Last month dawned with reason for doubt at Anadolu Efes Istanbul. The team's first Turkish Airlines Euroleague defeat - at home in late October - was followed quickly by news of its best performer until then suffering a long-term injury. Fortunately for his new club, Euroleague Basketball's choice as bwin MVP for November, forward Dario Saric, was ready to be everything that Efes had hoped he would be when signing him last summer. Playing well beyond his 20 years, Saric became the team's anchor over the next four games, averaging the most rebounds and third-most points on any Euroleague team with three or more victories in November. He also led Efes in minutes played and overall shooting accuracy as the team pulled off victories on the road at Nizhny Novgorod and home against both Real Madrid and Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari. Efes now is tied for first place in Group A of the regular season, well positioned to make the Top 16, something that was hardly a given when center Nenad Krstic was lost to injury on November 2. What was a given, it turned out, was Saric's hard-charging style and willingness to take responsibility to keep Efes from sliding backwards. In a month when only six Euroleague teams won at least three games, Saric’s consistency was the major reason that Efes was among the big November winners. As such, Saric has become the youngest bwin MVP of the month in the award's history!
The bwin MVP of the Month honor is now in its 11th 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 November was based on the four regular season games that all teams played between November 5 and 28. 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.
Going on the road without Krstic to open November against Nizhny Novgorod was key for Efes. By the time Saric had contributed 7 points, 2 assists and a steal in the early second quarter, however, Efes was ahead by double digits and on its way to a 66-76 decision against a Nizhny team that would win its next two games. Saric finished with a team-high 18 points on 7-for-10 two-point shooting and 6 rebounds. Next, Efes received undefeated Real Madrid in Istanbul. In a tight game, Saric repeatedly helped Efes with tying or go-ahead baskets among his 13 points until Matt Janning's last-second tip-in for a 75-73 victory ended Madrid's unbeaten run. Next, at Unics Kazan, Saric dueled last season's Alphonso For Top Scorer Trophy winner, Keith Langford, down the stretch, but his 13 points and 9 rebounds couldn't prevent a 67-64 road loss. At home to finish November against Dinamo Sassari, Saric had a breakout game, leading a blowout 85-62 victory while piling up his Euroleague career highs in minutes (27), performance index rating (28), points (18), rebounds (11) and assists (3). Combined with Unics defeating Madrid on the road last week, Efes became Group A co-leader with a 5-2 record, tied for the fourth-most victories in the competition with three games left in the regular season.
All told, Saric in November averaged 15.5 points and 7.75 rebounds while making 61% of his two-point shots, giving the consistency at both ends of the court that Efes needed at that moment to make its mark in Group A. At 20 years and 7 months old, Saric becomes the youngest bwin MVP of the Month ever. The previous youngest was Nikola Mirotic, who was awarded in December of 2011, when he was 20 years and 10 months old. Efes fans can celebrate Saric receiving his award at an upcoming home game.