Euroleague Final Four week is finally upon us, with the culmination of one unpredictable and fun 2010-11 Euroleague season to come to head in the championship game in Barcelona on Sunday. BallinEurope will be there to cover the action, the talk and the atmosphere later this week; in the meantime, we’ll start seven days of Final Four coverage with BiE’s choices for 2011 All-Euroleague First Team and season MVP – bear in mind that these choices will have nothing to do with the actual results to be announced on Saturday. A pity.
Point guard. In the round of fan voting, BiE’s ballot had Dimitris Diamantidis; all the Panathinaikos spearhead has done this season was lead the Euroleague in assists with a total the officials tell us is eighth-best in league history. And what’s that you say? The man just took his sixth Defensive Player of the Year award in seven seasons? Sorry, Jeremy Pargo, BiE doesn’t even think this one’s close. Not this year.
Shooting guards/small forwards. Again, BiE’s not getting off the horse – or horses, rather – namely Juan Carlos Navarro and Fernando San Emeterio, though dropping the Barcelona player off this ballot is slightly tempting.
After all, when BiE voted in the first round, Navarro and Barca looked monstrous, primed for a repeat. BiE called the red-hot Navarro “The best player and go-to guy on the best club in Europe right now.” Call it prophetic or call it a curse, but as Navarro goes so goes Barcelona … while scoring 20 a game, Navarro led his team to a 6-0 Top 16 round. And when Juan Carlos pulled a disappearing act against Panathinaikos in games three and four of their playoff series, Barca was bounced.
Nevertheless, in general Navarro turned in a heckuva EL season … he just got cold at the wrong time.
Unfortunately, Caja Laboral Baskonia was also stopped in its tracks in the playoffs – but whoa, did this team and San Emeterio play over their heads all season. Since BiE is a devoted stat monkey, the two compelling numbers on San Emeterio were at the time of the popular vote: San Emeterio’s insane 58.1% (89-of-153) in overall shooting, including an EL-leading 54.7% on threes at 29-of-53; and his EL-scorching player rating, then 2.5 points better than 2010-11 studs Diamantidis and Joel Freeland.
The latter gap has lessened to just 1.0 points over Diamantidis and it should be tough to consider San Emeterio for MVP when his team’s not in the final four, but BiE gives him first team props for his outstanding efforts.
Power forwards/Centers. Wow, BiE’s kinda surprised that Ioannis Bourousis and Joel Freeland aren’t in contention here. No problem: Mike Batiste, that darling of Euroleague fantasy owners, makes a pretty good choice here. Defensive prowess aside – and Batiste brings a lot of D to Panathinaikos – the Californian turned in a nice line of 12.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks per game.
Finally, it’s got to be longtime BiE fave Sofoklis Schortsanitis. BiE’s sole concern last time around was the relatively low amount of playing time Sofo has gotten in Euroleague games with Maccabi Tel Aviv this season – but the ‘League itself has answered the call in finding that Schortsanitis “Led league in per-minute scoring [at] 0.63 ppm.”
So yeah, BiE’s picking Sofoklis – because I can.
MVP. Well, this one really comes down to two, doesn’t it? And in a season when defense mattered more than in years, BiE has to back the no. 1 defensive guy. Here, it’s Dimitris Diamantidis over Fernando San Emeterio.
And who do you have…?