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Euroleague Power Rankings: Small Forwards

As the Euroleague 2012-13 regular season hits the midway point, RealGM presents the ultimate positional rankings of the league's best players. In this edition, RealGM ranked the elite small forwards from one to ten.

1. Sonny Weems (CSKA Moscow, Russia)

Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 15.5 points, 5 rebounds.

Sonny Weems is probably one of the very few players who has benefited from the 2011 NBA lockout. After going overseas last summer, Weems quickly became a dominant power in European basketball and one of the best wings in Euroleague. However, the 26-year-old forward wasn't able to carry Zalgiris on his back last season, but now everything is different as Weems is on winning team and he has the opportunity to fully reach his potential in Europe.

2. Pete Mickeal (FC Barcelona Regal, Spain)

Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 9.2 points (55.2% 3FG), 4.1 rebounds.

The 34-year-old Pete Mickeal has seen it all throughout his long career. He had ups and downs with both Caja Laboral (former Tau Ceramica) and Barcelona teams, took part in many Euroleague final fours and knows what is like to be a Euroleague champion. Surprisingly, Mickeal was disappointing in last season's Final Four, as he scored only four points in both semifinal and final games (2-for-13 FG) and was one of the reasons why FC Barcelona Regal didn't make to the finals.

3. Andres Nocioni (Caja Laboral, Spain)

Statistics in 2011-12 (Spanish league): 11.1 points, 4.4 rebounds.

It's been nine years since we saw Andres Nocioni stepping onto the court in Euroleague. Now he's 33 and returning with eight years of NBA experience and ready to help Caja Laboral to get over the hump. Vitoria's team failed to make it out of the group last season and Nocioni could be the guy Caja Laboral has been missing. 

4. Bostjan Nachbar (Brose Baskets, Germany)

Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 4 points (50% 3FG), 2.4 rebounds.

Injuries have slowed down Bostjan Nachbar's career, but the 32-year-old Slovenian has been proving he still has fuel left in the tank this season. After being a role player for a few teams over the past couple of years, Nachbar has finally been afforded a huge role on his new Brose Baskets team. That is exactly what the forward needed as he's been averaging MVP worthy numbers - 18.5 points (40% 3FG), 4.5 rebounds. Clearly, Brose Baskets' potential is limited, but it's a perfect place for Nachbar to raise his value and get his confidence back.

5. Emir Preldzic (Fenerbahce Ulker, Turkey)

Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 6.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists.

Emir Preldzic has been known as one of the most promising young players in Europe, but not many believed he could start the 12-13 season with such a high note as he did against Khimki. The 25-year-old forward ended the season opener with career-high 20 points, four rebounds, three assists and career-high 31 index ranking points. After performance like that, Fenerbahce Ulker fans expect nothing but a breakout season from Preldzic.

6. Malik Hairston (EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, Italy)

Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 13.9 points (48% 3FG), 3.1 rebounds.

In his second season in Euroleague, the 25-year-old Malik Hairston proved himself as a terrific scorer and an offensive threat for any European powerhouse. A bit underrated, Hairston is currently the second best three-pointer shooter in the league (64% 3FG) and averages 14 points per game so far. Inconsistency has been a problem for Hairston, but his high-caliber teammates like Keith Langford and Ioannis Bourousis should help him to get over those bad nights.

7. Bojan Bogdanovic (Fenerbahce Ulker, Turkey)

Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 13 points, 2.2 rebounds.

After a sensational 10-11 Euroleague season with Cibona Zagreb, there was a question how quick Bojan Bogdanovic would adapt to his new situation with Fenerbahce Ulker. Eventually, Bogdanovic didn't have any problems in Istanbul and became one of the key players in the early stage of the season. At the age of 22, Bogdanovic is playing his fourth Euroleague season and has an important role in Fenerbahce Ulker. No doubt, the sky is the limit for this talent, who might soon join the New Jersey Nets.

8. Mickael Gelabale (Cedevita Zagreb, Croatia)

Statistics in 2011-12 (Eurocup): 4.2 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists.

Over the last few years, Mickael Gelabale's career was going downhill as he saw only 15 minutes of action on average last season with Khimki. It's a different situation for him in Croatia, where Gelabale demonstrates he can be as productive as he was in his early days. The former member of the Seattle Sonics averages 14 points and 4.3 rebounds in this Euroleague season and reminds that he still belongs to the elite small forwards club.

9. Krunoslav Simon (Unicaja Malaga, Spain)

Statistics in 2011-12 (Euroleague): 13.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists.

It wasn't unexpected to see Krunoslav Simon leading small-budget Zagreb, where he spent his whole career since he was a junior, in the Euroleague tournament last season, but his easy transition to Unicaja is worth being mentioned. The 27-year-old Croatian is the second best scorer on the team, averaging 12.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, and establishes himself as a Euroleague level player.

10. Jonas Maciulis (Panathinaikos Athens, Greece)

Statistics in 2011-12 (Italian league): 7.3 points.

The 27-year-old Jonas Maciulis has been out of Euroleague for a while, as he had to deal with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, which kept him away from basketball for nine months. After a short stint with Montepaschi, Maciulis is back on the big scene and demonstrates the injury didn't impact his game at all. Lately, Maciulis became one of the leaders of rebuilt Panathinaikos and over the time his role might keep growing.

24 Questions For The Start Of Euroleague

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

1. Was Alba worthy of the Euroleague wildcard?

Thanks to their amazing game attendance numbers, Alba Berlin received a wildcard from the Euroleague this offseason, letting compete in the top European competition once again. Having Elan Chalon and Asseco Prokom Gdynia in their group, Alba has a good chance of making it out of the group and prove they were worthy of the wildcard.

2. Was Jordan Farmar a player Anadolu Efes has been missing for years?

Anadolu Efes Istanbul has arguably spent more on their team without receiving a good return than any other team in Euroleauge. Anadolu Efes has always been a team full of stars and it won't be any different this season. However, Jordan Farmar was an MVP candidate last season in his short stint with Maccabi and he's capable of helping the Turkish team make a long run this Euroleague season.

3. Can Asseco Prokom win more games than last season?

Asseco Prokom won just one game last season and it doesn't seem like it's going to be any better this year. The Polish team didn't construct a competitive roster this offseason and making it to the Top 16 would be a huge surprise. On the other hand, it can't get any worse for Asseco Prokom.

4. When Khimki will end road losing streak in Euroleague?

Eurocup winners Khimki Moscow Region has been known as a home team, as its last Euroleague away win came against Caja Laboral in Vitoria back in 09-10 season. Khimki lost six road games in a row and eight out of its last nine. 

5. Did Besiktas have enough time for team-building?

EuroChallenge winners Besiktas brought in ten new players, a head coach and completely changed the face of the team. Of course, Besiktas beat Anadolu Efes to win the Presidential Cup, but as the Turkish championship hasn't started yet, the new-look Besiktas comes to the Euroleague with no games-that-matters experience.

6. Will we see the old Bostjan Nachbar this season?

Just a couple of years ago Brose Basket's Bostjan Nachbar was one of the best small forwards in Europe, but injuries have slowed down the Slovenian's career. As Nachbar demonstrated in preseason, he feels very comfortable in Bamberg, but there's a question is he ready to lead the lead and finally fight for an MVP award.

7. Can Andres Nocioni lead Caja Laboral to the Euroleague Final Four?

It's been more than four since since Caja Laboral last played in the Euroleague final four. After missing Top 16 last season, it didn't seem that Caja Laboral is moving in the right direction, but the acquisition of Andres Nocioni could change everything. Nocioni is back in the Euroleague after eight years break and will play his first game since April 2004.

8. Is Cedevita capable of creating a miracle in group C?

Anadolu Efes, Caja Laboral, Olympiakos, Zalgiris and EA7 Emporio Armani. Cedevita of Croatia will be competing in 'millionaires group C with clubs, which has intentions to go all the way to the Final Four. Cedevita made a great effort this offseason on building a competitive roster, but it might not be enough to kick off two of those five teams to advance to the Top 16.

9. Does Ettore Messina plus CSKA equals Euroleague titles?

Four-time Euroleague champion Ettore Messina is back in Moscow, where he won his last Euroleague title back in 2008. Messina didn't succeed in Spain with Real as he won only 56% Euroleague games they played, but coming back to Russia feels like a homecoming for Messina. And there's no better place to fight for the Euroleague trophy than at home.

10. How much more money does EA7 Emporio Armani need to spend to finally reach Top 8?

Last season, EA7 Emporio Armani, same as every year, spend millions of Euros to build a team capable of fighting for a spot in Euroleague final four. Unfortunately for Olimpia Milano fans, as always, the Italian team failed to meet the expectations and opened its pocket even wider this offseason. If Milan team won't make it to the Top 8 this season, how much more money they have to spend to finally do that?

11. Will we see a French team in Euroleague Top 16 in next five years?

2007 was the year when Pau-Orthez, made it to the Top 16, and all French clubs have failed to do repeat the feat in the following seasons. Elan Chalon doesn't have much of a chance to change the history this season and here comes the question is there going to be a French team, capable of making it out the regular season group.

12. What is easier for FC Regal Barcelona - beating an NBA team in a preseason game or making it to the Euroleague Final Four?

Some call European teams wining against NBA clubs 'historic', but it's become routine for FC Regal Barcelona to beat NBA in the preseason games marathon as they did that for the third time on Tuesday. After beating the 76ers in 2006, Lakers in 2010, the Mavericks were next on their list this season. However, after a sluggish start in Spanish Championship (0-2), there is confusion where FC Regal Barcelona stands now and will they sort out their problems during the Euroleague regular season.

13. Is the wait for Fenerbahce Ulker fans over?

Bo McCalebb is a game changer and their primary MVP candidate heading into Euroleague. He's teaming up in Istanbul again with familiar faces - Romain Sato, David Andersen and Simone Panigiani. Does that mean Fenerbahce Ulker finally found its saviors who will carry the Turkish club to the top?

14. Could the game against CSKA be the last for Aleksandar Dzikic?

Lietuvos Rytas was sluggish in preseason and had a rough start in VTB United League where they lost the last game against Spartak by 27 points. Over the next week, Lietuvos Rytas will be facing CSKA and FC Regal Barcelona and knowing how impatient the owners of Vilnius club can be, a terrible performance in Moscow might lead to the departure of head coach Aleksandar Dzikic.

15. Does Maccabi have enough talent to maintain the high standard?

Maccabi Tel Aviv doesn't seem to be as dominant on paper as they have in recent seasons. Six Maccabi players have never played in the Euroleague before. David Blatt will have a quite big challenge to maintain Maccabi among the elite with the talent he has right now.

16. Is Cantu going to be the best Italian team in this year's Euroleague?

It's not a big secret that with the departure of McCalebb, Montepaschi lost a big part of its strength and might not be as dominant as we have come to expect. That means Marpooro Cantu, which was in the Euroleague qualification, has a great chance to become the number one Italian team in Euroleague if they repeat their last season's success.

17. What is next for Montepaschi?

The post-McCalebb era has begun for Montepaschi, who have been king of Italian club basketball for years. After the core of team left for Turkey, Montepaschi, which has only six Italians on its squad, decided to rely on foreigners. It's a rebuilding year for Siena, but how painful is it going to be?

18. Would Olympiakos still be an underdog in the London Final Four?

Except for the head coach, the Euroleague champions maintained all main parts of its team to repeat their last season's success and everything seems to be bright for Olympiakos. Despite winning a championship, Olympiakos still seems to be an elite team without being elitist, but that could only benefit them in the long run.

19. What is going to be a post-Obradovic life for Panathinaikos?

Without question, Zeljko Obradovic had been a huge part of making Panathinaikos the most successful European club in the last decade. Four Euroleague titles speak for themself. But does the departure of Obradovic means that the glory days of Panathinaikos are over?

20. Which of the young Partizan stars will have the best season?

Partizan is full of talent this season, with players such as Leo Westermann, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Davis Bertans, Dejan Musli and many others. With coach Dusko Vujosevic back in Belgrade, who of these players will make an immediate impact for Partizan this season?

21. Will better bench depth lead Real to the final?

Real Madrid has everything it takes to accomplish big things in Euroleague this season. Talent, stars, size, experience and probably the best bench in the league. Most of Real's substitutes could be starting five members in nine out of ten others Euroleague clubs and that could be a decisive power in the playoffs.

22. Can Unicaja advance beyond the Top 16?

Clearly, it's difficult to see Unicaja not making it out of the group, especially as they'll compete with lower caliber teams like Asseco Prokom, Alba and Elan Chalon, but their chances to make a long run is less certain. Fran Vazquez is a great replacement for Joel Freeland, but Unicaja still has many problems, which have to be sorted.

23. Can a one million Euro budget team win a Euroleague game?

Union Olimpija don't have many things to be happy about. The Slovenian club's budget is just one million Euro and as there are not enough funds to sign high profile athletes, nine of its players have never played in the Euroleague before. Union Olimpija will compete in a tough group A and there's a huge chance Ljubljana club will finish its Euroleague season without a single win.

24. Will Zalgiris finally reach the Top 8?

It's the same old question, and it's the same story every season. It didn't matter how much talent Zalgiris had, they won just four matches in Top 16 since 2004 and holds an awful 4-32 record. This year, Zalgiris built a very strong team and brought in a new coach, Joan Plaza, but is this enough to break the curse?

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. In the best-of-five series, only four clubs will earn tickets to Istanbul where the new Euroleague champion will be crowned on May 13th.

CSKA vs. Bizkaia Bilbao Basket

Bizkaia Bilbao Basket has been a true Cinderella team in Euroleague this season. In its debut year, the Spanish club managed to make it to the Top 16 and shake things up even there. Beating Real, Montepaschi and Unicaja in last three Top 16 games would be impossible for most of the teams, but not Bizkaia Bilbao Basket.

After making the impossible possible, Bilbao, which is one of just three Euroleague newcomers in eight seasons to reach the playoffs, faced the biggest challenge in team’s history - to beat the best team in the Euroleague, CSKA Moscow.

The end may finally be here for Bilbao.

CSKA is the best offensive team in the league, leading in scoring (86.2 PPG), three-point shooting (41.1%) and two-point shooting (57.8%). CSKA’s players also dish out almost 20 assists per game (best result in the league) and obviously have no problems with sharing the ball. Moreover, having the main MVP candidate Andrei Kirilenko and second best big man in the league, Nenad Krstic, on your squad definitely helps and makes them a true favourite to win the series.

RealGM prediction: CSKA wins 3-0

Montepaschi vs. Olympiacos

After last season’s fiasco, Olympiacos got a chance for a sweet revenge. For those who don’t remember, Olympiacos, which had a homecourt advantage, humiliated Montepaschi by a final score of 89-41 in the first playoffs match. They later collapsed and lost three games in a row and finished its Euroleague season at the Top-8 stage.

However, it is more than obvious that Olympiacos’ currently situation is not that good as it was in previous seasons. Lower budget, no homecourt advantage and being in a rebuilding year puts Olympiacos in an underdog position, but it doesn’t nessecerally mean the winner is already known.

The key elements of this series should be the two best Euroleague scorers, Bo McCalebb of Montepaschi and Vasilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos. McCalebb has scored in double figures in 14 straight Euroleague games and was the Top 16 leader in scoring (16.8 PPG).

Spanoulis leads the league in scoring among the players still active in the competition with 18.1 points per game.

Nevertheless, the deeper bench should lead Montepaschi to a fifth Final Four appearance in 10 years and gives the Italian champions another shot to win the title.

RealGM prediction: Montepaschi wins 3-1

Barcelona Regal vs. Unics

Huge investments paid off this season for another Euroleague debutant in Unics Kazan. Evgeny Pashutin’s system fit perfectly for the Russians, who managed to win against Euroleague's greatest by slowing the pace of the game down and play solid defense.

However, Barcelona Regal, which has the best defence in the Euroleague this season and is on pace to set a record by allowing only 61.4 points per game, already demonstrated twice how to handle a team like Unics.

Unics has been struggling on offense as they are ranked only 19th in terms of scoring (70.9 PPG), but it is worth to notice that Kazan was held to a season-low 50 points in its regular season visit to Barcelona. And this is the same place where they are playing on March 20th and 22nd. During the regular season match against Barcelona Regal at home, Unics scored only 65 points and allowed its opponents to score 93.

Unics has everything it takes to be a legend killer, but it seems Barcelona Regal learned its lesson from the last season when they didn’t reach the Final Four that was hosted in their hometown, and are simply too strong for the Russians.

RealGM prediction: Barcelona Regal wins 3-1

Panathinaikos vs. Maccabi

Panathinaikos Athens and Maccabi Tel Aviv, two teams that reached the 2011 Final Four, can't both make it this season. 

The most successful European basketball club of the past decade, defending champion Panathinaikos, has won three Euroleague titles over the five years, while Maccabi advanced to the Euroleague final seven times in 12 years. Moreover, the fact that these teams have been crowned European champion in eight of the last 12 seasons speaks for itself and also illustrates how big this series are.

As is usual for European powerhouses, all Panathinaikos-Maccabi games are hardly predictable. They met 25 times in over last 20 years and the Greens won 14 games, while the Yellows have won 11.

As it is incredibly hard to take a favorite in this series, Panathinaikos will have a small advantage as their defense is stronger (i.e., Panathinaikos leads the Euroleague in steals with 8.4 PG), their players are more experienced and Maccabi’s troubles with shooting from three-point line could be the Greens’ key to success.

RealGM prediction: Panathinaikos wins 3-2

Euroleague MVP Race

We are in the middle of the Top-16 phase of Euroleague competition, which makes it an opportune time to check in on the favorites to win MVP.

Euroleague Recaps, Finishing The Regular Season

The Euroleague Regular Season came to an end this week as we begin to move into the Top-16 stage.

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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