With the regular season of Euroleague in the bag, it’s time to make cases for all the candidates…yes all of them. Emmet Ryan with a slightly different take on MVP voting on why each of the candidates in the running deserves legitimate consideration
So I’m coming at this a little back to front. There are a bunch of guys who are going to get all the passion from their supporters in the MVP voting. The types of guys for whom the love is going to lead to online wars. Well, rather than saying why X or Y doesn’t deserve consideration, I’ve decided to see why each of the players in the MVP discussion…and some who aren’t…actually merits a MVP vote.
You may have also noticed I put a picture of one of the candidates at the top of this piece. That’s not a secret way of showing who this corner believes should win, I just found the sight of Sergio Llull trying to eat a basketball amusing and Google likes articles with images.
The one thing that genuinely surprised me putting this list together was the absence of players from one team above all others. Exactly zero Olympiacos players made the cut and that is, considering how consistent they were, a little surprising. It’s when you go a bit deeper that the picture becomes clearer. This team was comically balanced. I nearly put in Giorgios Printezis but while he was great he wasn’t in this discussion great. That’s not a slight on Oly, y’all had too many guys playing at roughly the same level consistently for any one or two to really stand out in the MVP discussion. There’s at least one team with a player on this list that would gladly trade places with you in a heartbeat.
Nick Calathes, Panathinaikos
Not the most obvious candidate but bear with me here as Calathes gets in for a couple of reasons. His iron-manning, playing all 30 games, certainly merits some inclusion and he had a heap of responsibility without a true PG back-up on the roster. That somewhat kept his scoring down but he managed to not let his ball-security issues be the issue they have historically proven to be. Economic from the inside and retaining his creative streak while somewhat tempering the aggression, Calathes had probably his most mature season to date. He just needs to shoot fewer threes.
Nando de Colo, CSKA Moscow
The obvious criticism of Nando is that he missed 7 games but in the 23 he played, the Frenchman was just fantastic. The scoring was there, so too was the creativity. As a 2, de Colo seems far happier in the creator role than he ever would as a 1. It’s that ability to stay on his own game while making use of the assets around him that puts the CSKA star in his happy place. That’s why he was able to do what he did.
Sergio Llull, Real Madrid
If there’s one guy for whom the numbers don’t tell the full story of his season than it’s Llull. Essentially tasked with being both himself and Chacho, after Sergio Rodriguez left for the Philadelphia 76ers, Llull took on the role of leader and just plain ran with it. When Real needed him to be a heavy scorer, he was. When they needed him to be the lead passer, yup that was fine. When they just needed someone to kill off hope in whatever foe lay before them, Madrid knew whose number to call.
Keith Langford, Unics Kazan
Bring it on, bring on all of your hate. Yes, Kazan finished second to last but Langford put up the types of numbers that were nuts for anyone this past season. Everybody knows Keith likes to shoot, he put up a comfortably league high 470 over the course of the season…almost 16 a game…but showed that age really is a number. The 21.8 points per game were expected on that kind of shooting but he was a foul-drawing machine. When looking at the stats I thought Sergio Llull’s 4.7 fouls drawn per game was impressive, and de Colo’s 6.2 even more so, until I saw that Langford drew 8 fouls per game while only giving up 1.8. With 3.4 boards and 3.7 assists per game as well, Unics floundered in spite of Langford’s game not because of his ball-hogging.
Milos Teodosic, CSKA Moscow
Like de Colo, the number of games Milos missed will earn him some critics but hot damn was he hot when he was hot. Brutally efficient on the inside, both as a scorer and creator, Teodosic was able to deliver all of those highlight reel plays because he understood what those around him were doing too. That’s the brain you want on your roster and certainly the type of guy running the point. He more than merits his inclusion in the debate.
Ekpe Udoh, Fenerbahce
This really wasn’t a year for big men in the MVP race. There were several very good bigs in Europe this year but Udoh was the only one who, over the course of the season, really merited inclusion in the race for the top honour. His sheer presence on defence was huge all year and it’s really hard to see anyone challenging him, on merit, for defensive player of the year. Having played hurt a bit, he still managed to get it down on the offensive end consistently.
Brad Wanamaker, Darussafaka Dogus
Easily the most under the radar MVP level display all season. At least with Langford there were enough ‘that just happened’ games for people to be unable to ignore him irrespective of Kazan’s many losses. Wanamaker easily put himself in the discussion for best guard in Europe and the MVP race with his performance this year. When folk can legitimately compare you to Milos, Nando, and Llull on an overall level, you’re making waves. The numbers were there as were the big time performances when necessary from Wanamaker.
A quick note on the presumptive Rising Star award winner Luca Doncic. What really stood out from him, outside of the explosive performances and big plays, was the balance in his game. Doncic showed he can drive, step outside, or facilitate when needs be and has a brain far beyond his 18 years. While not in the MVP discussion, and rightly so, it’s no accident he’s seen as the most obvious pick for any award in an awfully long time.