As the 14-15 Euroleague season begins, RealGM presents the ultimate positional rankings of the league's best players. In this first edition, we ranked the elite centers from one to ten.
1. Gustavo Ayon (Real, Spain)
Statistics in 2013-14 (NBA): 4.3 points and 4.8 rebounds.
Euroleague finalist Real Madrid won the biggest fight of the offseason in signing Gustavo Ayon. One of the best big men in 2014 FIBA World Cup, Ayon has joined Real for the next two seasons as a replacement for Nikola Mirotic. Ayon can unquestionably contribute as much as Mirotic did in 13-14 statistically - Ayon failed to establish himself as anything more than an NBA role player but has always been very productive in international competitions. The 29-year-old center averaged 17.6 points and 7.6 rebounds in the World Cup, including 25 points performance in the quarterfinal match against Team USA.
2. Ante Tomic (FC Barcelona, Spain)
Statistics in 2013-14 (Euroleague): 11.7 points and 6.4 rebounds.
Ante Tomic stands out statistically from the other players ranked here. The Croatian big man was the only Euroleague center that ranked in the Top 15 in scoring last season and also was the second best rebounder of the league. In 13-14, Tomic was not only as productive as the previous season, but also had a career performance in a game against Anadolu Efes in which he scored 26 points, grabbed 15 boards and collected career-high 40 performance index rating (PIR) points. Numbers don’t lie and the 27-year-old Tomic is expected to remain in elite for the upcoming years.
3. Tibor Pleiss (FC Barcelona, Spain)
Statistics in 2013-14 (Euroleague): 12 points (86% FT) and 5.4 rebounds.
Now it is obvious that moving to Laboral Kutxa in 2012 was a great move for Tibor Pleiss. After adjusting in 12-13, last season was a great success for Pleiss. He more than doubled his stats in Euroleague (12 points and 5.4 rebounds), while he was also a dominant figure in Spanish league (12.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game). If Dunk-O-Meterexists in Europe, Pleiss would had been among leaguers as the German center successfully used his height (7-foot-1), long arms and often finished off plays with dunks. As Pleiss joined Tomic at FC Barcelona by signing a two-year contract, it is going to be interesting to see how two elite centers will fit together on the same team.
4. Ioannis Bourousis (Real, Spain)
Statistics in 2013-14 (Euroleague): 8.3 points (86% FT) and 5.9 rebounds.
After spending two title-less years with EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, last season Ioannis Bourousis finally got into a winning situation and was a part of an astonishing Real Madrid run. Real was only one win away from becoming one of the most remarkable teams in the history of Euroleague. However, Bourousis is not the one to blame for loss as the Greek center was one of the most effective players in the final game, where he scored 12 points and grabbed nine boards. With Mirotic gone, the biggest challenge for Bourousis will be to use all his experience to help Real maintain the impressive level of play as it was last season.
5. Bryant Dunston (Olympiacos, Greece)
Statistics in 2013-2014 (Euroleague): 10.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.
Last season Bryant Dunston, now a second-year center, stepped into a difficult role as a rookie as he became a starting big man of back-to-back Euroleague champion Olympiakos. It did not take long until Dunston turned into a dominant player inside the paint who was a difference maker on both sides of the floor. Dunston's defensive skills and rim-protection was noticed by Euroleague coaches, who voted Dunston to become 2014 Euroleague Best Defender trophy winner. Despite Olympiakos tried to strengthen their frontcourt by adding Othello Hunter, it seems that Olympiakos will still rely mostly on Dunston, who will again be the strongest candidate to win Best Defender award.
6. Shawn James (EA7 Emporio Armani, Italy)
Statistics in 2013-14 (Euroleague): 9.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
Shawn James missed a big part of last season as he recovered after having back surgery in January and had to watch his teammates lifting Euroleague trophy in Milan. However, most of Euroleague fans should still remember his game from 12-13 season as back then James led the league in blocks (1.9) and was named to the 2012-13 All-Euroleague Second Team. Now James moved to Milan, where he might become a piece that kept EA7 Emporio Armani team way from winning a playoff series. If James gets back to the level he was in 12-13, Milan will become a real contender to play in Euroleague Final Four.
7. Sofoklis Schortsanitis (Maccabi, Israel)
Statistics in 2013-14 (Euroleague): 9.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
Sofoklis Schortsanitis is one of the most unique players in the Euroleague as he didn’t receive more than 15 minutes of playing time per game in last three seasons but still remained among elite centers. Due to his condition, Schortsanitis’ playing time was limited in 13-14 but the Greek as usual was able to do a lot of damage in a short period of time - Schortsanitis also led the league in points per 28 minutes (19). Do not expect to see Schortsanitis to climb the ranking in the upcoming seasons but the current Euroleague champion should remain a guy who can get the job done in 15 minutes.
8. Sasha Kaun (CSKA, Russia)
Statistics in 2013-14 (Euroleague): 8.4 points and 3.5 rebounds.
Now as the only center on a Euroleague title contender, 14-15 is going to be a make or break season for Sasha Kaun. The big man was very efficient on pick and roll situations and was productive when CSKA needed that the most. Kaun scored 29 points in the last two playoffs games against Panathinaikos and collected 27 points in two 2014 Euroleague Final Four games. It is going to be interesting to see how Kaun will look on the court together with Nando de Colo and if he can develop himself into a big man, who put double-digit performances on a game-by-game basis.
9. Lamont Hamilton (Laboral Kutxa, Spain)
Statistics in 2013-14 (Euroleague): 10.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
Even though he missed half of the Euroleague games last season due to injury, Lamont Hamilton was still selected to RealGM’s Euroleague All-Rookie 2nd Team and in general had a productive season. Hamilton was one of the best sixth men in the league as he averaged 10.3 points and 3.6 boards in 19 minutes of action. With Pleiss gone to FC Barcelona, Hamilton’s role is set to increase but as Laboral Kutxa acquired Ryan Gomes, Davis Bertans, and Thomas Heurtel flashed in 2014 FIBA World Cup, the center’s touches will be limited.
10. Nenad Krstic (Anadolu Efes, Turkey)
Statistics in 2013-14 (Euroleague): 9.6 points and 3.2 rebounds.
After a slow start last season, Nenad Krstic finally became himself in the beginning of Top 16 stage, where he put four 20 PIR points performances in a row but after the seventh game of the second stage Krstic disappeared and never came back. Overall, Krstic has been in decline over the past few seasons. In the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Krstic’s playing time was limited due to his poor conditioning, which was mainly caused by a knee injury, therefore it is unsure if he can get back this season at the top level that he was just couple years ago.