Congratulations go out from BallinEurope this morning to FC Barcelona, Montepaschi Siena and Panathinaikos, perhaps each respectively their nation’s top basketball club, for taking domestic cup titles this weekend.
Barcelona’s future: Alex Abrines, Mario Hezonja, Marko Todorović
As though FC Barcelona’s red-hot play – they’re now at 14-4 overall after an 0-2 start in Spain – weren’t enough to keep European basketball devotees watching, here are two more reasons for you: Mario Hezonja and Marko Todorović.
Hezonja again did not play in Spain this weekend, unlisted on the roster for Barca’s 81-64 win over Cajasol in Liga Endesa play; the 12th-man spot was filled by 20-year-old Todorović of Montenegro. In the Beşiktaş game, Todorović’s 12 minutes of court time was the most he’s gotten all season and the national teamer was good for four points, four rebounds and two blocks.
Now here’s an argument starter for you … with much debate perpetually going on among European basketball fans vis-à-vis the influence of American and/or NBA players on the Euroleague, BiE decided to take a look back at the 2011-12 season in hopes of drawing some comparison on an individual, player-by-player level.
Below, then, runs four all-star squads based on play in this season’s edition of the big league; for convenience and competition’s (rather than geopolitics’) sake, players from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and FYR Macedonia will be virtually suiting up for the “former Yugoslavia” team.
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
Heading into games two of the 2011-12 Euroleague Playoffs, BallinEurope acknowledges CSKA Moscow and Panathinaikos’ superiority over their opponents, FC Barcelona having tallied an emphatic win, and Olympiacos shocking Montepaschi Siena in Italy.
So to get things started in advance of tonight’s game two matchups of Unics Kazan at Barca and Olympiacaos at Montepaschi Siena, below run the Euroleague’s official top five plays from the playoff openers – for some reason posted in silent-movie fashion…
Right, then. With the last teams advancing into the Euroleague two dozen for the regular season and a break in the Kobe-to-Bologna soap opera today, BallinEurope breaks out an old favorite: power rankings!
Once again, the BallinEurope Euroleague Power Rankings are based on current trends, i.e. who’s hot, who’s not. For this edition of the list, also taken into consideration are offseason acquisitions and a dash of expectations vis-à-vis how these squads will look when the games really start to matter. Let the arguments begin!
1. FC Barcelona – Heard it before? Well, you’ve probably heard about the core of the Barca roster before, too: Juan Carlos Navarro, Pete Mickael, Erazem Lorbek, Victor Sada, Boniface N’dong, Kosta Perovic and Fran Vazquez; getting to add Chuck Eidson and Marcelinho Huertas doesn’t seem fair. In going 8-0 thus far this preseason, the Blaugrana have added to their trophy case with Lliga Catalana and Supercopa Endesa titles and Navarro in particular is still in EuroBasket form. Right now, BiE says this is the team to beat.
Welcome to the week, BallinEurope readers. We’ll get Monday started with a few video clips, stories, links, and some apocalyptic thinking about FC Barcelona.
• Now here’s some motivation for Ricky Rubio to, you know, give that Minnesota Timberwolves thing a try: The decent possibility that Barcelona will not recapture the ACB championship title and, unlike last offseason, will blow up the team and reshape the roster.
That’s certainly how it looks from this perspective right now; surely BiE is pulling the trigger quickly on this one, but Barça is proving quite vulnerable right now. After dropping three straight to Panathinaikos, the Blaugrana lost *at home* to ACB fifth-place team Bizkaia Bilbao Basket, representing Barcelona’s first L in el Palau since October – and Bizkaia’s first-ever win there.
Apologies for the tardiness of this column, dear readers, but the Official BallinEurope Euroleague Power Rankings are just as fun and informative on Sundays as they are on Saturdays! With four teams through into the Top 16 round and several more on the bubble, who’s cruising and who’s losing? BiE says the two dozen squads stack up this way…
Top of the Table 1. (↑) Maccabi Tel Aviv (6-1 in Euroleague; 6-1 in Ligat HaAl) – We’ll just keep running this blurb until the star-studded Yellow-and-Blue shows any signs of serious vincibility: Forget the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers even (heresy); the best offseason was had by Maccabi Tel Aviv, which once again underwent a complete reboot, as the kids these days might say.
2. (↑) Fenerbahçe Ülker (6-1; 8-0 in TBL) – No. 1 in scoring, no. 2 in defensive rebounds, no. 3 in rebounding, no. 3 in fewest turnovers allowed … it’s tough to deny these guys the top spot, particularly in a season of oddities; wouldn’t a surprise team in the Euroleague finals like Fenerbahçe be fitting?
The 2010-11 Euroleague season tips off tomorrow? Right, then. Presenting the last preseason – and thus last totally subjective, because we’ll be able to base these things on, you know, wins and losses beginning next week – BallinEurope Official Euroleague Power Rankings™. (Plus lots of video clips.) Enjoy!
1. (↔) FC Barcelona – Yeah, as though we didn’t know how good Barça was going to be this season, they went and bored down behind mighty Pete Mickael to take out the Los Angeles Lakers at home. In addition, they’re 3-0 in ACB play thus far while outscoring opponents by an average of 82-68, the Human YouTube Clip has added a couple more highlights to the infinite reel, Juan Carlos Navarro has been “¡espectacular,” et cetera.