Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv has been one of the hottest teams in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague over the last full month of the Top 16 play, and Devin Smith stands out as the key player responsible for his team's success. While Maccabi has reeled off four successive wins in March to put itself on the brink of a playoff berth, Smith ranked among the Euroleague's best 10 players in most major statistical categories: performance index rating, scoring, two- and three-point shooting percentage, rebounds, steals and blocked shots. For his clear leadership role in Maccabi’s march from near-elimination to Group E's second place with one Top 16 game to play, Smith is Euroleague Basketball's choice as the bwin MVP for March. It’s been a wild ride for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv this season. After winning its regular season group, Maccabi stumbled to a 2-5 start, including three home losses, in the Top 16. Since then, however, Maccabi has roared as Smith has raised his game to superstar levels. As Maccabi went 4-0 during March, Smith not only put up consistent numbers, but also made one of the clutch shots of the season, a fully-defended three-point bomb from eight meters near the end of a vital road win against defending champ Olympiacos Piraeus. By the end of March, it was abundantly clear: from every standpoint – statistics, leadership and big plays – Devin Smith is a true bwin MVP of the month.
The bwin MVP of the Month honor is now in its ninth season. Although statistics and performance index ratings are taken into consideration for the award, they alone do not determine who is honored. The winner is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his and his team's performance. The award for March was based on the four Top 16 games that all teams played between March 6 and March 29. Euroleague Basketball partner bwin is the sponsor of the MVP of the Month award. Just as the best Euroleague player each month combines performance and leadership for success, so does bwin's sponsorship communicate its conviction to be the best betting brand in European basketball.
Smith had a major impact on each of Maccabi’s victories in March. His 4 three-pointers – all made at key moments – helped Maccabi open March with an 85-94 road win at Fenerbahce Ulker. In addition to his 16 points on just 9 shots in that game, Smith's 3 steals and 3 blocks helped Maccabi make the key defensive stands needed to win. Maccabi returned home for Top 16 Game 11 to face the team that had handed the Israeli champs their worst loss of the season. Smith's imprint was felt throughout the game, from his sweet moves to the basket to help Maccabi keep a slim third-quarter lead to a key steal with Maccabi up 2 points with less than a minute to go. His final numbers - 16 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals – were all instrumental in that 80-79 victory. Maccabi's playoff hopes faced another stern test when it visited the champs, Olympiacos Piraeus, one week later. Again, Smith authored the highlight of the game. First, he helped Maccabi surge ahead by 14 points with a second-quarter triple. Later, another three-pointer stopped a 14-2 Olympiacos charge early in the fourth quarter. But it was his game-changing shot from near half-court late with 1:36 to play that will be remembered by Maccabi fans. Smith beat the 24-second shot clock to put Maccabi ahad by 6 points and pave the way to a crucial 67-73 victory. To finish off a brilliant month both from a team and an individual perspective, Smith needed just 18 minutes on the floor to help engineer a 101-58 victory over Besiktas JK Istanbul last week with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block.
For the month of March, Smith ranked second among all Euroleague players in steals (2 spg.), sixth in both three-pointers made (10) and three-point accuracy (58.82 %), seventh in two-point accuracy (72.22 %), eighth in scoring (15.3 ppg.) and rebounds (6.5 rpg.), and 10th in blocks (1 bpg.). It was a super month for a player who has already established himself as a top producer at the highest level. Smith made his Euroleague debut in the 2008-09 season with Fenerbahce Ulker before spending helping two teams reach new heights in the Eurocup. Smith was named to the All-Eurocup First Team in both 2010 and 2011 after leading Panellinios of Greece and Benetton Treviso of Italy to the Eurocup Finals. Now in his second season with Maccabi, Smith had already shown how much he likes big games by ranking seventh in performance index rating among all Euroleague players in last season's playoffs round. Maccabi fans will be able to thank him for all his clutch contributions when he receives his bwin MVP for March trophy at an upcoming home game.