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Real Madrid Makes Case For Being Euroleague's Best Team Of The Century

If there were a voting for the most successful team of 21st century, Panathinaikos would be a main contender to finish at the top of the ranking. Five Euroleague championships in 13 years is something that no other team has achieved and that makes the Greens the most successful team of 21st century.

However, talking about Euroleague’s best team in a single season since 2000 usually leads to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 04-05. Some of the teams were close, such as 11-12 FC Barcelona, but a Maccabi team featuring Sarunas Jasikevicius, Anthony Parker and Nikola Vujcic set the standard so high that it was unreachable until now.

41-1. This is current Real Madrid’s win-loss record, which almost reads like a misprint. In more than 130 days of action, Real has lost only once and for most of the time reminded you of the Spanish version of the Monstars from Space Jam, which on a bad day would still beat their opponents by a double-digit margin. Last but not least, let me remind you that Real plays in Euroleague and Spanish championship (Liga Endesa), which are the second and the third best club competitions in the world behind just the NBA.

But before comparing similarities and differences to 04-05 Maccabi, it is essential to remember how good Maccabi was nine years ago. In 04-05, Maccabi won back-to-back Euroleague championship and became the first Euroleague team to do so since 1991. Back in 04-05, Maccabi won 20 Euroleague games out of 24 and stayed undefeated throughout Top 16, playoffs and Final Four. The team from Israel had some well-known names on its squad such one of the best Americans ever to play in Euroleague: one of the most dominant point guards of 21st century in Sarunas Jasikevicius, the only player to register triple-double in Euroleague in Nikola Vujcic, as well as future NBA starter Anthony Parker. In that historical season, Maccabi led the league in all main statistical categories - in scoring, assists, field goal and three point percentages, and blocks.

Real also ranks in Top 3 in every major statistical category as they posted an average margin of victory of 20.5 points in its 16 wins. No surprise, some of the most talented players in the league wear Real’s jersey - former NBA player and now one of the best point guards in Euroleague in Sergio Rodriguez, future Chicago Bull and MVP candidate Nikola Mirotic, the winner of the 2011-12 RealGM Euroleague Sixth Man of the Year Award Jaycee Carroll and many others.

 

04-05 Maccabi

13-14 Real

PPG

92 (1)

88.2 (1)

RPG

33.9 (5)

36.9 (2)

APG

17.4 (1)

18.9 (2)

SPG

11.9 (3)

8.1 (1)

BPG

4.1 (1)

4.1 (1)

2FG%

57.6 (1)

56.1 (3)

3FG%

40.6 (1)

40.9 (1)

FT%

77.8 (2)

82.1 (1)

The number in brackets shows position among 24 Euroleague teams.

Three similarities and key difference

1. Keeping winning starting five: After winning the Euroleague championship in 03-04, Maccabi maintained its whole starting five and that helped them to repeat their success in the following year. Real did the same thing after reaching the Euroleague final in 12-13, as they didn’t initiate dramatic changes and only strengthened the center position by signing Ioannis Bourousis.

2. Versatile frontcourt: Maceo Baston and Vujcic played a major role in 04-05 and together averaged 28.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. At that time, it was the most dominant “do it all” frontcourt in the league - using post moves and back to the basket play, pick and roll, hitting threes and finishing on fastbreaks. Mirotic and Bourousis have the same importance for Real as they average 20.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game combined. Without their versatility and contribution on both ends of the floor 41-1 record wouldn’t be possible.

3. Unstoppable offense: The biggest Maccabi and Real advantage against their opponents is their dominant offense. Maccabi averaged Euroleague All-Time high 92 points per game in 04-05, while Real is not so far behind this year with 88.2 points. Both teams’ offences were things of beauty and Tel Aviv and Madrid clubs were able to score in as many possible ways as you can imagine. Also both teams scored more than have of their points off assists, therefore 04-05 Maccabi and 13-14 Real are one of the most fun teams to watch in Euroleague history too.

X. Striking starting five and bench depth: Three members of that historical Maccabi starting five later were named to Euroleague All-Decade Team (Jasikevicius, Parker and Vujcic). That’s a good example of how strong and talented Maccabi starting five was and that would be Maccabi’s advantage over Real. On the other hand, Real bench would probably make it to the Euroleague playoffs on their own and they have been much more efficient than Maccabi’s bench. Rodriguez, Marcus Slaughter, Felipe Reyes, Carroll, Dontaye Draper - pretty much every player of the 12-man squad (except Daniel Diez) can be a decisive factor and turn the game in favor of Real Madrid.

 

04-05 Maccabi

13-14 Real

PG

Jasikevicius

Rodriguez

SG

Burstein

Fernandez

SF

Parker

Darden

PF

Baston

Mirotic

C

Vujcic

Bourousis

Crunch-time fives of Maccabi and Real.

To sum up, despite it still being midseason, Real Madrid is already in the conversation to be named the best team of 21st century. Without question Real seems to be just as good and dominant as Maccabi was in 04-05, if not better. However, in order to be a new number one, Real still has to do one thing and one thing only - beat everyone on their way to the final and raise the Euroleague trophy in Milan.

24 Questions For The Start Of Euroleague 2013-14

As the 2013-14 Euroleague season begins, RealGM presents 24 questions for the Euroleague fans.

1. Will Anadolu Efes be a better team with Zoran Planinic than it was with Jordan Farmar?

Anadolu Efes Istanbul replaced their biggest star, Jordan Farmar, with Zoran Planinic, who was dominant while playing for Khimki Moscow region during the 2012-13 season. Planinic averaged a career-high 12.4 points and league-high 6.3 assists per game, but is he good enough to do what Farmar couldn't and carry Anadolu Efes on his back all the way to the Final Four?

2. Can Brose Baskets remain competitive without Bostjan Nachbar?

German champion for four consecutive years, Brose Baskets Bamberg lost its main star Bostjan Nachbar this offseason, complicating its chances to make it out of the group. Nachbar averaged team-high 16.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in Euroleague action last season and there's a big question if anyone can fill the gap that was left with Nachbar's departure. 

3. Will the rise of Ukrainian basketball leave footprints for the future?

Ukraine has just qualified for the Worlds Championships for the first time in country's history and Budivelnik Kyiv will be the first Ukrainian team to play in Euroleague. Ukraine is also getting ready to hold EuroBasket 2015. It's clear to see that Ukrainian basketball has been on the rise and it's going to be interesting to see if this short-term success turns into a bright long-term future.

4. Will Blake Schilb prove that 2012-13 season was no fluke?

Blake Schilb's last season with Elan Chalon and his debut in the Euroleague was nothing less than remarkable. Schilb averaged MVP-worthy numbers, 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game and was unsurprisingly selected as a replacement for Igor Rakocevic in Crvena Zvezda. Now Schilb has a chance to demonstrate that the 2012-13 season was not an aberration and he's capable of putting MVP numbers on a daily basis.

5. Can you buy chemistry?

This is the question CSKA Moscow head coach Ettore Messina heard from RealGM last season. The coach answered, saying "choosing the right people is very important and maybe sometimes you have to sacrifice a little bit in terms of talent." However, CSKA didn't sacrifice any talent this offseason and did what seemed to be hardly possible - adding three more quality players to their roster. Kyle Hines, Jeremy Pargo and Vitaly Fridzon are the newest members of CSKA, which again has the most talent among all Euroleague teams.

6. How far can guards-based EA7 Emporio Armani Milan go?

EA7 Emporio Armani Milan has at least one reason to be happy at the beginning of the season. The Italian team likely has one of the strongest second lines in the league, made of Curtis Jerrells, Alessandro Gentile, David Moss and Keith Langford. Similar to theItalian national team, EA7 Emporio Armani's game will be based on guards, but how far this one-side basketball could take them?

7. Will FC Barcelona outrun Real?

Despite winning the Spanish cup, last season's FC Barcelona performance was worse than its main rival Real in both Euroleague and Spanish league. However, FC Barcelona added more strength to its roster by signing Maciej Lampe, Nachbar and young star Kostas Papanikolaou. FC Barcelona has one of the most versatile squads in Euroleague, but is it going to be enough to outperform their main rival Real?

8. How long will Bayern stay in Euroleague?

For the second consecutive year, one of the wild cards was granted to a German team due to Euroleague intentions to spread its league there in near future. It's the second push for Bayern made by Euroleague as a team from Munich has already received a wild card to play in Eurocup back in 2011. So far Bayern was granted with presents that might end soon and in order to stay in Euroleague for a bit longer Bayern will have to find ways to end Brose Basket's domination back in Germany.

9. Is Obradovic the game changer Fenerbahce Ulker needed?

New coach of Fenerbahce Ulker Zeljko Obradovic had a negative Euroleague win-loss balance only once in his career. During the 2003-04 season, Panathinaikos won 45 percent of their games, while the team which was taken over by Obradovic was far behind this point. Fenerbahce managed to win only 29 percent of all Euroleague games they played last season. Will Obradovic be able to turn Fenerbahce Ulker's ship around and avoid the worst win-loss record in his coaching career?

10. How high will Carlos Arroyo be ranked in the MVP race?

After a break of five years, Carlos Arroyo is back in the Euroleague. Arroyo, who once was unstoppable with Maccabi Tel Aviv, averaging 14.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 2008-09, should be considered one of the main candidates to win MVP. Despite being 34, Arroyo averaged similar numbers in FIBA American championship and proved that he still has enough left in the tank to stay productive.

11. How long it will take to see a French team in Top 16?

It has been six years since a team from France made it to the Top 16 stage. The French national team has been dominant over the last three years, while 2007's Pau-Orthez was the last team from France to make it out of the Euroleague group. 

12. Will Laboral Kutxa miss the playoffs for the second time in the past ten years?

In the past nine years, Laboral Kutxa was one of the most stable European basketball clubs and had eight playoffs appearances during that time. But Laboral Kutxa couldn't find equal replacements this offseason for Lampe and Nemanja Bjelica, who departed to FC Barcelona and Fenerbahce Ulker, respectively. Making another playoffs appearance will become a huge challenge for new coach Sergio Scariolo.

13. Did Olympiakos make a mistake in letting Matynas Gecevicius go?

After getting back to Lithuania in just his third official game with Lietuvos Rytas, Martynas Gecevicius made eight three-pointers in a single game and repeated his career record. Gecevicius, who spent the past two seasons sitting on the bench of Olympiakos Piraeus and winning two Euroleague titles, will have a chance to prove he's still a top-notch shooter as he was before joining Olympiakos.

14. Can Marcus Williams fill the hole left by Nick Calathes?

Nick Calathes was undoubtedly the main player on last season's Eurocup winner Lokomotiv-Kuban team and the absence of the Greek guard will be felt. However, Lokomotiv-Kuban acquired one of the best Euroleague rookies of last season, Marcus Williams, in order to fill the hole left by Calathes. But will Williams be able to step up, improve his numbers and be as productive as Calathes was in 2012-13?

15. Is Tyrese Rice the next elite point guard of Euroleague?

Tyrece Rice's career has been steadily going up as he start with Artland Dragons, then moved to Lietuvos Rytas, then spent a season with Bayern and has now joined Euroleague powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv. Rice was dominant at EuroBasket 2013 while playing for Montenegro, averaging 16.8 points and 4 assists. All the signs show that Rice is about to establish himself as one of the elite European guards.

16. Who will become the next Bobby Brown for Montepaschi Siena?

When it seemed that Montepaschi was about to collapse, Bobby Brown carried the team on his back and almost took Montepaschi all the way to the playoffs. Now as Brown has signed in China, Montepaschi is in need to find another player to build around. Montepaschi signed five American players - Taylor Rochestie, Joshua Carter, Spencer Nelson, Kim English and Erick Green - but there's still a question if anyone of these can perform anywhere close to Brown.

17. What are the chances of Olympiacos achieving a threepeat?

There hasn't been a single team since 1991 to win three Euroleague champion titles in a row. But Olympiacos, which already has two titles under its belt, is aiming to write their name in European basketball history one more time. As long Vassillis Spanoulis is a member of Olympiakos, everything seems possible, but what are the real odds for the Reds to pull off a threepeat in 2014?

18. Does patience lead to success?

Panathinaikos Athens was the only Euroleague team that was capable of bringing back their entire starting five during the offseason. MVP candidate Dimitris Diamantidis and the rest of the team were just one win away from the Final Four last season, but will Panathinaikos be able to use that experience and be solid in 2013-14?

19. How will Leo Westermann's draft stock change during the 2013-14 season?

The results of Partizan Belgrade will depend heavily on Leo Westermann's development and his ability to learn from the mistakes he was making last season. Dusko Vujocevic had great confidence in Westermann during the 2012-13 season by playing him a lot at the top level. Now it's the time to see what the 21-year-old Westermann learned and how he's going to improve his draft stocks prior to the 2014 NBA Draft.

20. Could this be Nikola Mirotic's last season in Europe?

The buzz surrounding Nikola Mirotic and his future in the NBA is growing and the upcoming summer will be the first real chance for the big man to join the elite league. Mirotic had two very solid Euroleague seasons and now he's in a situation where he can be one of the leaders in Real and also finish (at least for now) his Euroleague career on a high note.

21. What does Stelmet and Bayern have in common?

The answer is both Euroleague debutants acquired the core of their squads from former Euroleague teams of their home country. Stelmet signed Lukasz Koszarek (last season), Adam Hrycaniuk and Przemyslaw Zamojskim who all played for Asseco Prokom in 2012-13, while Bayern got Deon Thompson, Nihad Djedovic and Heiko Schaffartzik from Alba Berlin.

22. Will Alexis Ajinca return to the NBA?

Alexis Ajinca played only 71 games in the four seasons he spent in the NBA and rarely was used in games that mattered. However, Ajinca drew NBA scouts attention in Slovenia, where he was more than solid at EuroBasket 2013. The French big man averaged 9.1 points and 7.0 rebounds there and was a big help for Tony Parker on France way to the top. Ajinca will wear Strasbourg IG's jersey for the third consecutive year, therefore he should feel confident to be team's number one guy in Euroleague.

23. Can the losses of main players take Unicaja out of the Top 16?

Unicaja Malaga suffered biggest losses among all Euroleague teams, letting their four main scorers, Williams, Krunoslav Simon, Andy Panko and Luka Zoric leave. The big changes made Unicaja to a team that performance in 2013-14 is hard to predict. If other players will be able to step up, Unicaja will remain a competitive Euroleague team. While in the worst-case scenario, Unicaja can exit before the Top 16 stage for the first time since 2004-05.

24. Can Zalgiris avoid the injury bug?

This offseason, financial problems led Zalgiris to be unable to re-sign most of their players who dealt with injuries last season. Martynas Pocius missed more than half of games with Real due to leg injuries, as Paulius Jankunas and Tadas Klimavicius missed the biggest part of 2012-13 too. Ksistof Lavrinovic is still hurt and Robertas Javtokas has the longest history of injuries among all Zalgiris players. At this point, Zalgiris looks like a house of cards that can collapse at any time.

RealGM's 2012-13 Euroleague Awards

For the third consecutive year, RealGM presents the most outstanding players of Euroleague.

Victor Khryapa of CSKA Moscow is the winner of the RealGM Euroleague MVP award for the 2012-13 season. The 30-year-old forward has improved all of his main statistical numbers this season, averaging 10 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Khryapa has also helped his team, which holds a 23-5 record this season, to defeat Caja Laboral Vitoria in the playoffs to reach the Final Four.

For the second consecutive year, the RealGM Euroleague MVP award was given to a Russian player, as the winner of last season's prize was Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow.

The RealGM All-Euroleague First Team consists of Montepaschi's Bobby Brown and Olympiacos' Vassilis Spanoulis at guard, Khryapa and Maccabi's Shawn James at forward and CSKA's Nenad Krstic at center.

The RealGM All-Euroleague Second Team includes guards Jordan Farmar of Anadolu Efes and Zoran Planinic of Khimki, forwards Rudy Fernandez and Nikola Mirotic of Real and center Ante Tomic of Barcelona Regal.

Paul Davis of Khimki Moscow region is the winner of the Euroelague Rookie of the Year Award, while Aron Baynes (formerly of Union Olimpija before joining the San Antonio Spurs) was the RealGM pick to win the Most Improved Played Award.

Georgios Bartzokas of Olympiacos was named as the 2012-13 Euroleague Coach of the Year, while Kyle Hines (also from Olympiacos) is the winner of the 2012-13 Euroleague Sixth Man of the Year Award.

Euroleague MVP

Victor Khryapa (CSKA)

All-Euroleague 1st Team

Bobby Brown (Montepaschi): 18.8 points, 5.3 assists in 33 minutes

Vassilis Spanoulis (Olympiacos) - 14.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 30 minutes

Victor Khryapa (CSKA) - 10 points (45% 3FG), 7.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 28 minutes

Shawn James (Maccabi): 11.5 points (64% 2FG), 6.5 rebounds in 24 minutes  

Nenad Krstic (CSKA) - 13.6 points (63% 2FG), 4.6 rebounds in 24 minutes

All-Euroleague 2nd Team

Jordan Farmar (Anadolu Efes): 13.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 30 minutes

Zoran Planinic (Khimki): 12.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 31 minutes

Rudy Fernandez (Real): 13.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 27 minutes

Nikola Mirotic (Real): 11.7 points, 5.5 rebounds in 25 minutes

Ante Tomic (Barcelona Regal) - 11.5 points (63% 2FG), 6.3 rebounds in 23 minutes

Sixth Man Award

Kyle Hines (Olympiacos) - 9.1 points, 5.9 rebounds in 20 minutes

Most Improved Player Award

Aron Baynes (Union Olimpija) - 13.8 points, 9.8 rebounds in 26 minutes

Coach of the Year

Georgios Bartzokas (Olympiacos)

Rookie of the Year

Paul Davis (Khimki)

All-Rookie 1st Team

Paul Davis (Khimki) - 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds in 20 minutes

Ricky Hickman (Maccabi) - 13.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 29 minutes

Blake Schilb (Elan Chalon) - 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4 assists in 33 minutes

Marcus Williams (Unicaja) - 10.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 22 minutes

Shelden Williams (Elan Chalon) - 11.3 points, 7.6 rebounds in 23 minutes

All-Rookie 2nd Team

Drew Gordon (Partizan) - 9.1 points, 7.5 rebounds in 29 minutes

Lukasz Koszarek (Asseco Prokom) - 11.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4 assists in 30 minutes

Kelvin Rivers (Khimki) - 9.6 points, 2.7 rebounds in 26 minutes

Dashaun Wood (Alba) - 9.8 points, 2.5 assists in 24 minutes

Maik Zirbes (Brose Baskets) - 8.2 points, 5 rebounds in 20 minutes

Euroleague Rookie Ladder

Blake Schlib, Paul Davis, Ricky Hickman, Shelden Williams, Marcus Williams, Drew Gordon, Leo Westermann, Dashaun Wood, Nemanja Nedovic and Kelvin Rivers are amongst the top newcomers to Euroleague this season.

Euroleague's Most Improved Players Of The 2012-13 Season

Aron Baynes, Shawn James, Nemanja Bjelica, Curtis Jerrells, Vladimir Lucic, Pietro Aradori, Jaka Blazic, Ante Tomic, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Kostas Papanikolaou have had breakout seasons in Euroleague.

24 Questions For The Start Of Euroleague

As the 12-13 Euroleague season begins, RealGM presents 24 questions for the Euroleague fans.

Euroleague Quarterfinals Preview

The top-8 teams from Spain, Greece, Israel, Italy and Russia are ready to begin the last stage to reach the 2012 Euroleague Final Four.

European Domestic League Power Rankings For February

We are past the halfway point in all of the European National Domestic Leagues and with January fully in the books, it is an opportune time to check in on team rankings for Spain, Italy, Greece, Russia, France, Turkey, Lithuania, Serbia, Croatia, Germany, Israel & more.

Euroleague Power Rankings For Mid-December

With its regular season winding down, we evaluated and ranked all 24 Euroleague teams' performance over their first eight games and their perspective in future battles.
 

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