BallinEurope heads out to Istanbul this morning to join the scene at this year’s Euroleague Final Four and start pumping out four days’ worth of steady reportage, historical stuff, stats, quotes, video, etc. But BiE figured he’d leave you temporarily with some gauntlet-throwing type stuff by EL CEO Jordi Bertomeu.
Said Bertomeu, “We are very proud of that fact and we will stay faithful to our principles because we have proved that we don’t need NBA imports to be a top-quality competition drawing millions of fans across Europe…
Wellllllllll, not to trigger another firestorm here, but while the Euroleague clearly doesn’t *need* NBA players, BiE cannot deny the effect some NBA players – even the short-term lockout refugees – have had in 2011-12. CSKA aside, what about the EL longevity given to Žalgiris Kaunas and Emporio Armani Milano…?
In the interests of complete transparency – hey, somebody in Hungary should aspire to such – BallinEurope today presents the outcome of a heavy Euroleague basketball-watching habit plus several hours of intense thought: Namely, the five names that went onto BiE’s media representative’s ballot for 2011-12 Euroleague MVP.
Since there’s no way the chosen quintet will make anybody completely happy – even though surely the top seven or eight (depending how you feel about certain American imports in Lithuania) individual performances in the 2011-12 ‘League would surely be agreed upon by the great majority of Euroleague fans – BiE will explain the thought process behind the vote and show the initial list of 25 from which the five players receiving points were winnowed. (Bonus: YouTube clips, natch.)
In backwards order, then…
• Toughest omissions – Henry Domercant, Erazem Lorbek and Sonny Weems. Each was so emblematic of their teams in 2011-12, with Domercant and Weems veritably carrying their clubs at times to unexpected Euroleague success. Unics Kazan got attention early in the regular season with a few monster performances by Domercant – including the amazing 30-point, seven-rebound show against Montepaschi Siena in the opener – but Bad Henry actually became more consistent and more well-integrated into the Kazan offense as the team’s season progressed.
Weems kept the overachieving Zalgiris Kaunas afloat – and more – after Ty Lawson returned to the NBA post-lockout, plus gets bonus points for performing among the more YouTubable in European ball. Keeping Weems off the ballot were a couple of off-games in the Top 16 round which may have ultimately kept the Greens out of the semifinal round – and the man did turn over the ball the second-most frequently in the EL, too…
Most notable about FC Barcelona – even more so than in previous years of title glory – is the team’s incredible defenses. Lorbek has controlled the paint on D to make the Blaugrana’s zone traps even more effective and together with Pete Mickael has been triggering fast breaks off the boards while playing in all 19 Euroleague games. Plus, what if someone had told you at season’s beginning that the leading scorer for 2011-12 on Juan Carlos Navarro’s team would be the big Slovenian?
Tough to leave off this expectation-scattering trio, one and all…
• 5. Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
After not exactly fitting into the Boston Celtics after an ill-advised trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder late in 2010-11 and reading the writing on the wall vis-à-vis the player lockout, Krstic may have been the first NBA refugee headliner to sign in Europe. And whoa, has the investment paid off for CSKA Moscow. In Krstic, the Red Army has the ‘League’s no. 1 in accumulated performance index rating, no. 2 in average PIR and no. 5 in points scored – with a shooting percentage of just under 64% overall. A big man among the big men at Moscow, Krstic had to get on the ballot.
• 4. Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
• 3. Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
• 2. Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos
BiE swears that with each coming year, the playmaking guard becomes even more disproportionately important to European and/or international success. Case in point, these three guys in 2011-12; first, the statistical highlights for each:
McCalebb – 16.9 points per game on 61.3% overall shooting, 2.6 apg, 1.3 spg, 17.29 average PIR
Diamantidis – 11.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.5 spg, 17.00 PIR
Spanoulis – 16.5 ppg on 49.7% overall shooting, 3.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 16.37 PIR
Bear in mind all are in the top five in average index rating behind a couple of dudes on CSKA Moscow and that none of three have missed a single game for their teams – now who do you choose? The reputed “fastest man in Europe” and Euroleague top scorer who can lead break after break though doesn’t have the best eye for the open teammate (Gee that’s kinda 2003-04 Kobesque)…
…or the more-than-sum-of-parts guy who just happened to chase last year’s EL MVP bid by leading the league in assists and three-pointers made plus added priceless veteran leadership of a three-time champion…
…or do you go with BiE’s selection from among the three, i.e. the “rock in the middle of that roster … on whom all the Reds could rely” with a career year on the only surprise in the Euroleague Final Four?
• 1. While deciding among the 2 through 4 and 5 through off-ballot positions was difficult, the top choice was the opposite. Yes, BallinEurope went for that most polarizing (only the basketball gods know why) player of 2011-12, Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow.
Forget what you may think about his consistent-if-not-mindblowing tenure with the Utah Jazz and the virtual all-star squad CSKA management set him up with in the 2011 offseason: The AK-47 has had a monster year. His average PIR of 24.07 per game played is more than 19% better than the nearest competitor (Krstic) – such a mark is currently the 15th best for a single season in the modern era and would be the highest by any player advancing past the regular season since Anthony Parker for Maccabi back in 2004-05. And while he’s “only” ranking seventh in ppg at 17.0, he’s tops in rebounds and blocks plus no. 2 in steals, making him the sole player even close to the top 10 in those four statistical categories.
Yes, Kirilenko missed five Euroleague games and yes, CSKA went 5-0 in that run, but BiE dares say that no single player in the 2011-12 EL became the center of focus every minute he’s on the floor the way that this season’s prospective MVP did – four player-of-the-week awards should prove it.
This season, Kirilenko rules. Let the comments begin.
The top 25 players, as BiE sees it for 2011-12, were the following.
Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos
Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
Henry Domercant, Unics Kazan
Juan Carlos Navarro, FC Barcelona
Milos Teodosic, CSKA Moscow
Jaycee Carroll, Real Madrid
Devin Smith, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Omar Cook, Emporio Armani Milano
Marcelinho Huertas, FC Barcelona
Andrei Kirilenko, CSKA Moscow
Sonny Weems, Zalgiris Kaunas
Nikola Mirotic, Real Madrid
Mike Batiste, Panathinaikos
Marko Banic, Gescrap Bilbao Basket
Viktor Khryapa, CSKA Moscow
Bojan Bogdanovic, Fenerbahce Ulker
Pete Mickael, FC Barcelona
Richard Hendrix, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Felipe Reyes, Real Madrid
Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
Erazem Lorbek, FC Barcelona
Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Giorgi Shermadini, Bennet Cantu
Luka Zoric, Unicaja Malaga
Of course, those expecting to see the big-name Shamrocks of the present season (much less those that played the Toronto Raptors in Rome five years ago) may be a bit disappointed; after all, the Herald itself remarks darkly in the cited article’s lead that 2012-13 season “figures to be filled with major changes” for the aging club.
The key word in week three of the 2011-12 Euroleague Top 16 round: Blowout. The closest game was decided by eight points (Bennet Cantù 82, Maccabi Tel Aviv 74) and the average match showed a 16-point differential as certain teams (CSKA Moscow, FC Barcelona, Montepaschi Siena) asserted their superiority, a couple of sleeping giants (Olympiacos, Panathinaikos) stirred, and two (Unicaja Malaga, Emporio Armani Milano) firmly established themselves as this stage’s busts.
Going into tonight’s games four, nothing has changed within the elite, though mid-pack much jostling for position may be seen. With the group leaders all in excellent position to at least solidify a strong hold on a semifinals berth, this could prove to be a make-or-break week for no fewer than those nine sides in the scrum.
The key word for week four, then, in BallinEurope’s estimation: Injuries. The ‘bug is truly hunkering down amid some Euroleague teams, and one could build a pretty decent roster from those who are out, questionable or hampered this week. Potential difference-makers who will be sitting include, among others, Viktor Khryapa (CSKA); Ante Tomic (Real Madrid); Omer Onan, Marko Tomas (Milano); Kerem Gonlum, Ermal Kuqo (Anadolu Efes); Steven Smith (PAO); and Shawn James (Maccabi Tel Aviv).
Below run another edition of the BiE power rankings as we enter this decisive week. Once again, please note that these rankings are an indicator of how teams are trending, with some consideration given to play in other leagues and heavy emphasis on Euroleague results.
Without further ado, then, onto the rankings! Go ahead, you can guess the first four, surely…
After a week two loaded with upsets and shocking blowouts, BallinEurope’s Euroleague Power Rankings go through quite a shuffling going into Top 16 round, week three … except of course at the top, where all indications have the championship matchup between CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona feeling more inevitable than ever. How is your team faring on the (sorta) big board this week?
Traditional advisory warning: These ratings are pretty much highly subjective, as they are formulated from one source, i.e. BiE, and are based on the way teams are trending at present. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on Euroleague performance especially, and particularly on the two games each has registered in Top 16 play.
And on to the rankings!
The undefeated 1. (↔) CSKA Moscow (12-0 in Euroleague play overall; 9-1 in VTB United League, 8-1 in PBL) 2. (↔) FC Barcelona (9-1 EL; 13-3 ACB) 3. (↑) Montepaschi Siena (10-2 EL; 13-5 Serie A) – No surprises here, unless you count the emphatic statement wins recorded by each of these elite teams in week two at Maccabi Tel Aviv, vs. Anadolu Efes, and at Real Madrid, respectively. NBA fans are chattering about a shortened season? Ha! With each of these teams at 2-0 and having knocked off the no. 2 contender within their groups, they’ve all made the 2011-12 EL Top 16 round a hell of a lot more urgent for nearly every side in the big league.
Courtesy the Euroleague folks, BallinEurope brings a compendium of facts and figures spanning history and record books regarding tomorrow night’s slate of a half-dozen games – plus lines on the games and highlight clips. Enjoy!
CSKA Moscow vs. Anadolu Efes Istanbul
• CSKA leads the all-time series between the teams, 8-7.
• Nenad Krstic has scored in double figures in each of his last 16 Euroleague appearances dating back to the 2003-04 season.
• Andrei Kirilenko and Nenad Krstic lead the Euroleague in index rating with at averages of 27.8 and 21.5 per game, respectively.
• Kirilenko also leads the Euroleague in blocked shots (3.2 bpg).
• Milos Teodosic is ranked second in the Euroleague in assists this season with a career-high 5.6 assists per game.
• Darjus Lavrinovic needs three more blocks reach 100 for his Euroleague career. With his next block, Lavrinovic will tie former CSKA big man Terence Morris for 12th place all-time. Continue Reading…
February will see Turin playing host to the Coppa Italia, a grueling four-day tournament featuring Italy’s top eight teams. With the matchups now determined, BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Enrico Cellini, provides a brief preview of the competition.
The first half of Serie A season is over and the table is set for a little appetizer to the final playoffs. In Turin, from February 16th to 19th, the top eight teams of the 2011-12 season’s first half will play each other in elimination games to conquer the Coppa Italia, the second-most important national trophy and litmus paper of each team’s ambitions.
The teams and matchups are as follows.
Montepaschi Siena (1) vs Banco di Sardegna Sassari (8)
EA7 Milano (4) vs Canadian Solar Bologna (5)
Scavolini Siviglia Pesaro (2) vs Umana Venezia (7)
Bennet Cantù (3) vs Sidigas Avellino (6)
Will this be an opportunity for Montepaschi Siena to reassert its dominance after a few unexpected losses or a chance for rampant new challengers to prepare for an assault on the throne?
It seems like forever, but Euroleague 2011-12 resurrects itself for Top 16 opening night tonight. What better way to celebrate, reckons BallinEurope, than with some good ol’ power rankings?
Once again, the caveat emptor-ish bit: These ratings are formulated from once source (namely yours truly) and are based on the way teams are trending at present. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on performance in the latter bits of the EL season.
To the rankings!
Top dogs 1. CSKA Moscow (10-0 in Euroleague regular season; 8-1 in VTB United League, 7-1 in PBL) – Remember the date December 10, 2011: That’s the last time the scary Red Army lost, in falling to BC Khimki in Russia while getting just seven minutes out of Andrei Kirilenko. The Red Army’s only loss before that was exactly one month prior when they fell in a squeaker at Spartak St. Petersburg in their VTB opener. Considering the starting team alone – an all-star squad of Kirilenko, Milos Teodosic, Nenad Krstic, Ramunas Siskauskas, Viktor Khryapa – BiE has to wonder what non-NBA team could beat ‘em. Even after the star power, the CSKA Moscow bench contributed 43.2 points per game in Euroleague play while the team leads in overall performance rating, assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. This has got to be considered the team to beat in 2012.
So 2011 may have been few people’s favorite year personally, European basketball fans have certainly got to be taking solace in the fact that the past 12 months featured a seriously great run of Continental-flavored hoops.
To wit, in 2011, we enjoyed:
• an exciting round of Euroleague playoffs which included FC Barcelona’s surprising tournament-round exit and culminated in storied franchise Panathinaikos bagging its third EL trophy in five years;
• in domestic leagues, another weird Bundesliga playoff tournament, another controversial Greek tourney, and from Italy and Spain second-place shockers Bennet Cantù and Bizkaia Bilbao Basket advancing;
• lots of European superstars battling it out in the NBA playoffs, particularly on the Western Conference side, with Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and of course Dirk Nowitzki proving so key to their teams’ successes (or lack thereof);
• the Eurobasket 2011 tournament hosted in the world’s basketball-maddest country which ultimately inspired Team Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic to opine that “this has been the strongest European Championship in history…” (and, judging only from the star content alone, BiE would probably agree, despite a general loathing for such hyperbole directly after an event);
• the close to the 2011-12 Euroleague regular season with a week 10 that featured some crazy dogfights for entry and positioning in the Top 16 round, including a great do-or-die game between Emporio Armani Milano and Partizan Belgrade.
Olympic Games or no, how can basketball year 2011 be topped? On the first day of the new year, BallinEurope takes a last brief look back at the most popular stories we ran in 2011. Relive one killer 365 days of European roundball once more below.