Euroleague First Trimester Awards

With 10 rounds down, the Euroleague regular season is officially 1/3 completed. While there are still 20 rounds to go until the playoffs, and teams still have pending roster/coaching moves to make to either maintain, improve, or turn-around their postseason hopes, the landscape in European professional basketball’s premier league is starting to get clearer.

So, to recap these first 10 games of the “new and improved” (and it really is improved; I dig this 30-round, 16-team format way more than the old “24-team Regular Season” and “Top 16” split season format), I will be handing out awards and honors from the first 10 games of this season. Yes, I know it’s early, and I imagine that many of these awards/honors will change over the course of the next 20 games. That being said, it is still important to recognize the Euroleague teams and individual players and coaches who have succeeded (and disappointed) thus far.

Best Team: CSKA Moscow

dimitris-itoudis-cska-moscow-eb16

 
As always, the premier Russian club has handled high expectations almost flawlessly. Nando de Colo was having another “MVP-esque” season, averaging 21 ppg and a PIR of 23.2 until his thigh injury sidelined him after seven games. However, even though they lost the reigning Euroleague MVP, they haven’t missed a beat, as Milos Teodosic has taken the sole mantle of leadership in de Colo’s absence. The Serbian is averaging 18.7 ppg, 8.2 apg and a PIR of 19.6.

While CSKA however has been the best team thus far over the first 10 games of the Euroleague campaign, their title will be threatened quickly over the next 20 games. Not only is de Colo out for a good period of time (he was expected to miss “several weeks”), CSKA’s depth is not nearly as dangerous as their title squad a year ago. After de Colo and Teodosic, nobody else has a PIR average over 10 except for Jeff Ayres, who has only played four games. Furthermore, the defense has looked shaky as of late in de Colo’s absence, as CSKA needed a buzzer beater to bail them out against last-place Brose Baskets Bamberg in a 90-88 win. CSKA ranks 11th in the league in points allowed, and though that’s not necessarily the best indicator of defensive effectiveness, it still shows that they aren’t quite elite in that category in comparison to offense (they lead the league in points scored).

With de Colo’s health, and CSKA’s supporting cast around Milos and Nando shakier than in seasons past, it could open the door for Real Madrid, who actually has a better points differential (+95 to CSKA’s +91) despite a worse record (7-3 to CSKA’s 9-1). Real has incredible depth, especially in the post, as Gustavo Ayon, Felipe Reyes, Othello Hunter and Anthony Randolph all offer different yet impactful skills to the table. Furthermore Sergio Llull is putting up a MVP-worthy campaign as the primary point guard with Sergio Rodriguez now in Philly, and Luka Doncic is turning into a budding point-wing superstar (and remember he’s only 17 years old). CSKA may be the best team now after 10 games, but Real could steal that title after Round 20, perhaps even sooner.

Runner up: Real Madrid.

MVP: Milos Teodosic, CSKA

milos-teodosic-cska-moscow-eb16

These past three games with Nando out of the lineup proves how important and effective Teodosic is to this CSKA team. Yes, de Colo is an essential part to this CSKA squad, and as stated before, an MVP-caliber player. However, I don’t know if they finish 9-1 after 10 games if Teodosic and de Color reverse roles. Teodosic is simply the unquestioned leader of this team, and at the point, he has been able to maximize his teammates’ effectiveness on the floor in ways that I don’t think any other Euroleague player today could, de Colo included. His combination of floor vision and offensive ability make him one of Europe’s most valuable commodities, and a key reason why CSKA will be gunning for another Final Four spot, and perhaps a successful defense of their crown.

That being said, Sergio Llull has been surging as of late, being the kind of playmaking guard that could make Los Blancos a “super-team” by season’s end. Llull is second in the league in PPG at 18.9 and also has 6 apg and a PIR average of 18.1. And he did this despite starting off the year atrociously from beyond the arc (he has gotten it up as of late, but it is still lackluster at 29.4 percent). The Teodosic-Llull MVP race will be interesting to follow throughout the Regular Season, as whichever team finishes the season with a better record could swing the MVP award for their respective point guard superstar.

Runner up: Sergio Llull

Most Entertaining Player: Keith Langford, UNICS Kazan

keith-langford-unics-kazan-eb16

Russian club UNICS Kazan is probably going to finish near the bottom of the Euroleague by season’s end, (and their 3-7 start doesn’t help many people think differently). However, despite their lackluster outlook and record, as well as home court attendance (watching UNICS home games are depressing considering the amount of empty seats; it resembles a women’s community college basketball game crowd), they sport one of the Euroleague’s most entertaining players in Keith Langford. The former Kansas Jayhawk leads the league in scoring average (23.2) and PIR average (24.2). And he is far from a one-trick pony, as he is also averaging 4.1 rebounds per game and 4.2 assists per game.

Plain and simple: the lefty scorer can do it all, and is not just key, but really the reason for any success UNICS has experienced and will experience this season. There won’t be a lot of highs this year for UNICS. Their appearance this season has all the signs of a “one and done” Euroleague team. That being said, the spectacular Langford makes this team somewhat competitive and worth watching on a week-by-week basis.

Runners up: Milos Teodosic, CSKA; Nicolo Melli, Brose Baskets Bamberg.

Best Coach: Sito Alonso, Baskonia

sito-larkin-620

Yes, Dimitris Itoudis and Pablo Lasso deserve credit for making CSKA and Real Madrid, respectively, the best two teams in Europe. And yes, after the top-three teams (Fenerbahce being the third), it’s a crapshoot four-through-nine. However, while they are 6-4 and are still a bit unpredictable, Baskonia has been a pleasant surprise this season. And new head coach Sito Alonso deserves a lot of credit for making Baskonia a playoff contender thus far.

Remember what happened to the Final Four squad this offseason: They lost Darius Adams to China; Davis Bertans to the NBA; and Mike James and Euroleague MVP-runner up Ioannis Bourousis to Panathinaikos. Though they were able to keep Adam Hanga from the NBA (the Spurs own his rights) and ACB rival Barcelona, they replaced their core 2015-2016 roster with a lot of question marks, including former NBA players such as Andrea Bargnani and Shane Larkin, and Johannes Voigtmann, who was playing for Fraport in the FIBA Europe Cup, a third-tier club competition, a year ago.

However, Voigtmann and Larkin have been revelations, and though his minutes and impact is limited to preserve his health, Bargnani has also been effective as well. A lot of credit should go to Alonso, who has been able to create an offensive and defensive system that has not only gotten the most out of Baskonia’s new acquisitions, but also the mainstays from previous seasons. This is a different team from last year’s squad, but they have been effective because Alonso hasn’t tried to mold them into last year’s team either, which is a pitfall of many teams who experience success the previous season. Alonso has long been considered one of the brightest young coaches in the European club scene considering his junior national team success with Spain as well as head coaching experience with Dominion Bilbao and Joventut. However, if he continues to build upon the strong Euroleague start, his stock will be even higher than before by year’s end.

Honorable mention goes to Rami Hadar, who has done a sterling job after Erez Edelstein was fired after two games. Maccabi Fox is a flawed roster, with a lot of egos and not a lot of depth in the frontcourt. However, Hadar has adopted a full-court, push-the-tempo, small-ball philosophy that has helped Maccabi go 5-3 under his tenure thus far. However, as strong as Hadar’s start has been, it still is just a shade below in impressiveness in comparison to Alonso, who has outperformed expectations with this roster thus far.

Runner up: Rami Hadar, Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv

Most Surprising Player: Johannes Voigtmann, Baskonia

johannes-voigtmann-baskonia-vitoria-gasteiz-eb16

To stay on the Baskonia bandwagon, Voigtmann probably has been the biggest surprise thus far in the Euroleague. Voigtmann played last season for the Fraport Skyliners, and his signing earned a lot less publicity than fellow center Bargnani, a former No. 1 NBA Draft pick who played for the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, and most recently the Brooklyn Nets. However, Voigtmann has proven to be the more effective replacement to Bourousis this season.

In nearly 25 mpg, Voigtmann is averaging 12.3 ppg and 7.3 ppg with a PIR of 17.8 (his total PIR is seventh-best in the Euroleague). He is shooting 68.8 percent on 2-pt FG, 42.3 percent on threes, and 78.8 percent from the line. Plain and simple: not many bigs this year have been as effective and efficient on the floor as Voigtmann this year. The pick and roll combo of him and Larkin (who is 13th in the league in PIR) will continue to give opposing Euroleague (and ACB) squads trouble over the next 20 games (as long as they stay healthy of course).

Some other surprise names for consideration are Nicolo Melli of Brose Baskets, who is third in PIR, and Derrick Brown of Anadolu Efes, who is fourth in PIR. However, both teams are not as good as Baskonia (though Efes is surging), and both weren’t as under-the-radar as Voigtmann (both played for their current squads a year ago).

Runners up: Melli and Brown.

Most Surprising Team: Anadolu Efes

maccabifox_anadoluefes_011216

After starting 0-3, Efes is suddenly 5-5, coming off a big win on the road in Tel Aviv against Maccabi Fox. What makes this so surprising is Efes went kind-of-under the radar this offseason. Yes, they did hire Velimir Perasovic as head coach, who was coming off a final four appearance with Baskonia. But roster-wise what they did was tame in comparison to their Turkish rivals. Fenerbahce returned pretty much their whole squad from their Championship runner-up season, and Darussafaka and Galatasaray both signed many American players (Brad Wanamaker and James Anderson for Darussafaka; Russ Smith, Austin Daye, Jon Diebler, Alex Tyus, and Justin Dentmon for Galatasaray) who were expected to have a major impact on their respective teams. Add that with the loss of Dario Saric to the 76ers of the NBA, who had been Efes’ star player the past couple of years, and it appeared that Efes was on their way to being the fourth-best Turkish club in the Euroleague.

However, Efes, despite their winless start, has been surging. Derrick Brown has been one of the Euroleague’s best players (4th in PIR), and they also have gotten incredible impact from Tyler Honeycutt (11th in PIR), Bryant Dunston (16th in PIR), Thomas Huertel (53rd in PIR) and Cedi Osman (54th in PIR). There is some serious depth on this Efes roster, and Perasovic has proven that he may be one of Europe’s best coaches. Many people credited Baskonia’s success more to Bourousis rather than Perasovic a year ago. However, a year later, Perasovic has this Efes roster coming together, while Bourousis is struggling to have any kind of impact with Panathinaikos.

Yes, Efes is in the middle of the pack now, but Efes, with their combination of length and athleticism and offensive and defensive effectiveness, could be rising to the top not just by the end of the year, but by the end of round 20, the 2/3 mark of the season. And it wouldn’t be surprising to see Efes be challenging Fenerbahce for the title of the best “Turkish” club in the Euroleague by that point either, especially considering Bogdan Bogdanovic’s injury issues.

Most Disappointing Coach: Georgios Bartzokas, Barcelona

137289_81_147763_81

I figured Bartzokas to be an interesting pick, considering he coached a mid-tier team in Lokomotiv Kuban (though he did take them to the Final Four) and didn’t have any experience coaching in Spain. However, I thought his recent Euroleague success, and the additions of Victor Claver from Loko and Tyrese Rice from Khimki Moscow, and the re-signing of Joey Dorsey would give Bartzokas a solid foundation to build a successful team in his debut year.

Well, Barcelona is still competitive, as they are 5-5 and coming off a much-needed win at home over Panathinaikos. However, Bartzokas has really struggled to find any kind of consistency and chemistry with this Barcelona squad thus far. Yes, Barcelona has been effective defensively, as they have allowed the least amount of points in the Euroleague this year. That being said, defense was always Bartzokas’ strong suit (his Loko team last year was one of the most effective defensive teams in the Euroleague). Offense was the question mark with him, and unfortunately, that question remains unanswered. Despite their low points allowed total, their point differential is -31, a sign that the defense may be a product of a slow pace to go along with their glaring issues when it comes to scoring the basketball. Considering that mark is the third-worst in the Euroleague, Bartzokas needs to make some adjustments if he wants Barcelona to be seen as a serious Final Four contender.

Granted, Barcelona has experienced a lot of bad breaks. Juan Carlos Navarro, Pau Ribas, Claver, and Justin Doellman have all missed significant time due to injury, and considering Bartzokas gives a lot of freedom to his players to create on the offensive end (he relied heavily on isolation plays and the pick and roll from Malcolm Delaney and post players Chris Singleton and Anthony Randolph), the lack of major talent on the floor s been a hurdle. That being said, Tyrese Rice has been solid this year (15.81 PIR), and he is the kind of dynamic guard that Bartzokas utilizes well (as he did with Delaney and Dontaye Draper a year ago). It will be interesting to see if Bartzokas will rely even more on Rice going forward, especially if he starts to feel the hot seat more as the season progresses.

Runner up: Ergin Ataman, Galatasaray

Most Disappointing Player and Team: Ioannis Bourousis and Panathinaikos

gra470-madrid-16-11-2016-el-pivot-mexicano-del-real-madrid-guatavo-ayon-d-lucha-el-balon-con-ioannis-bourousis-del-panathinaikos-durante-la-septima-jornada-de-la-fase-regular-de-la-euroliga-que-se-jue

I understood that Bourousis would probably regress and not duplicate the kind of MVP-season that he had last year with Baskonia. After all, that team really found lightning in a bottle, especially in Euroleague play.

Nonetheless, Bourousis has seriously regressed. In 2015-2016, Bourousis averaged 14.5 ppg and 8.7 rpg on 55 percent shooting from 2-pt FG, 38.3 percent from beyond the arc, and 81.1 percent from the line. This year? 8.9 ppg, 5 rpg, 42 percent 2pt FG percentage, 25 percent from beyond the arc, and 72.7 percent from the line. Last year, Bourouis was second in the league in total index rating. This year, Bourousis is tied for 54th in total index rating.

And honestly, Bourousis’ regression has been a bit of a microcosm of Panathinaikos’ team this year. Other than Nick Calathes, who has really bounced back after an off-year last season, (he is 8th in the league in index rating), and Chris Singleton (who has proved that he was as every bit important to that Loko team last year as Randolph), Panathinaikos has just struggled to mesh on the court, especially on the offensive end. Mike James, also from Baskonia, has struggled with injury as well as ineffectiveness, and KC Rivers hasn’t offered much else on the floor beyond points. Add that with injury to James Gist and inconsistency from James Feldeine and Demetrius Nichols (as well as others), Panathinaikos has been the personified mediocre. Considering the amount of money this organization spent this summer, that kind of title is not necessarily a badge of honor.

Yes, Pana may be on the upswing after making a coaching change early in the year (Argyris Pedoulakis and his lack of ability to coach an offense finally caught up to him). But, I am not sure if Xavi Pascual, the former Barcelona coach, is necessarily the right fit for this team. They have players who do well in free-flowing offenses (such as Calathes, Singleton and Bourousis), and Pascual is known for a heavily-structured attack, featuring lots of set plays. Already, we can see the struggles initially, as Pana and Pascual are trying to find the right balance and where to compromise on the offensive end (especially in Pascual’s case). Furthermore, much like Bartzokas in Spain, Pascual has little to no experience in professional basketball in Greece, let alone outside of Spain. Yes, Pascual is a big name with a lot of victories, but can he make the adjustment to the culture of not only the organization, but the faithful Athens fans? Bartzokas is going through his growing pains, and it’s showing that Pascual is going through his own as well.

The big question is if Pana will be patient enough to see it out with Pascual. Considering the expectations placed on this squad at the start of the year, and rival Olympiacos’ recent successes over them in Euroleague and domestic play, I guarantee that Pana management won’t have thick skin with Pascual or this team if serious progress isn’t shown in the next 10-15 games.

The fact that Pana is at this point of desperation and panic is disappointing, because I figured Pana to be one of the more enjoyable teams in the Euroleague this year, especially after they acquired a rejuvenated Bourousis. Instead, they have seemed to be one of the more dysfunctional ones both roster and coaching wise.

Runner up: James Anderson, Darussafaka (player); Galatasaray (team).

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Euroleague First Trimester Awards

  1. Πάτε καλά; December 5, 2016 / 11:48 am

    Forget PAO for this year. The injury of James Gist is something more crucial: Pao was equilibrating matches playing small ball using the triplet Nichols-Gist-Singleton. These players offered fast and quick changes in defense without sacrificing above the rim capabilities or volume in the pack. Gabriel who arrived in the position of Gist (out for 4.5 months minimum), is a particularly bad fitting choice- he does not have the volume of Gist to play in position 5, he does not have Gist’s good switching reflexes and he has repeatedly been seen to lose his player after screens.Gabriel is practically a worse version of Nichols and not an anti-Gist, something that confuses the team even more. Very bad choice from Xavi.

    Add to the above the lack of coherency since the team is new (new players, new coach) and voila, a team that comprises good players but it lacks ”chemistry”. Pasqual will probably continue next year, too (he has an expensive 3-year contract which does not break easily) but this year is already lost.

    What worries me are the following:

    a) Nicholas Pappas is considered the biggest hope for greek basketball nowadays, a school that notably lacks players who can easily score. He was the biggest and most promising talent in a generation that took every prize with junior national teams (Matzaris, Pappas, Sloukas, Papanikolaou, Jankovic etc). Nevertheless, looking this particular generation now, all but Sloukas look mediocre players for Euroleague standings. Yet, he has found it difficult to stabilize his performance from game to game and manage also to be useful in games that he does not feel hot. One of the reasons Feldeine stays as a shooting guard in Pao is that he is a cheap player who won’t take time from Pappas, letting the former to evolve. That I do not see it.

    b) BX is the biggest hope for the next greek generation. Nevertheless, every time I see him on the court he is disappointing; I see a frightened kid how does not want to participate in the offensive game of his team other than shooting 3-points from away. Add to these, his lack of athleticism and you see a 2.05 (min) height 3 who does not post, does not go for the rebounds, does not take the baseline corridor to the basket, just shoots 3 points and does not even play tough in defense. His overall performance is seriously worrying the fans. Ok, he is just 18 but look at other players of his age- BX looks like a frightened little chicken outside the cottage!

    Greek analysts emphasize the lack of M.James from Panathinaikos game; they say that since the team was playing with just Calathes as a typical playmaker, Pappas, Feldeine and Rivers were forced to do other jobs, too to help the team; since these jobs were outside of their speciality, they were losing energy and therefore PAO was lacking efficient instant scoring. This resulted in many lost games that the team could have won otherwise (Efes, Real, CSKA, gay-ros). I am not that sure- i believe that PAO lacks cohesion and chemistry and this is extremely important in a Euroleague that does not have the first or second round. In any case, this organization is a Marathon- the each coach of PAO, RG made a prediction that after January many teams will just bust due to extreme pressure and many games. If this is correct, then at the end of Christmas we should see many surprising results which will turn the tables upside down. For the time being, with the exception of Real or CSKA, I see teams with small differences inside the court.

    ps. I am not surprised from the good overall start of gay-ros. Same team as last year (with only exception the addition of Green), same plays during a period other teams are still struggling to find safe plays and a modus operandi. Nevertheless, i am underlining two issues: The first is the exceptional lack of bench of this team in position 2 and 4. If V-Span or Saint George injure themselves, this team will have serious issues. The second is that last year, we had the same storming start by this team and after January, it collapsed. For the time being, the team looks totally unstable- winning Baskonia out, losing from Galata out. Winning PAO out, losing from Maccabi in. Winning Darusafaka out, who nows where they will slip again. This unbalanced performance from game to game ought to worry the coach and his technical staff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pierre Marie Corbacho December 5, 2016 / 4:06 pm

      PAO has been disappointing this year, but I think that was more to me over-estimating the fit of this roster and the coaching pre-season. It seems like a lot of PAO fans were less optimistic than me, and it looks like I got bit in the butt by it. Oh well. I guess that’s why they play the games on the court and not on paper.

      I kind of agree that PAO needs to think long term this season, and probably find fits that will mesh with what Xavi Pascual wants to do. Pascual is a meticulous coach on the offensive end, and I wonder if he’ll be able to utilize talents on this roster who are used to more freedom. I agree with you and think Pascual will be in PAO for a couple of years at least. They have put a lot of money into him and this roster, and this day and age, eating that kind of money is just not as easy as in years past.

      I think you’re right about Gist’s injury really hurting them. I really felt Gist and Singleton would have provide an athletic and physical post duo that would have given PAO a lot of flexibility and options on both ends of the floor. However, with just Singleton, those options are now more limited. Singleton has been good, yes, but this team would have been even better if both those players were available. And you’re right, Gabriel was a peculiar acquisition, as he is not the physical presence that Gist is, and I don’t know if he fits with Pascual’s philosophy either.

      Good call on Pappas, who has seen a flux more responsibility due to the injuries on this squad. I still don’t know much on BX, as he hasn’t played in the Euroleague much this year. I wonder with the injuries, and if a playoff spot gets further away, if Pascual will give him more opportunities. I think the parity of this year 3-16 will probably prevent that, as I see many teams still in contention for those 3-8 spots (I think 1-2 will be CSKA or Real in some kind of order).

      I think those are good points on Olympiacos. They rely so heavily on Saint George and V-Span, much like last year, and you’re right, Olympiacos’ is looking a lot like last year’s squad that started well and then faded down the stretch. An injury to either of them will be killer, especially considering the parity beyond 2. I also worry a bit about Fener, but they also had a lackluster start in the Regular Season last year, and then turned it on by Round 16 play. I could see a similar run, but I worry about Bogdanovic’s injury and him coming back and meshing with this squad too much to put them as a real “top spot” lock. They are a playoff team yes, but they don’t seem to have the invincibility they did last year IMO.

      Thanks as always for the read and the comment.

      Like

      • Πάτε καλά; December 5, 2016 / 4:21 pm

        I am not optimistic about Fenerbahce. I will give you a hint: Zots has conquered Euroleague in all of his teams the very first year he arrived. If he was not successful from the first year, he was not at all.

        As for PAO, I find it critical to replace Gabriel asap with another player (e.g. Drew Gordon, Jarnell Stokes etc) who can pack the paint and play pick and roll. This will not happen and hence, this team is just going to deteriorate. Konstantinos Panas (I believe he sent you an email for cooperation :P) had interesting proposals for players like Pery Jones the III. In any case, KG ought to go, not because he is a bad player but because he is a bad FIT for this team.

        ps. If I had to bet for this years’ Euroleague, I would bet on Real. Llull reminds me of Diamantidis during the 2010-2011 season and Real plays exceptionally good.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Pierre Marie Corbacho December 5, 2016 / 5:04 pm

        That’s a good point. I will say that last year probably was back-breaking for them this year. To come so close and just miss out is hard the following year. Yes, they could use that as motivation, but more often than not, teams fail to live up to the hype after losing at such a big stage the previous year. They have some depth sure, but Vesely is pretty limited offensively, as he really is only good on putbacks and pick and roll finishes. Efes was making him put the ball on the floor, and you could see that they really could take advantage. Udoh is a streaky player, but I worry about him offensively, and think he will regress after such a strong finish last season. He hasn’t really proved he can play at that elite level alongside Vesely, and I think that will be an issue for them going forward. Add that with an again Antic, and you’re right, this Fener team, as strong a fan following as they have, is not as strong as their past two seasons’ teams. I will say though with the Final Four in Istanbul, should they make it, they will have tremendous home court advantage.

        I agree on Gabriel. Good player, good skill set, just not a good fit with this PAO team. We are seeing more teams get active now, especially Barcelona, who has been gutted by injuries. I would expect PAO to do the same as long as it is financially feasible.

        And lastly, I REALLY LIKE Real to win it all. Llull is an MVP favorite, and would have been even more so if he didn’t have a cold start to the season. Their depth is unbelievable, and the emergence of Doncic was something most people thought we would see next season, not this year. (I felt if Real expected this, they would not have re-signed Taylor or acquired Draper). As long as they stay healthy, they are the team to beat, and I’m encouraged to see how Randolph has fit in well, something I was hesitant about after he was such a primary, high-usage player a year ago with Loko. I am also not totally sold on CSKA. Yes, they have two of the best players in Europe (de Colo and Teodosic), but de Colo’s injury brings huge questions marks, and they have been in dog fights with teams that they normally would blow out. I predict by the end of the year, Real leapfrogs CSKA for the no. 1 spot going into the playoffs.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s