Dec 26, 2012 11:49 PM EST
RealGM presents the ultimate positional rankings of the Euroleague's best players. In this fifth edition, RealGM ranked the elite centers from one to ten.
1. Nenad Krstic (CSKA Moscow, Russia)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 14.2 points, 5.5 rebounds.
Nenad Krstic's return to Russia made CSKA Moscow a dominant power in the Euroleague last season. Krstic was barely stoppable on the offensive end, averaging an impressive 14.2 points per game. As the centerpiece of CSKA, Andrei Kirilenko gone, Krstic role is even more important as he's been very consistent so far this season. Two very successful seasons with CSKA will make Krstic the number one center in Europe on the open market in the summer.
2. Erazem Lorbek (FC Barcelona Regal, Spain)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 13 points, 4.6 rebounds.
Erazem Lorbek's past couple of career years serves a reminder of his inconsistencies. After a rusty 2010-11 season, Lorbek demonstrated an MVP worth game during his contract year and played his way into a new three-year deal with FC Barcelona Regal. However, as Lorbek secured his future until 2015, his numbers went down along with his impact on team results.
3. Ioannis Bourousis (EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, Italy)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 9 points, 6.4 rebounds.
You can call it bad karma or simply being unlucky, but there is something special with Ioannis Bourousis. After spending five seasons in Piraeus, Bourousis left Olympiakos right before the reds won the title. Olympiakos remains among the elite, while Bourousis continues to struggle with EA7 Emporio Armani, which stayed out of Top 16 stage. The 29-year-old center had his best season in his career and averaged 14 points and 8.3 rebounds. Still, impressive play by Bourousis wasn't enough to extend EA7 Emporio Armani's season in the Euroleague.
4. Nikola Mirotic (Real Madrid, Spain)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds.
Despite his young age, Nikola Mirotic has been starting as Real Madrid's center for a second consecutive year. Mirotic is already able to take big shots and makes a huge contribution to Real's offense, which is the second best in the Euroleague. However, the fact that Mirotic will likely stay in Spain until 2016-17 should leave the Bulls wishing he would come to the NBA. On the other hand, the NBA fans will miss Mirotic development process, but might see him playing at his peak, at the age of 26.
5. Darjus Lavrinovic (Zalgiris Kaunas, Lithuania)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 4.7 points, 2.7 rebounds.
Coming back to a place where you were unstoppable is always a good idea. A dominant performance with Zalgiris Kaunas in the 2005-06 season led Darjus Lavrinovic to massive paydays in Spain, Turkey and Russia, but now Lavrinovic is back in Kaunas, where he is as productive as before. Rejoining forces with his twin brother Ksystof helped to transform Zalgiris into a winning team, capable of going all the way to the Final Four.
6. Sofoklis Schorstanitis (Panathinaikos Athens, Greece)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 8.7 points, 3 rebounds.
Due to his size, Panathinaikos newcomer Sofoklis Schorstanitis has always been a very productive player, who was able to play limited minutes. No surprise, Schorstanitis leads the Euroleague in points per 28 minutes with 21 and usually gets double teamed every time he has the ball in the paint. However, fatigue and quick fouls limit Schorstanitis' playing time as he has never played more than 20 minutes per game in his seven-year Euroleague career. His playing time in the 2012-13 season is even more limited as he never started a single game and plays only 13 minutes per game.
7. David Andersen (Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, Turkey)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 11.7 points, 6.2 rebounds.
After a first successful season in Italy since coming back from the NBA, together with Simone Pianigiani, David Andersen decided to go to Istanbul. As things didn't go as well as expected, Andersen had to face bench player role in first few games, in which he finished with negative player index rating. Later, things got back to normal as Andersen received more playing time and again became a productive starting center. Nevertheless, a big rotation will prevent Andersen from posting MVP worthy numbers in every Euroleague game, but he will surely remain among the elite centers in the Euroleague.
8. Ante Tomic (FC Barcelona Regal, Spain)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 6.7 points, 3.7 rebounds.
Moving from Real Madrid to its biggest rival definitely helped Ante Tomic get out of Nikola Mirotic's shadow and also receive more playing time. Tomic is the starting center for arguably the best Euroleague team right now, but still struggles to become a player who could put big numbers every night. Inconsistency is what keeps Tomic from being higher in this ranking.
9. Aron Baynes (Union Olimpija Ljubljana, Slovenia)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Greek league): 13.6 points, 9 rebounds.
Aron Baynes is easily the biggest success story in this Euroleague season. Seven double doubles and helping a team with one million euro budget get three wins is more than impressive and more than enough to attract attention of European biggest teams. Baynes, who led the league in rebounding (9.8 per game) this season, established himself in the Euroleague and might stay here for a long time.
10. Shelden Williams (Elan Chalon, France)
Statistics in 2011-12 (NBA): 4.6 points, 6 rebounds.
Signing Shelden Williams was a risky move for Elan Chalon, but it paid off in a big way. In his debut season, Williams averaged 11.3 points and 7.6 rebounds in 23 minutes of action and was more reminiscent of a Euroleague veteran than a former NBA player, who needed time to adjust to European game. It didn't take long for Williams to get noticed by elite Euroleague teams as the latest reports link him to Fenerbahce Ulker. The former Duke star's French adventure might end soon and we'll see what Williams is capable to do on a winning team.
Dec 06, 2012 7:17 PM EST
As the Euroleague 2012-13 regular season slowly comes to an end, RealGM presents the ultimate positional rankings of the league's best players. In this fourth edition, RealGM ranked the elite power forwards from one to ten.
1. Viktor Khryapa (CSKA Moscow, Russia)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 8.2 points, 4 rebounds, 3.3 assists.
In eight season with CSKA Moscow, Viktor Khryapa has established himself as a true symbol of the club on and off the court. Being 6-foot-8, Khryapa is a very versatile big men who can play the wing and do a bit of everything. The 30-year-old Russian is also a great facilitator; making his teammates better on offense, while at the same time, can create his own offense as well. However, the defensive end of the floor is what makes Khryapa a special player and the Euroleague best defender prize he won in 2009-2010 only proves how productive Khryapa can be on both ends.
2. Georgios Printezis (Olympiakos Piraeus, Greece)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 10.6 points (60.2% 2FG), 4.1 rebounds.
Georgios Printezis' game-wining shot in the Euroelague title game sparked talks about his chances to join the NBA, but most forgot how great Pritezis had been all season long. His aggressiveness, energy and hustle were the strengths of Olympiakos, which ended up winning a championship in May. Printezis also had his career-best Euroleague game (31 performance index ranking) last season, as he scored 21 points (7/7 FG), grabbed seven rebounds and helped his team beat Fenerbahce Ulker.
3. Felipe Reyes (Real Madrid, Spain)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 8.4 points, 6.3 rebounds.
Euroleague veteran Felipe Reyes, who is currently playing his eight Euroleague season with Real, is still an important piece of the team and is among the elite power forwards in the league. Reyes ranked second in the Euroleague in rebounds per 100 possessions (18.4) last season and averaged 6.3 rebounds per game in only 18 minutes. Reyes' role changed dramatically in 11-12, from a starter to bench player, but he remained a face of Real.
4. Paulius Jankunas (Zalgiris Kaunas, Lithuania)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 7.8 points, 5.6 rebounds.
At the age of 28, Paulius Jankunas could be already called a true Euroleague veteran as he's currently playing in his 10th season in the strongest European competition. He had many ups and downs last season - from having career-best game to two consecutive scoreless games - but this year Jankunas reminds himself. Once again, Jankunas is a captain his teammates can trust and one of the reasons of Zalgiris success this season.
5. Marcus Slaughter (Real Madrid, Spain)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 11.8 points, 7.2 rebounds.
It didn't take much time for RealGM's 11-12 Euroleague All-Rookie 1st Team selection Marcus Slaughter to get signed by a European powerhouse such as Real Madrid. You cannot expect anything less after a superb debut season Slaughter had with Brose Baskets, where he averaged 11.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.7 steals in 26 minutes. One of the most athletically gifted Euroleague players, Slaughter has quickly adapted to Real's style of play and became a big threat coming off the bench to any opponent.
6. Mike Batiste (Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, Turkey)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 9.7 points, 4.6 rebounds.
Mike Batiste, three-time Euroleague champion, has been a huge part of the success of Panathinaikos Athens. In eight seasons with Panathinaikos, Batiste established himself as a dominant power in the paint, who created a strong connection with head coach Zeljko Obradovic. Things are different for Batiste in Turkey, where he represents Fenerbahce Ulker and is no more than a role player so far this season.
7. Stephane Lasme (Panathinaikos Athens, Greece)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Liga Endesa): 10.9 points, 6.3 rebounds.
Stephen Lasme is one of those players who have been migrating between Europe and the United State, but since he played for Partizan Belgrade in 08-09, it was obvious his place was in the Euroleague. Lasme joined Panathinaikos this season, where once again demonstrates how efficient he can be. Despite Lasme comes off the bench, he leads the league in block shots per 100 possessions (6.4) and is fifth in rebounds per 100 possessions (17.3). Lasme is clearly back where he belongs.
8. Kyle Hines (Olympiakos Piraeus, Greece)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 9.9 points, 4.5 rebounds.
The European version of Charles Barkley, Kyle Hines has been proving Mark Twain's quote "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog" throughout his career as he established himself as a 6-foot-5 Euroleague level big men. Same as Slaughter, Hines had an amazing debut season in Brose Baskets, and then got signed by future Euroleague champions Olympiakos straightaway. In only his third Euroleague season, Hines is looking forward to repeat as a champion with still-looking-strong Olympiacos.
9. Milko Bjelica (Caja Laboral Vitoria, Spain)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 10.6 points, 3.9 rebounds.
Caja Laboral's Milko Bjelica is one of very few players, who averaged more than 10 points and 3.5 rebounds in last three Euroleague seasons. Bjelica, who had a breakout season with Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, is also a great at the free throws as he made 84.2% shots from the line. However, same as his team Caja Laboral, the 28-year-old forward is having a rough season and all his statistical numbers went down dramatically.
10. Lior Eliyahu (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel)
Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 8.5 points, 3 rebounds.
Over the past few years, Lior Eliyahu's career has slowed down. At the age of 27, Eliyahu didn't become a dominant Euroleague as expected, but he still should be named among the best power forwards in the league. Inconsistency has been a problem for Eliyahu as he can be terrific in a game or two, and then simply disappears in the next one. Nevertheless, he's still an important part of Maccabi and the hope of Israel basketball.
Nov 18, 2012 2:53 PM EST
Legendary Lithuanian team Zalgiris Kaunas, which has failed to make it out of the Euroleague Top 16 since they won the championship in 1999, has been Euroleague's biggest story in this season thus far.
Starting the season by winning five games in a row (the best result in club history) - including blowout win over current Euroleague champions Olympiakos - has delighted Zalgiris fans, who after all those rough years probably didn't dream about a start like this.
Simultaneously, European basketball fans have an opportunity to witness a Cinderella story in Zalgiris. Joan Plaza, their new 48-year-old head coach who is also can be called 'the messiah' in Lithuania, and a few new players have completely changed the face of Zalgiris for the good.
Here we consider the main reasons for how Zalgiris became a winning team and the key points of its transformation.
Notable changes on both ends of the floor
Before the start of the season, Plaza made finding the balance between offense and defense his primary goal and the Spanish coach been very successful in implementing it from a very early stage.
Zalgiris had many defensive issues in 2011-12 season as they allowed their opponents to score 109.9 points per 100 possessions. That was the third worst result in the league, beating only KK Zageb and Spirou Charleroi. The Lithuanians also struggled to force their opponents to commit turnovers (16.1 opponent turnovers per 100 possessions) and were a bit better on that only than Partizan and KK Zagreb.
It's a different story in 12-13, as Zalgiris has significantly improved its defense - allowing their opponents to score 103.7 points per game so far, reaching the league's average (103.4). Kaunas has also joined the leaders in terms of forcing turnovers (21.5 opponent turnovers per 100 possessions).
More intriguingly, in his very first interview, Plaza called 6-foot-11 veteran Robertas Javtokas, who is currently injured and sidelined until after the first of the year, "one of the best defending big man in the Euroleague and the whole world."
Plaza has been correct so far and it's interesting how the comeback of Javtokas could improve Zalgiris' defensive numbers even more.
Despite tremendous changes on defense, improvement on offense has played an even bigger role in their success.
Zalgiris leads the Euroleague in scoring, averaging 83.4 points per game, but more important is their opponents-killing efficiency. They have the highest eFG% (Effective field goal percentage) in the league (59%) and leads in Total Shooting% - all three shooting categories percentage combined (173.4) as well.
Moreover, Kaunas scores 122 points per 100 possessions, almost 22 points more than last season (100.4). Great shot selection and ab improved mid-range game helps Zalgiris, whose players don't belong to any statistical Top 10 category, to build the most efficient offense in the Euroleague since 2010.
Quality over quantity
The most important element left unnoticed is that Zalgiris plays at Euroleague's lowest pace as they use only 68.3 possessions per 40 minutes. This is also the lowest pace in the Euroleague since 2010, but it's been proved to be a winning formula for some of the teams.
Different from last season where Zalgiris played faster than the league average pace, they changed its offensive philosophy and became more patient.
You couldn't call Zalgiris slow as their frontcourt is likely one of the most mobile in the league. Zalgiris' patience and willingness to take only open/good looking shots, even with a few seconds left on the shot clock, not only produces the most efficient offense in the league, but fatigues their opponents as well. You rarely see Zalgiris attacking the basket with more than 4-6 seconds left on the shot clock this season, thanks to unselfish guards who had some serious problems sharing the ball last year.
A different approach on building a team also has been a factor. Less athletic, but more experience players gave Plaza the right tools to adapt a 'quality over quantity' strategy by slowing down the pace and raising efficiency on offense.
And that's what winners do. The biggest sensation of Euroleague last season, Bennet Cantu, even without having as much talent as Zalgiris, used the similar long-possession tactics. The Italians played at Euroleague's lowest pace - only 70.2 possessions per 40 minutes - and at the end of its Euroleague season were only one win away from eliminating Maccabi and making it to the Top 8. Final Four participant FC Barcelona and Top 8 team Unics were also among four bottom teams in terms of possessions average in that season.
As has been the case for years, in the postseason of Euroleague (Top 16, Playoffs, Final Four), the pace of the game gets dropped. When every game is a do-or-die, most of the teams slow down the tempo and tries to raise their offensive efficiency. For example, in the 2011-12 season Euroleague regular season the average team used 73.7 possessions per 40 mins and it went down to 71.8 in Top 16 and 71.2 in the Playoffs. The same thing happened in 2010-11 (73.3, 72.6, 70.7, respectively) and many seasons before.
Thanks to Plaza, Zalgiris are not waiting for the playoff. They already set the tone and plays every possession as they would for any critical playoff game.
The Darden effect
Tremmell Darden, the 31-year-old veteran with only one year Euroleague experience under his belt, could be called one of the most influential players in the whole league and doesn't get enough credit for the great Zalgiris results. Together with Plaza, they were two main difference makers, who made Zalgiris offense so successful.
The stunning statistic shows that when Darden is on the court, Zalgiris is averaging 137.2 points (!) per 100 possessions, while the points average drops to 90.7 when he is off the court. The difference is 46.5 points and that is the biggest number the Euroleague has seen in last three seasons. No surprise, Darden gets the most playing time in Zalgiris (29.5 minutes per game), even as his statistical numbers are not as impressive, averaging 10 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Room to improve
Zalgiris, however, still needs to improve its defensive rebounding. Offensive rebounds are more about luck, size and hustle (Zalgiris is great on that), while defensive rebounding consists of boxing out and fundamentals.
Zalgiris grabs only 68.8 percent of available defensive rebounds, meaning that opponents gets second chances in one out of three possessions. That's the fourth worst result in the Euroleague and improving this component of the game would help Zalgiris become a true Final Four contender.
The first six games Zalgiris has managed to become a winning team without dominating, game-changing players in an old fashioned European basketball way. Getting back to the roots of European hoops - slow-paced, efficient positional basketball has brought success to Zalgiris, which has what it takes to make a long run in this Euroleague season.
Statistical information was used from RealGM.com, Euroleague.net, Zalgiris.lt and Gigabasket.org.
Oct 26, 2012
The shooting guard position in Euroleague is headlined by Vassilis Spanoulis, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro, Fernando San Emeterio, Jaycee Carroll and Keith Langford.
Sep 06, 2012
The 2012-13 Euroleague regular season will begin on October 19th and here are RealGM's preseason power rankings with CSKA, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Fenerbahce Ulker and Olympiacos comprising the top-five.
Jul 09, 2012
There were 107 American-born players who were on teams that won their league in Europe during the 11-12 season, most notably Montepasch Siena.
Jan 18, 2012
With 16 teams left, RealGM presents the Top Five storylines of Euroleague to keep an eye with teams like CSKA, Zalgiris, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Panathinaikos look to advance.
Dec 28, 2011
Barcelona, CSKA, Real Madrid, Panathinaikos and Montepaschi Siena headline our objective Euroleague Power Rankings.
Dec 16, 2011
A big win for Montepaschi Siena over Barcelona, Sonny Weems and Zalgiris defeat Brose Baskets, Maccabi blows out Anadolu Efes and more from Euroleague RS Week 9.
Dec 02, 2011
Round 7 of the Euroleague Regular Season featured a number of competitive games and some fantastic individual performances, but the game of the round featured a tightly contested battle between two powerhouse clubs from Russia and Germany.
Nov 29, 2011
Sonny Weems was one of the best players to go to Europe without an NBA-out. The 7th best scorer in Euroleague explains why he picked Europe instead of China and discusses the Raptors.
Basketball Wiretap Headlines