Even a highly talented young player must climb from learner to role player to contributor - with stops and starts along the way - before he can star at a major club. The new decade's first month might well be remembered as the one in which Milos Teodosic of Olympiacos, Euroleague Basketball's choice as Sportingbet MVP for January, made a giant leap in the direction of stardom. In three victories bridging two rounds during January, the 22-year-old point guard proved himself a true floor general for the constellation of older stars at Olympiacos. To start the month, he played the most minutes for the Reds in their decisive road win at Efes Pilsen, sharing weekly MVP honors in the process. In the regular season finale, he produced without needing to score by posting team-high totals in assists, steals and - get this - blocked shots as Olympiacos was just the second team in almost three months to beat Partizan. Finally, to start off the Top 16, he directed Olympiacos to a second major road win, over Caja Laboral, in a game that required leadership through many spectacular twists and turns. It was no accident, at the end of January, to find that Teodosic not only had the best average performance index rating of all Euroleague players for the month, but is also the highest-rated Euroleague point guard thus far in the 209-10 season. Most of all, helped make sure that an Olympiacos team with high expectations met them with flying colors in the crucial month of January.
The Sportingbet MVP of the Month honor is in its sixth season. Although statistics and performance 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 January was decided considering the last two regular season games played by all teams during that month and the first game of the Top 16. Sportingbet, a Euroleague Basketball partner, is the new sponsor of the MVP of the Month award. Just as the best Euroleague player each month combines performance and leadership for success, so does Sportingbet's sponsorship communicate its conviction to be the best betting brand in European basketball.
Although Olympiacos was already qualified for the Top 16, it opened 2010 with the higher goal of winning its regular season group despite an injury to team leader Theodoros Papaloukas. The Reds had quickly hired another veteran point guard, Scoonie Penn, for their potential group-clinching trip to play Efes Pilsen in Istanbul, but Teodosic was more than ready to step up. The second-youngest player to take the floor in that game, Teodosic stayed for 41 minutes, providing key points and assists in the second half and overtime, when his game-tying triple and go-ahead pass sparked the Reds to an 85-93 victory. When the buzzer sounded, Teodosic had 17 points to go with 12 assists - only five people have ever dished more in a Euroleague game - for a performance index rating of 34, which tied Teodosic for that week's MVP honor. More importantly, Olympiacos now had a grip on first place in its group. Next, Olympiacos avenged an earlier loss to Partizan with a resounding 81-60 home win to finish the regular season. (In its very next game, Partizan would defeat Olympiacos rival Panathinaikos in Athens to open the Top 16.) Against Partizan, Teodosic took fewer shots but was no less effective, dishing 9 more assists to go with 4 steals and 3 blocked shots - an unheard-of figure for a point guard. Next came perhaps the month's biggest challenge as Olympiacos started the Top 16 as the only regular-season winner that had to play a second-seeded team on the road. In a tremendously entertaining game at Caja Laboral in Vitoria, Spain, the Reds prevailed 85-89 as Teodosic again made major contributions all night long: 14 points, 6 assists and decisive connections with Papaloukas in the closing minutes for a tandem that must be a dangerous thought for any Olympiacos opponent.
By the end of January, Teodosic had some great raw numbers to contemplate: 13 points, 9 assists, 2.3 steals and a 25.3 index rating per game. Most impressive of all, perhaps were his turnovers - or lack of them - only 1 per game despite playing an average of 34 minutes, with the ball in his hands almost every time down the floor. And though he can score from anywhere, Teodosic spent the month racking up his Euroleague career highs in other, team-oriented categories: assists (12), steals (4), blocks (3), index rating (34) and minutes (41). Olympiacos moves forward out of January with the certain knowledge that its young point guard can be relied on as a complete player ready to lead in any way necessary to help the team win. With two of the month's major victories having come on the road, the Olympiacos fans in Pireaus will no doubt be ready to show their appreciation when Milos Teodosic receives his January MVP award at an upcoming home game.