By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The EuroLeague 2010-20 All-Decade Team has been completed today (May 12) with the addition of Olympiacos‘ Vassilis Spanoulis and it also showed that the guards have stayed (and became even more) dominant in the European elite competition.
Aside from Spanoulis, this decade’s squad featured seven more guards – Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nando De Colo, Dimitris Diamantidis. Luka Doncic, Sergio Llull, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Milos Teodosic – while the big men were represented by Georgios Printezis and Kyle Hines.
Two decades of reign
So, predominantly backcourt players and two of them, Diamantidis and Navarro – have made it there for the second time as they were also a part of the 2000-10 EuroLeague All-Decade Team.
It’s true that basketball around the globe has changed drastically over the past few decades and that the change of rules as well as the focus on spacing, transition, and three-point shooting has ‘made life easier’ for the guards while ‘setting aside’ traditional big men who dominated the paint.
However, EuroLeague (at least since the modern post-2000 era) has always favored players with the ball in their hands who are tasked with organizing the offense and are able to score at any given time from any given spot on the floor, especially in crunch times.
The 2000-10 All-Decade squad pointed to that as well. Diamantidis and Navarro were joined by five more guards – Sarunas Jasikevicus, Theo Papaloukas, J.R. Holden, Trajan Langdon, and Anthony Parker.
And while Dejan Bodiroga was put into the team as a small forward, one could argue that the Serbian all-arounder could be qualified as the eighth guard in that lineup as he wasn’t shy of taking over the role. The two frontcourt players that completed the roster were Ramunas Siskauskas and Nikola Vujcic.
The rise has been apparent and it hasn’t shown any signs of stopping in front of the next decade. In fact, if this season is used as an example, the best is yet to come from the top-level guards.
Taking over the baton
Shane Larkin, Mike James, and Alexey Shved are the only players this season to average more than 20 points per game and are joined by Scottie Wilbekin in the top five, with Nikola Mirotic completing the mix.
When the index rating is concerned, the list is more balanced as the big men who control the boards, such as Nikola Milutinov, Bojan Dubljevic and Greg Monroe, find their place. Agile forwards and all-around players like Mirotic, Luke Sikma and Tornike Shengelia are at the top too and that will hardly ever change.
The main advantage of the guards, however, has been that they are the ones to get the ball in crunch times. Larkin, James, Shved, and Wilbekin have all hit many come-from-behind shots for their squads as well as game-winners and buzzer-beaters. And that goes a long way when the awards are being given, including the MVPs and All-Decade Teams.
In addition to the average numbers, the guards have also put on some performances for the history books, especially Larkin who logged 44, 45, and 53 index ratings this season as well as 40 and 49 points.
Tyrese Rice, De Colo, Shved, Lorenzo Brown, James, Spanoulis, Nick Calathes, Kostas Sloukas, Malcolm Delaney, and Vasilije Micic also treated the crowd with amazing performances and are dominating the top of the list.
A perfect place to shine from
A similar dominance of guards has been seen in the NBA as well but with even more space, the ‘almost unnaturally athletic’ and talented forwards (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo) tend to have even more impact than the guards, although they might get outnumbered in the overall picture.
In Europe, however, where there isn’t as much athleticism, small combo guards can fully utilize their skills and abilities, and teams don’t shy away from letting them ‘loose’ in important moments as they alone can swing the momentum of the game.
The guards are here to stay and it wouldn’t be surprising if the EuroLeague 2020-30 All-Decade Team turns out with a similar lineup position-wise. Time will tell…