways and thats why we play the football and basketball leagues at the European ones. Moreover as a solid fact nowadays we basically can’t compete in Asia because almost half of it won’t play against israeli teams, for instance in the olympics some times when there is a match between an Iranian player/team and an Israeli one they are not showing up and they are having a technical lost…

  7. AndreyB says:

    Has a great %% of wins in close games. If it is within 1-2 posessions – almost never lost by his teams in Europe. Looking forward to see if it is continued in NBA. Known as a great motivator but with huge attention to detail. Coached mostly overachieving underdogs ending up with some titles under his belt.

    2 biggest issues. 1st – they do need more practice time, those coaches from Europe. They historically played 1-2 games per week and there has been a 3rd game in some limited weeks for only 2-3 last years. So expect him to originally have extra issues with back-to-backs and long series away from Cleveland when preactice time is especially limited.

    2nd – they rarely play series of games, a lot of single game eliminations. What he sais in the video above: “We would never beat such an opponent in a serie..” Only national play-offs are series until 2 or 3 wins. So if he ever gets to the playoffs – will be a great challenge for Blatt to adapt to that.

    • Uk says:

      well the last point isn’t exactly correct. First of all, if you come to think about it, most NBA coaches didn’t get to coach that much in a series because most teams don’t get to the playoff/eliminated early. Blatt on the other hand played in winning teams, so whenever there’s a playoff, he usually played the most of it.
      Second of all, the euroleague also has one series stage – when it comes down to the final eight. So I don’t think he is lacking anything on that front.
      Good luck Dave!!!

  8. imissthethunder says:

    He will have to get Kyrie to share the ball? That’s like saying get him and Waiters to be the Splash Brothers.

  9. rory ramirez says:

    So now everyone is going European.

  10. Diego says:

    Toronto and Vanciuver (former Grizz) were not in the Us, so why they played and still play in the NBA? Stupid united states native league. Your comment is very offensive in many ways, just look to your own but at first, to your so-called “America”(rs, dude) country?

  11. Bob says:

    The competition between coach Blatt and Tyronn Lue is ridiculous.
    With all do respect to Tyronn Lue, David Blatt is one the best coaches in the world today.
    Blatt has a proven experiment, and shows amazing results also when coming as an underdog.

  12. Whisker says:

    It would be the best decision Cavs have made in years, that’s why I think they will choose another guy.

  13. Shawn Kemp no. 1 says:

    For Blatt to succeed, he’ll need to get Kyrie Irving to share the ball, put some effort into the defensive end of the floor, and take on a leadership role.

    couldnt agree more, but thats not easy to do with someone who’s encouraged by his huge fanbase and everyone around him that he’s great as he is. that all star game MVP didn’t help much either. it’s all mental with this team. if they work hard and listen to their coach, they’re talented enough to get 4-5 in the eastern conference no problem.

  14. shotgun says:

    “…Blatt’s Maccabi Tel Aviv teams have also played slow…”: wrong. Maccabi was known for it’s fast-paced game & full-court pressure. Blatt prefers small & tenacious 1 & 2 gaurds (doron perkins & jeremy pargo, for instance), with a smart, defensive-oriented 3 small-forward.

    However, he is also adaptive, having worked miracles with squads that lacked the proper players and having altered the playing style entirely within rotations. Blatt has taken anonymous or regressing players, year after year, and have turned them into stars by building the team around them.

  15. Roy says:

    Blatt is great. You’ll see…

  16. S says:

    israel is not in europe, why do they even compete in the euroleague if they’re in asia (mid east) ?Stupid europe leagues…

    • Mleh says:

      agreed, plus Blatt was born in U.S but he tooks israel nationality

    • Isaac says:

      Flash news: Israel can’t compete in Asia due to political relationships, or should I say non-relationships with the surrounding Arab countries that are also in Asia.

  17. lacrampa says:

    blaseball needs to be invented and we could play it with a blatt