It has not been a fun season for Anadolu Efes in Euroleague Basketball but there has been one bright sport. A rejuvenated Shane Larkin has shown he’s back to being that guy
The odds are against them and the situation is grim. In a down season for Anadolu Efes, Shane Larkin has shown he’s still willing to fight to keep this team relevant in Euroleague Basketball.
A brilliant season in isolation
Shane Larkin being good at basketball isn’t exactly news. His three season stretch from 2019/20 through 2021/22 is probably the best of any player not to win the MVP trophy during that span. Larkin averaged 16.7 points per game, 2.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. Alongside Vasilije Micic, he made every Anadolu Efes game appointment viewing in Euroleague Basketball.
This season Larkin is exceeding the averages from that legendary peak. He’s getting 17.6 point, 2.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists yet he’s not a regular in the MVP discussion. Mike James, Chima Moneke, and Facundo Campazzo all are but not Larkin. It’s for a simple reason.
This is not the old Anadolu Efes
This season has been woeful in terms of results for Anadolu Efes. After staying in the playoff race almost to the end last year, they are hanging on by the slimmest of threads right now. This despite the expanded play-in format.
They sit 16th in the Euroleague Basketball standings with a 10-15 record, with only the hapless duo of Alba Berlin and LDLC Asvel beneath them. It’s hard to make a case for MVP when it’s not getting your team results.
It’s mostly down to simply dreadful road form, where Efes have gone 2-11 all season. That has resulted in them having the second most porous defence in the whole competition, giving up 85.1 points per game.
That simply hasn’t put Larkin in the position required to be a contender for the most coveted award in the competition. Right now, I’d bet he makes the All-Euroleague second team. Still there is promise.
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The lost MVP
The decision by Euroleague Basketball not to give end of season awards for the 2019/20 season was probably justified. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. Larkin was the reason to watch basketball on this continent. This Efes team, they were just a thrill ride. Every week felt like an adventure with Shane Larkin guaranteed to do some superhero stuff to lead Anadolu Efes to a win.
Then basketball stopped and the one year we all thought he’d win MVP, he didn’t because nobody did. Larkin probably isn’t too sore about that. He did win two Euroleague titles in each of the subsequent seasons. He was in the MVP discussion both of those years as well.
Last season however was a lost one. Larkin missed half the season through injury and it was the end of Cool Efes. Many of those pieces that made up the mini-dynasty moved on. It’s where one of them landed that makes the future really interesting.
A new dawn?
There are two things we know about Panathinaikos right now. Their head coach is Ergin Ataman and their owner, Dimitrios Giannokopoulos, is keen to get said head coach players that can help him win a Euroleague championship.
Larkin will only be 31 this summer and clearly hasn’t lost a step based on this season. If anything, he’s somewhat refreshed. With free agency looming, a reunion with his old coach at Anadolu Efes can’t be ruled out.
They won’t be the only suitors, far from it. It’s safe to say that his current home will want to keep him. There may be NBA interest but Larkin will likely be better compensated in Europe and get to play more meaningful minutes here. The choice will be there for Shane Larkin and his advisors to work out the best situation for him going forward.
There’s no point picking where Larkin might land next season, for two reasons. First, he’ll have his pick of places. The second is a lot more relevant right now.
Here’s the thing
For all their struggles this season, Anadolu Efes might well make the postseason of Euroleague Basketball. That win over Olimpia Milano last week was of the must-win variety but they won it.
The Istanbul side currently sits 3 games outside of the play-in with 9 games to go. It’s tough but, in such a crowded field, far from impossible. Victory at home this Thursday over Maccabi Tel Aviv would cut a game off the gap immediately. That said, defeat would all but end their campaign.
In Larkin, it’s clear the fight is in him to go for it. There’s a breather after Thursday’s game for the international break and cup competitions. A win on Thursday and the maths get simple. Sweep the four home games, then find a way to win two of three four games at Partizan, Asvel, Fenerbahce, and Baskonia.
Do that, and it’s likely enough to pull off the great escape. I said it would be simple not easy. Failure is likely but, from watching the fire in Shane Larkin’s play these past few weeks, it doesn’t seem to be an option.