In his first three seasons at Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, Devin Smith was considered to be one of the team’s most important players, but often his contributions couldn’t be simply measured by statistics. That changed in December, when the veteran forward took on an even greater role for the defending Euroleague champions. Smith posted impressive numbers – he was the Euroleague’s top scorer for the month– in leading Maccabi to a 3-0 record in December to clinch second place in Group B of the regular season. For those reasons and more, Smith is Euroleague Basketball's choice as bwin MVP for December. At age 31, Smith is the oldest player on the Maccabi Electra roster. And following the season-ending injury to team captain Guy Pnini, he is the team’s longest-tenured member. Maccabi may be the reigning Euroleague champion, but it faced new challenges this season with a change in head coach and the turnover of half the team’s roster. Smith helped Maccabi make a successful transition from last season’s model to the current squad as a team leader both on and off the court. In December he was at his best as Maccabi first clinched a Top 16 berth, avenged its first home loss of the season with a resounding home win to lock up second place and went on to finish strong in front of the faithful Tel Aviv supporters. Three outstanding performances by Smith went hand in hand with those three Maccabi victories, which made him the ideal selection as bwin MVP for December.
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 December was based on the three regular season games that all teams played in Rounds 8 through 10. 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.
Maccabi entered December with a 4-3 record and was coming off one of its worst home losses ever at the hands of CSKA Moscow. Smith took the bull by its horns already from the start of the Round 8 contest against ALBA Berlin. He amassed 5 points in the first two minutes as Maccabi went ahead. But the visitors would not go away and led by 4 midway through the fourth quarter. Smith scored the next 3 points to revive the Israeli champs and added 4 more points in the final minute to seal a 95-89 victory. When the buzzer sounded, the victory gave Maccabi a Top 16 ticket and the score sheet showed Smith with a career-high 26 points on 8-of-9 free throw shooting plus 5 rebounds to tie his career best with a performance index rating of 28. A week later, Maccabi went to Zagreb to meet Cedevita, which had upset the yellow-and-blue in Round 4 in Tel Aviv. Again the game was close late; the visitors held a 1-point lead entering the fourth quarter. Smith scored the first basket of the final stanza and went on to hit a trio of three-pointers and to assist on another as Maccabi pulled away for a 71-82 victory. He led the Maccabi attack that night with 14 points on 4-of-7 three-point shooting plus 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. That result combined with a loss by Unicaja Malaga sealed second place in Group B for Coach Guy Goodes’s men. Unicaja came to Tel Aviv for Round 10 needing a win and Smith and Maccabi played at their best to claim a third straight victory, 81-73. Smith shined once again with 22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals in again tying his best index rating with 28. With Maccabi only up 2 late in the fourth quarter, Smith came to the rescue with back-to-back three-pointers to seal the victory. Behind Smith’s brilliance, Maccabi wrapped up the regular season with a 7-3 record.
Smith starred for Maccabi to the tune of 20.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and just 1 turnover per game in December. His average performance index rating for the month was 25.7, which was second-best in the league and first among players on winning teams. He made 57.1% of his two point shots (12 of 21), 45.5% of his threes (10 of 22) and 88.9% of his free throws (8 of 9). Smith’s numbers for the 2014-15 season are the best of his Euroleague career and his numbers in December even more so. The bwin MVP for December is Smith’s second Euroleague player of the month award; he was also the bwin MVP for March 2013. In doing so, he becomes the 10th player in competition history to win monthly MVP honors twice, joining an esteemed list of Euroleague greats including Marcus Brown, Dimitris Diamantidis, Juan Carlos Navarro, Ramunas Siskauskas, Vassilis Spanoulis and Ante Tomic. The award also marks the 10th time the monthly MVP award has gone to a Maccabi Tel Aviv player; Smith is the only player to win it twice for Maccabi. He will get a chance to celebrate that distinction soon in front of the Maccabi fans when he receives his bwin MVP of the Month award before one of his team’s Top 16 games at Nokia Arena.