It’s a stupid obsession that led to a bizarre chase but now it’s set for the title holder vs the man it’s named for. Alexey Shved and Keith Langford are promising you one thing this coming season, they are going to draw fouls. Emmet Ryan on the bizarre quest for the Golden Langford
It really hit during the 2016-17 season when Keith Langford was rampaging to the Alphonso Ford Trophy, Euroleague’s scoring title. Langford was putting up a lot of shots, 45 more than Sergio Llull over the course of the entire campaign in 5 fewer games. Langford averaged a ludicrous 16.8 shots per game from the field.
Unics Kazan went to him so much, and the numbers he recorded supported the heavy usage, that Langford was also in position more than most players to get fouled. Langford however has long been a man who is going to see a lot of the ball and, thus, a lot of the opposition. What happened in that season however was statistically aberrant even allowing for the expanded format of a 30 game season.
In that season, Langford averaged a gaudy 8 fouls drawn per game, up from 7 in his last outing in Euroleague where he played 10 games in the 2014-15 season. The preceding season he’d managed 6.5 per game in 25 outings, and the year before that is was only 5.2 in 10. It drops even harder however, 4.2 in 20 games with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2011-12. In that five year span, Langford had gone from being quite good at drawing fouls to otherworldly.
There was an outlier even earlier however as in 10 games with Khimki in 2010-11 he managed 7.7 per game but even that was boosted by drawing 15 fouls in 43 minutes of his final Euroleague game of the campaign in an overtime win over Zalgiris. Langford’s lone other Euroleague campaign, the prior season, was just 5.1 per game.
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But for that massive outlier* in that wild Zalgiris game, Langford’s career was one where he went from being a really good player at drawing fouls to being the foul drawing machine of Euroleague in the second half of his career in Europe.
*Langford’s record in games where he has drawn 10 or more fouls in Euroleague is 6-7, of which 8 were in the 2016-17 season where he went 3-5.
That was enough, along with Langford’s departure for China, to name the top foul drawing baller of Euroleague the winner of the Golden Langford. Admittedly, I may need a better hobby. In any case, Alexey Shved took the chase for top scorer and top foul drawer to heart and went to work. He lived the same way Langford did, by playing heavy minutes, being a volume shooter, and drawing attention like nobody else.
Whereas Langford led Lllull by about 3 per game and took 55 more than him over the course of 2016-17, Shved took 209 shots more than any player last season, although second placed Nick Calathes appeared in 3 fewer games than Shved so I guess he could have made up the difference. As it was he averaged 17.3 per game compared to 12.1 for Calathes in second.
Having the ball that much led to Shved drawing fouls like a boss. He was initially challenged by Nando de Colo and Luka Doncic, Nando was gone from contention reasonably early because he simply wasn’t on the floor enough to draw at either of the top two’s rate. Doncic lived with Shved for most of the season before Shved took the crown in the end averaging 6 to 5.8 for Doncic.
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Those of you paying attention will notice Shved’s winning tally from last season is 2 full fouls per game fewer than Langford managed a year earlier. Well, that involves rounding to a single decimal, as it was Langford’s leader is 1.93 fouls per game, still ridiculous. Considering he was ahead of second placed Brad Wanamaker by 2.5 fouls per game at the end of 2016-17, you can see how this is a special grade of efficacy in the eyes of dorks.
As for Shved, the sample of seasons is just so much smaller. Shved has played in 8 seasons in Euroleague but he was so young starting out that his first double-digit season in terms of games played was in 2011-12, his sixth season in the big show which started when he was 22.
In his first four seasons, Shved saw the floor so little that he only managed to draw 8 fouls in total, barely half of what Langford managed in his career high game for fouls drawn in Euroleague. He managed 12 in his fifth season but, again, the sample was just too small.
In his first season with double digit games, Shved managed a mere 2 fouls drawn per game which, considering he was playing around 22 minutes a game, isn’t anything to be shouting about. Of course, this was a very, very, different Alexey Shved and still an unfair comparison.
Putting a 22 year old Shved up against Langford in these rankings is unfair considering it is equating to the age Langford was in his first season as a pro. That means the only fair season to use for comparison with Langford is 2015-16, when Shved had come back from the NBA an older player and the clear leader for Khimki in Euroleague.
Up stepped Shved and he, was, umm…perfectly fine. The 3.8 drawn per game is lower than any season every recorded by Langford. It also came in a campaign where Shved logged 24 games in Euroleague so a small sample size doesn’t really excuse it. Working out where the change came is tough because, fouls drawn really isn’t that popular a stat. The eyeball test in Istanbul for EuroBasket 2017 certain makes it one where it seemed like he was becoming a specialist but FIBA’s own site doesn’t even have the data on fouls drawn for that tournament.
So, here we are, two players who are tremendously fun in their own right competing for a trophy that one claimed last year and the other inspired. It’s also the first time we’re going to see them square off properly in Euroleague as they’ve traded places here so often that we haven’t gotten a Langford vs Shved match-up.
We’re getting two this time now that Langford has landed at Panathinaikos. Fouls. Will. Be. Drawn.
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