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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.

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

Europe Interview: Earl Rowland Of Unicaja Malaga

Over the past few years, St. Mary's alum Earl Rowland’s career has been on the impressive rise. Rowland, a 28-year-old guard, made a huge leap from playing in the Latvian league to competing in the Euroleague and Spanish championship.

Rowland, who was averaging 7.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists this season in the Euroleague, sat down with RealGM to talk about his Euroleague debut and European career, his teammate Joel Freeland and opponent Bo McCalebb, the Euroleague quarterfinals and much more.

RealGM: First of all, what happened to Unicaja this season?

Rowland: Honestly, we were playing well early on in the season. But then we started getting injuries, and then we started losing. When you are playing at this level competition, people smell blood. When you start losing, they are going to step on your throat. Then we lost confidence as a team because we were losing so many games in a row. We lost close games and we could not get over the hump. And now we are back in the same position and we are just trying to find a way out of it.

RealGM: How would you evaluate your Euroleague debut season?

Rowland: Well, it did not go the way I expected, but I did expect it to be tough and that is exactly what it was. Especially when you are doing it along with the ACB (Liga Endesa), there is kind of no games off. There is a whole bunch of travel and your legs feel tired. And me personally, I had so many injuries and I was just trying to find my way out of it. I did not have a year I that I would expect I would have, but going through it, I experienced things I could learn from.

RealGM: Your individual season was a roller-coaster with many ups and downs. Do you think injuries were the main reason for it?

Rowland: I am the kind of player where I use my explosiveness a lot. That is one of my things, my trademarks. My athleticism, getting to the paint, pressure defense, and I really did not have it for the most of the season and it just started to come back now. Also, it is a different league, ACB is different than Euroleague too, therefore I have to play defense differently. You cannot use your hands or arms at all, or you can use your chest and in another game you can. I think I was hesitant sometimes, but as I said, this is an experience you have to go through.

RealGM: You mentioned that playing in the ACB and Euroleague at the same time is a pretty difficult thing to do. But is it fair to say that there is nothing better in Europe than playing in the ACB, which is probably the second best domestic league in the world, and Euroleague?

Rowland: For sure, I think it is my fourth or fifth season in Europe and I knew this during my entire time in Europe. My goal was to get on a high level, ACB and Euroleague team, which I have done. I realize that you cannot get any better. If you are competitive and you want to play at the highest level, this is it.

RealGM: Let’s talk about your teammate Joel Freeland, who might soon be leaving Malaga and moving to the NBA. From your perspective, should he leave Europe for the NBA or not?

Rowland: I think Joel has a lot of potential, he is young, still has a lot of upside and he is an NBA athlete. He brings a lot of different things. He can shoot, has some post moves, and he works hard. I think mentally he is not satisfied just getting recognition now in the Euroleague or ACB, or around Europe. He wants more than that. With the combination of things he has, I think he could be a starting four in the NBA. I think he has what it takes.

It is tough because there is a business side of it and I know that he is going to get offers in Europe that are going to be hard to turn down for something that is unnecessarily guaranteed in the NBA. Even if he goes to Portland, there is LaMarcus Aldridge and a lot of bigs, who are there and established. All it would take is a year or two him not getting playing time and he may miss out the opportunities. But at the same time, there is so much potential in the NBA, if he gets playing time, catches and finishes, he's on the highlights sometimes and he gets a long-time contract and recognition he wants. It is a tough decision he will have to make. It depends on what his dream is and what security he wants. It is definitely a decision you cannot make in one night.

RealGM: The other player I want to talk about is Bo McCalebb. Do you think he is currently the best point guard in the Europe?

Rowland: Yes, I think he earned this title. I played against him three or four times in Italy before as well. For one, his teams have been wining. With Partizan, they went to the Final Four in Euroleague with Montepaschi last year, they did the same thing. He led the Republic of Macedonia team to the Final Four in EuroBasket, which nobody expected him to do. I do not see anybody doing what he is doing. I guess people can say Milos Teodosic is better, but it depends on what you like because they are two different kind of players. But I think McCalebb earned that title and you should give it to him.

If I were a GM, would I trade Milos Teodosic for McCalebb? Me personally, I like McCalebb because I think he is so good defensively; he can do a lot of different things. But Teodosic, how he makes reads, how he moves on the court, he knows what he is doing. You really cannot teach that either. I like both of those players but I have seen McCalebb a little bit more and I know he is tough.

RealGM: What would you rank first in the Euroleague MVP Race, McCalebb or Andrei Kirilenko?

Rowland: I think CSKA is doing better this year and they are more dominant. One thing about Kirilenko is that I think when we played against him, he got around a 31 Euroleague index rating and he took only three shots. That says it all in how he dominates the game in so many different areas that no matter what the team needs, he can provide that. Especially in Europe, there are not any players like that out there. I would give it to Kirilenko just because how dominating he is. As for Bo, he just gets it done no matter what people say.

RealGM: Let’s move on to the Euroleague quarterfinals. Who are your favorites to make it to the Final Four?

Rowland: Talking about CSKA-Gescrap BB, that is a good thing about basketball, anything can happen. All it takes is some guy to get hot like [Alex] Mumbru, or some other of their shooters. CSKA could be struggling and they could win. But I think CSKA has too much inside, they are balanced everywhere, I do not think it is going to be tough for them to manage this situation. I don’t think Bilbao is going to get a win, but is going to be tougher than people think.

Montepaschi-Olympiacos, I would take Siena. Even when Bo doesn’t dominate, how they are coached, how they are organized, they are still going to kill you no matter what you take away. If you take away a penetration from Bo, you have [Ksystof[ Lavrinovic, you have all these guys, who can not only shoot and score, but they also make the right plays. It is going to be tough to beat them because they play so well together.

FC Barcelona Regal-Unics, I have got Barcelona. Unics has been surprising, but I think Barcelona still has another gear they haven’t kicked it into. [Juan Carlos] Navarro is just that wildcard.

Panathinaikos-Maccabi... I have not seen Maccabi play that much this season. It is hard to go against Panathinaikos because of its history. They are defending champions; they have [Dimitris] Diamantidis, who knows how to get it done. It is a tough one but I would say Panathinaikos.

RealGM: You probably heard about the Jeremy Pargo case, when he left Maccabi for a chance to play in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies. If you were in his shoes, would you have done the same thing?

Rowland: It depends. If that was guaranteed and if I would have a chance… Maybe they can only guarantee my contract but they could not guarantee minutes, but I would have a chance to earn some. If I would have a chance to be a backup point guard, then that would be fine. Because we grew up with this dream (of playing in the NBA) and I think I would have to take that opportunity. But then you have to balance out like contracts, especially when you get older and responsibilities come. In his situation, I would definitely do the same. He became established here, they went to the Final Four last year, he knows that if he doesn’t do well this year, everybody in Europe still knows what he is capable to do at European level. If the rest of the season does not go well, Maccabi or some other team like Panathinaikos will say let’s get Jeremy Pargo. You want to chase your dream and what is why you worked so hard and if you get the opportunity, it is definitely hard to turn it down.

RealGM: Taking you back to EuroBasket 2011, do you still catch yourself thinking about your performance with the Bulgarian national team?

Rowland: Sometimes, especially when I had my struggles this year, I was like, I expected myself to play so much better and I know I can do it. Everything was going so well, I had strong Italian seasons and for the last few seasons, I was doing better and better. Then I had EuroBasket and I expected to hit the ground running in Malaga and keep moving forward. Sometimes I just look at myself in the mirror and ask what happened but that is part of me. I know I have it in me. I know the player is still here.

They showed me love in Bulgaria. The organization still keeps in touch with me. A lot of people from the country, they show support. Fans are writing me messages; they seem to follow what I am doing. They write that they still want me to play. I have got nothing but warm reception from Bulgaria and I appreciate it.

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.

Catching Up With Barcelona, Real Madrid

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.

Europe Interview: Joel Freeland Of Unicaja Malaga

Joel Freeland recently sat down with RealGM to share his views on his development, NBA plans with the Blazers and international hoops.

Europe Interview: Ricky Rubio Of Regal Barcelona

Despite a rollercoaster season, Ricky Rubio appeared self-confident as he spoke with RealGM about his Europe career.

European Review: Batiste, Kanter, CSKA's Letter & More

This week RealGM.com reviews wins, losses and transactions of Euroleague, Berni Rodriguez's excellent week, Iverson’s postponed debut and more.

 

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