BallinEurope tries to take the responsibilities of Euroleague media partnership seriously and so spent way too much time deliberating over the vote for this season’s all-Euroeleague team/MVP awards. Having been given through last Friday – and after the result of the Olympiacos-Anadolu Efes game was in – to fill out the ballot, let’s just say BiE stayed up late determining just the right order for submission. One can’t take this stuff too seriously, can one?
Of course, every year, the thoughtful media member must first define “Most Valuable Player” Should this title be taken to mean simply the best player within the given association for the given year? Or perhaps the value of Player X to his *team*, i.e. consideration of how much worse X’s squad would have been without him, is most important – though this contention relies on speculation rather than the fact of accumulated stats.
Questions upon questions: What about the defensive contributions which elude statistical measure? Or those intangibles of leadership that a cagey veteran like Vassilis Spanoulis (or Sarunas Jasikevicius, for seven-minute bursts, for that matter) adds to a successful side? And on this note – How much emphasis and importance should be placed on participation with a winning team? The All-Euroleague first team these days has tended to include five players from Top Four teams, rewarding winning with an individual nod. But wasn’t someone having enough of a banner year to get a Montepaschi Siena or Caja Laboral Baskonia much further into the EL season than expected?
You see the can of worms BiE had opened; it’s like this every year.
Regardless, BiE’s ballot is in and after a subsequent weekend of watching more hoops, an examination of the thinking process. The Euroleague ballot is set in the now-fairly standard format: Media partners may vote for five players, with five points awarded to each voter’s no. 1 choice, four to the no. 2, three to the no. 3, etc. Once again, the ‘League is allowing free voting: Any five players regardless of position may be chosen. (At least that part was easy…)
So here’s how BiE’s ballot looked.
1. Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
2. Ante Tomic, FC Barcelona. By quite a few pragmatic measures – average performance index rating, accumulated PIR, rebounds per game (by a factor over 16% over Tomic, no less) – Krstic bettered his All-Euroleague season of 2011-12 and was the simplest choice for the top spot. Though graced with one seriously talented bunch of teammates, Krstic’s consistency in all the season’s phases was an anchor for the Red Army – can “Most Valuable Player” be considered synonymous with “Most Valuable Teammate”? BiE thinks so on some level, and surely in this case Milos Teodosic, Viktor Khyrapa, Sasha Kaun and a few others would agree.
Meanwhile, Tomic caught the attention of European basketball devotees in the off-season by jumping from Real Madrid to rivals Barcelona – here was Ante, thought to be the future lynchpin of Los Blancos’ interior, instead joining the likes of Erazem Lorbek and Pete Mickael and even x-factor Nathan Jawai to create a monster.
Things didn’t quite work out as planned for Barcelona – except for the bit about Tomic leveraging his ACB all-star year into greater success for the Blaugrana. Mickeal’s season sadly ended too early, Jawai wasn’t needed for huge minutes in the first couple EL phases and Lorbek, well, don’t get BiE started on Lorbek this year…
Yet, Barcelona kept winning (at least in the big league) early and often in 2012-13, with a team that showed a penchant for that secret of European championship basketball: Namely, adaptation to numerous game plans. And few demonstrated this principle better than Tomic, with three double-doubles, a Euroleague Player of the Month award and team-leading (one of the best teams in Europe-leading, that is) averages in rebounds (6.3), blocks (1.17) and PIR (16.3).
But ultimately, BiE went with Krstic. BiE would thank Euroleague for leaving the balloting open this late in the season: With no real consensus MVP going into the quarterfinal elimination round, the voters are able to weigh in playoff performance. Except both Krstic and Tomic were pretty freakin’ awesome in their series … sigh.
After one brain-mushing hour spent on these spots alone, stats won out. Just.
3. Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos. In a ballot designed solely for weighing in on a theoretical Most Valuable To His Team Player award, Spanoulis nearly unquestionably the choice. From fairly on in the season, it was clear that last season’s heroic team leader was on pace for another All-Euroleague year, and BiE became ever more certain that Spanoulis would appear somewhere on the ballot, but where?
A roller-coaster ride of a series had Anadolu Efes making ol’ Vassilis looking like a mere mortal, but Spanoulis responded in game five with a nifty 19-point, five-assist performance. Most Valuable To His Team – his Euroleague Final Four team – indeed.
4. Bobby Brown, Montepaschi Siena. On one hand, Brown may have been more impressive that Spanoulis in terms of team-centric importance: At 18.8 points per game, Bobby was the sole Siena player to average double figures, while also contributing a team-high 5.3 assists. His league second-high 17.38 PIR belied the purely subjective beauty of Brown’s rediscovered passing game – one that hasn’t been seen since his days at Cal State Fullerton. Siena advanced to the Top 16 round thanks to snappy ball movement facilitated by Brown.
On the other hand … so often it didn’t seem to matter for Siena. A fantastic 24-point, six-assist, two-steal effort against Baskonia in the final week of the Top 16 was wasted in a weak 12-point loss. A 19-and-8 with just one turnover against Besiktas – and mostly what will be remembered is the off-balance running corner three Brown was forced to take in a game that shouldn’t have come down to the final shot. Et cetera. Brown’s notably selfless play sadly going for naught was a recurring nightmare for this team in the Top 16 round.
On the other other hand, let’s not forget that monstrous 41-point showing against Fenerbahçe…
5. Viktor Khryapa, CSKA Moscow. The main reason Khryapa was kept so low on BiE’s ballot? It says here that if you’re not the MVP of your own team, you can’t be MVP of the league. Nevertheless, Khryapa personified in individual form everything that makes the 2012-13 edition of the Red Army a marvel to watch: The ability to attack from anywhere on the floor, the unending relentlessness of said attack, the big-bodied lockdown defense and just sheer mastery in ball control. One of BallinEurope’s favorite highlight clips from 2012-13, the official Euroleague clip of Khryapa’s anti-statistical Player of the Week performance in quarterfinal round game two, sums it all up. Basketball purists, this vote’s for you.
Khryapa may ultimately not even make the All-Euroleague first team – BiE’s sure he was on the bubble on many ballots – but let’s hope he at least gets an all-defensive team consolation prize.
On the theoretical All-Euroleague Second Team ballot (media members don’t actually get to vote on this, but hey, BiE spent way too much time mulling to throw these names away), BallinEurope goes with Bojan Bogdanovic, Fenerbahçe Ülker; Paul Davis, BC Khimki Moscow region; Shawn James, Maccabi Tel Aviv; Maciej Lampe, Caja Laboral Baskonia; and Nikola Mirotic, Real Madrid.
As for Rudy Fernandez, BiE just … just can’t.
So who do you have?