Here is an in-depth look at how a couple of Spanish teams are faring early on in Euroleague, including one that is about to feel the effects of the NBA lockout resolution.
Having played six games, FC Barcelona Regal is one of only two teams that remain undefeated and feature a roster with some of Europe’s best talent. Among them is Juan Carlos Navarro who was recently became the all-time Euroleague leading scorer. As a matter of course, most teams good enough to play in the Euroleague don’t give out more than 25 minutes per game, even to their star players, due to the heavy schedules of not only this competition but their domestic and cup leagues. That is why it is rare to see inflated stats that can be accumulated in the less competitive leagues. Navarro has continued his superb form from EuroBasket 2011 and is averaging 12.5 points per outing.
Navarro is one star remaining for Barcelona’s 2009-10 Euroleague championship and he is also accompanied by the likes of veterans Fran Vazquez, Boniface N’Dong and Pete Mickeal, three guys with NBA ties.
Vazquez, a power forward the Orlando Magic were hoping to team with Dwight Howard, is most famous for being made the 11th pick in the 2005 NBA. He never made it over to the States with some speculating he only entered the draft in order to raise his stocks in contract negotiations with European clubs. Never having been a stats monster, Vazquez possesses decent big man skills and valuable size, averaging only five points per along with some Ben Wallacesque free throw shooting percentages.
N’Dong is a long, active center and is having a nice Euroleague season and an even better one in the Spanish ACB. He was 28 in 2005-06 when he made his NBA debut for the Clippers. He didn’t show enough to stick around the NBA despite his physical abilities and has since made a solid career for himself in Europe, one that could have seen him return to the States in a backup role he had desired.
Despite never playing a game for either Dallas or New York after coming out Cincinnati, Pete Mickeal has developed into a do-it-all wing player in Europe. An athletic player with the ability to score from the perimeter or with his strength down low, Mickeal is surprisingly having a better Euroleague season than in domestic competition despite playing less minutes. Third on the team in scoring with an average of nearly 11 points per game, Mickeal is also good for four rebounds and a shade under two assists in less than 20 minutes of action a night.
Rounding out the team is Slovenian national Erazem Lorbek who played college ball at Michigan State University and had a cup of tea with the Indiana Pacers. He leads the team in scoring with over 14 points a game in spite of attempting only four free throws in six games. Brazilian point guard Marcelinho Huertas is also having a solid season averaging 11 points and six assists while shooting an incredible 73% from inside the arc.
Real Madrid, another Spanish team, is also enjoying some Euroleague success in Group C, having won four of their first six games. Both losses amounted to a total of seven points, including a one point loss to Partizan.
Real’s best player has easily been Jaycee Don Carroll who is averaging 18.2 points per game (fourth in Euroleague scoring). In only 22 minutes per night, Carroll has scorched the competition, shooting nearly 52% on two point attempts and a shade under 59% on threes. After an excellent career at Utah State University, in which he propelled himself up some of the NCAA all-time scoring charts but nevertheless went undrafted, NBA Summer League never provided him with a ticket to the league. At a height that is generally considered too small for a shooting guard by NBA standards (6 ft 2), Carroll has proven to be more than adequate in Europe where he has carved out a niche as a scoring guard capable of hauling in big numbers.
Real will be affected heavily by the departures of two notable NBA players that were having great Euroleague seasons. Rudy Fernandez is about to try his luck out with the Dallas Mavericks and steal the starting two guard position and will leave a big dent in the team’s production. The leading minute man through six games, Fernandez was also second in points (13 ppg) while contributing three rebounds and two assists per outing. His ability to light it up from outside and provide nice athletic plays around the ring will undoubtedly be missed. Serge Ibaka, the young rising power forward from Oklahoma City, was also providing a big spark off the bench. In just 13 minutes of action since his late signing by the club, Ibaka was grabbing four rebounds and blocking two shots an outing to go along with five points per.
Real features a host of other guys contributing solid numbers, some with NBA ties. Sergio Rodriquez had a few moments in the NBA but he played best when given the opportunity after the trade that brought Tracy McGrady to the Big Apple. He averaged seven points per game in New York, the highest of his short NBA career. Known for his slick passing, Rodriquez is averaging a team-high six assists as a part-time starter at the point. Sergio Llull and Ante Tomic are also having nice Euroleague seasons. Nikola Mirotic, the 20-year-old naturalized Spanish national player (and Houston’s pick at number 23 in the most recent NBA Draft) is having a nice season at the power forward position and is one of the many guys hovering just under 10 points per game in Real’s balanced offensive attack.
Both Spanish teams are having spectacular Euroleague seasons, dominating their respective groups, and have a chance to take home the hardware when it’s all said and done. The question marks surrounding Real’s roster due to their NBA departures might see them slip a bit but both teams are deep enough to go far in Europe’s most prestigious club basketball tournament.