by Mete Budak / firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes the first two of those factors could make such a big difference for a player that you can’t even discuss who the MVP is, but sometimes you need to go down on your criteria list and analyse the players thoroughly to have a clearer picture of the MVP.
2016-17 EuroLeague season gives us an array of candidates for MVP award. This season might not have an unanimous candidate to win the race. However some players are naturally forerunners. We will first look at each of them to assess their performance. Then I am going to give my humble opinion on who is the closest name to the top prize.
EuroLeague’s official list of MVP canditates is quite long (published on February 17th): Derrick Brown, Nando De Colo, Milos Teodosic, Luka Doncic, Ognjen Kuzmic, Keith Langford, Sergio Llull, Nicolo Melli, Giorgos Printezis, Vassilis Spanoulis, Anthony Randolph, Chris Singleton, Ekpe Udoh, Johannes Voigtmann and Brad Wanamaker.
Since it is an official list for a wide basketball competition, such a long list of candidates is only natural. But now that the landscape is more clear and the playoffs near, the list is much shorter. Canditates from fifth-ranked team and below never won the prize and there isn’t a reason to change this principle this year. Despite Top-4 of EuroLeague is not officially clear, the real candidates for the regular season MVP are the following: Nando De Colo | Milos Teodosic | Chris Singleton | Sergio Llull | Ekpe Udoh
NANDO DE COLO (CSKA MOSCOW)
Stats: 21 Games | 20.2 points | 4 assists | 3.1 rebounds | %45.5 3PFG | %96.4 FT | 22.8 PIR
Team record: 21-7
Last season’s unanimous MVP has remained in excellent form this season too. Europe’s best slasher-type player is also a perfect three-point marksman and an impeccable free-throw shooter. His cold-blooded game and high basketball IQ makes it uneasy for opponents to get into his head, brings his all-around game to completion. As it turns out, he is the most difficult offensive player to contain in Europe and CSKA Moscow certainly acknowledges that by keeping him for years.
Nando De Colo has earned five weekly MVP honours so far in this season but missing out on seven games in a row might have cost him a MVP of the Month award. Nevertheless, CSKA Moscow did so well in absorbing the downsides of his absences, winning six of seven during the stretch. (only loss at Fenerbahce)
MILOS TEODOSIC (CSKA MOSCOW)
Stats: 22 Games | 15.8 points | 7.5 asissts | 2.3 rebounds | %36.9 3PFG | %90.8 FT | 17.3 PIR
Team record: 21-7
The other component of the “Voltron” alongside Nando De Colo; Milos Teodosic is undoubtedly the most precious point guard in Europe. Teodosic just makes “No Dice!” happen on the floor and he is the primary person in charge of CSKA Moscow’s offensive order. He is responsible for making necessary changes on offense in case things are not clicking well.
He can single-handedly win a game for you and he did it many times, making him a proven leader as the years go by. Thus, he is not really a substitutable player for CSKA if he leaves for the NBA.
Teodosic was chosen as the EuroLeague MVP of the Month in October and also chosen as a weekly MVP one time. His case is for the season MVP is strong, as he is currently leading the league in double-double numbers (7) which is a very fascinating number for a point guard! However, what is even more fascinating is that his seven is better than nine teams’ total double-double record!
Just like De Colo, Teodosic was also sidelined due to small injuries or purely for resting reasons and he missed six games this season. CSKA Moscow had lost two of them. (at Zalgiris Kaunas and at Fenerbahce)
CHRIS SINGLETON (PANATHINAIKOS)
Stats: 28 Games | 12.2 points | 6 rebounds | 1.1 steals | 1.1 blocks | %46.8 3PFG | %73.9 FT | 15.9 PIR
Team record: 17-11
Chris Singleton had played a leading-role for Lokomotiv Kuban’s Final Four appearance last season and Panathinaikos lost no time in locking him during the summer. So far, so good. He is having a monster season!
His two-way game has been proven the best among EuroLeague bigs and the impact he has on Panathinaikos team is huge. Let me put things into perspective for you: He is leading the team in: Blocks, rebounds, efficiency rating and three-point shooting (47% which is crazy for him). Singleton has always been a terrific player but his numbers this season go beyond expectations. With James Gist being a regular absentee for the most part of the season, he has absolutely made Panathinaikos hold onto the first four seed and now they can actually get the home-court advantage.
Chris Singleton has also been consistently showing up to the floor, never missed a game this season. He definitely deserves to be on the list.
SERGIO LLULL (REAL MADRID)
Stats: 25 Games | 16.6 points | 6.2 assists | 2.1 rebounds | 1.1 blocks | %32.5 3PFG | %85 FT | 17.4 PIR
Team record: 21-7
The departure of Sergio Rodriguez and the unpromising situation of Rudy Fernandez who seems unlikely to return to his grandiose days finally makes it possible for Sergio Llull to become the true leader of Real Madrid team.
The weight he had to shoulder was heavy. However, thus far, he has done it so well that nobody dares to question his leadership skills.
While his quick feet and decent size favour him among other guards, his finishing abilities and unprecedented instincts of making impossible shots prove him deadly. But what makes him even more special is his defensive attitude and devotion. He can suit up for the role of reliable one-on-one defender every time you want him to. He is one of the best two-way guards in Europe, if not the best.
Llull has the best assist/turnover ratio in the league, way ahead of the likes of Milos Teodosic, Vassilis Spanoulis and Nick Calathes all of whom are known for their playmaking abilities. Besides, over the 25 games he played, he fell short of double digit scoring in only three games while doing it with an impressive 42% shooting. Real Madrid currently holds the first seed and has a good chance of finishing so. Llull’s massive season is certainly the biggest reason behind.
Llull was chosen as the EuroLeague MVP of the Month in November and selected as the MVP of the week two times. Llull has missed only three games this season and Real Madrid lost only one of them. (at Darussafaka Dogus).
EKPE UDOH (FENERBAHÇE)
Stats: 24 Games | 12.2 points | 7.6 rebounds | 2.2 blocks | 1.9 assists | %58.2 2PFG | 20 PIR
Team record: 17-11
When Ekpe Udoh got selected into All-EuroLeague second team last year – he might have gotten into All-EuroLeague first as well, if Vesely was not there – we all thought that was the peak of his capabilities. We were wrong.
Fenerbahce offense this season is centred more on Ekpe Udoh, something that is a bit planned and a bit not at times, and he capitalizes on his talents while also improving his offensive arsenal. His game is a sight to see and certainly one of the best big-man performances we have witnessed in the old continent over the last years. He is the one who separates the shiny day from the gloomy night for Fener.
He is still honing his reliable post-up game in terms of finishing and this season he has shown the flashes of playmaking from low-post. For the first time in his career, improved floor vision merged with his long-hidden passing abilities and it has added a new dimension to Fener offense. On the defensive end, there is not much to talk about. He has averaged competition-leading 2.2 blocks per game but he is more than a rim protector. He is one of the bigs in the game who is able to stay in front of small guys after switching and it provides a valuable flexibility for the defense to make it more compact.
Ekpe Udoh missed four games and Fenerbahce dropped only one of them (vs. Baskonia). He earned the Weekly MVP honours one time. His absence makes a huge difference for Fener in terms of quality and lessens their tenacity on both ends.
Who is leading the race?
First, let’s look at stastistical measures. These names are all very good players but how much do they make their teams a better unit when they are on the floor? Plus-minus statistics measures a given team’s effectiveness when a player is off or on the court. This is the table for our five big names:
|Player||On the Floor +/-||Off the Floor +/-||Difference|
|Nando De Colo||+109||+124||-15|
De Colo is especially eye-catching, isn’t it? He is a big weapon on offense but also a big deficiency to hide in defense which is visible in stats.
When you look at other names, we see that Singleton and Teodosic are the biggest difference makers. Singleton is so vital of a player that Panathinaikos goes down to negative numbers when he is not playing.
Our second statistical perspective will be overall positive PIR (points + assists + rebounds + blocks + steals and fouls drawn) and overall negative PIR (missed shots + missed free throws + turnover + blocked shots + fouls commited). Then, lastly, we will see how their difference adds up for each player.
|Player||Positive PIR||Negative PIR||Difference|
|Nando De Colo||724||247||477|
The last stat we should look at is the overall positive PIR of each player’s team when they are on and off the floor. But we don’t need a table for this one as Singleton is the leader with a wide margin. He makes an almost 1700 points difference with his existence. Ekpe Udoh is following with 1500 and Sergio Llull is at the third place with 1200. Teodosic and De Colo are way back, merely completing the list.
That’s what the stats say but we have to remind that not even playoff match-ups are made and EuroLeague history did not see an MVP who plays for non-Final Four team. However, we should say our favorite for the award is clear with or without taking this criteria into account.
Sergio Llull Rises Above Everyone
Why Sergio Llull, at the prime of his career and playing the best season of his life, is the undisputed MVP for me? Here are some of my points:
- Real Madrid has an important advantage to finish the EuroLeague Regular Season at the top after one of the worst season of its club history and it’s safe to project they will have a record of 23-7. Llull is the major factor in both as the leader of the team since beginning of the season.
- In match-ups with EuroLeague’s Big Five (CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid, Fenerbahçe, Olympiacos and Panathinaikos) he has an average 21.2 points per game. Only Nando De Colo is better than him with 22.4, the rest of the candidates are not even near them.
- He is much better than Milos Teodosic and Nando De Colo in assist/turnover ratio despite his burden on offense being much heavier than CSKA’s dynamic duo.
- He played more games in the shortlist, except Chris Singleton who never missed a game, which is a big deal in a 30 game regular season.
- He is a way better two-way guard than other backcourt players in our shortlist. With Teodosic and De Colo on the floor CSKA is defending worse, Real Madrid is defending better with Llull.
- He is one of the three most spectacular players of EuroLeague alongside Luka Doncic and Milos Teodosic. He is a master at making game-winning, game-changing and/or game-deciding shots.
- Real Madrid is one of the heavy favorites for EuroLeague Final Four in İstanbul along with CSKA Moscow.
- He is the only MVP candidate of mine who earned the EuroLeague MVP of the Month honours, along with Milos Teodosic. The MVP of March is yet to be announced but likely that it is going to a non-MVP candidate. Here is the thing: Out of 12 times it had got distributed, seven times the MVP award has landed on a player who received at least one monthly MVP. Worth a mention that its criteria also encapsulates playoff run but I do not think any of the other four candidates will fare so well in the playoffs that they dethrone Sergio Llull. (Unless Singleton or Udoh averages monster numbers like 20-10-5 or so and eliminates a worse-seeded team)
Chris Singleton is the most interesting candidate of them all in my opinion. He is really having a phenomenal season and also the biggest difference maker for his team statistic-wise. Without Singleton, Panathinaikos wouldn’t be a top-4 team, let alone being a Final Four candidate. But general record of Panathinaikos and his own bad record against Big Five leaves him behind in the MVP race. Also, his performance away from OAKA is not MVP-calibre.
Same goes for Ekpe Udoh when it comes to individual performance. Udoh is the biggest contributor to his team’s positive PIR when he is on the floor. It is simply impossible for Fenerbahçe to dream of Final Four without him but his team’s season record puts him behind. Fenerbahçe is in danger of losing their place at Top-4 and they can potentially even drop as low as 6th spot.
The MVP case of Nando De Colo or Milos Teodosic a little bit pays the price of them being on the same team. While this is also evident on the tables, the story with De Colo is more about him being needed on the highest level. CSKA Moscow is able to contain De Colo’s absence without much trouble for the vast part of the season (they are 6-0 vs. non-Big Five teams). He is needed the most when the intensity of the game mounts up and CSKA is left in a game where they need to make big plays, which is often not the case for them even without De Colo. Thus, he is a crucial asset late into the season when the intensity is high and there is less room for mistake. He is also the leading scorer of EuroLeague during the crunch time.
Teodosic, on the other hand, is putting together another massive season and as a point guard, he has the most double-double numbers in the competition. The most spectacular passer in the game is left behind Sergio Llull, simply because Llull is having a better season in terms of consistency. Besides, Real Madrid has the upper-hand for finishing in front of CSKA and Llull appeared in three more games.
We also would like to include a candidate from Olympiacos, they are at the 3rd spot and one of the big contenders for Final Four. Printezis is the only player that comes up in terms of performance, however, Olympiacos‘ well-known sharing of the ball on offense and overall team play prevents any player from putting together a glamorous season, unless you are a guy with a famous beard and the capability. But let’s be honest, it would be an exaggeration to say that neither him nor Printezis is having a special season.
In conclusion, Sergio Llull is our MVP candidate and by the numbers it is pretty clear. Llull continously makes his will to stay in Europe known and it is no money-related. He wants to carry Real Madrid to the top again and this season proves his intentions the best.
Note: All the stats used in the tables are extracted from overbasket.com. They are doing a great job, check them out!