MVP for November: Nicolo Melli, Brose Baskets Bamberg

Nov 30, 2015 by Print
MVP for November: Nicolo Melli, Brose Baskets Bamberg

It is safe to assume that when November started, few if any Turkish Airlines Euroleague observers had checked off Brose Baskets Bamberg as a sure Top 16 team, let alone an early qualifier. As November ends, however, Bamberg has punched its ticket to the next phase with four straight victories that featured extraordinarily diverse performances by Nicolo Melli, Euroleague Basketball's selection for MVP of the Month. Although he had played 85 Euroleague games in five seasons before November, the 24-year-old power forward packed no fewer than seven personal career highs into Bamberg's perfect month. In November's first game, Melli became just the fourth player 2.05 or taller this century to dish 10 assists. In another, his 37 index rating was this season's second-best and his 26 points tied for fourth-best. In a third, his 4 blocks matched the second-most and his 10 defensive rebounds the fourth-most in the season's first seven games. Simply put, whatever it took for his team to win, Melli did it with a remarkable versatility that not only clinched Bamberg's place in the Top 16 with three regular season games left, but made him a winning choice as November MVP.

The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 12th 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 24 teams played during the month.

Bamberg opened November with a 1-2 record and a 51-57 deficit entering the fourth quarter against visiting Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. That's when Melli turned into a point forward, dishing 4 assists during a 12-0 takeover run for his team and a total of 7 in the final quarter as Bamberg won going away, 77-66. His 10 assists total let him join Dejan Tomasevic, Nikola Vujcic and Emir Preldzic as the only players 2.05 meters or taller to make so many in a Euroleague game. He also scored 9 points and pulled 6 rebounds for a performance index rating of 21. A week later, playing in his native Italy for the first time as a visitor, Melli exploded for 26 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 1 blocked shot in a 73-90 win that was Bamberg's biggest ever on the road in six Euroleague seasons. His scoring and PIR of 37 were Melli's personal highs. Next, undefeated Unicaja Malaga came to Bamberg and Melli dedicated himself to the visitors' specialty, rebounding. He finished as that game's top rebounder with 8 as Bamberg won the battle on the boards 36 to 26 and defeated Unicaja 73-53, the club's second-widest margin of victory ever in the competition. To end the month, Bamberg visited Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul and based its second straight road win on defense as Melli posted career highs of 12 rebounds and 4 blocks in a 54-65 win that clinched a spot in the Top 16. Melli's collection of seven new personal highs from November – 37 PIR, 26 points, 12 rebounds, 10 defensive rebounds, 10 assists, 4 blocks and 33 minutes played – are matched and surpassed by only one other player in the Euroleague this century: Vujcic.

In four victories over 22 days, Melli averaged 12 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.5 blocks while making 50% of his two-point shots (12 of 24), 66.7% of his threes (6 of 9) and 85.7% of his free throws (6 for 7). The effect of those numbers was to fill in any and all blanks that Bamberg needed and to lead his team through a November minefield to a place in the Top 16. The fans in "Freak City" now have a lot more Euroleague games to look forward to this season, and will no doubt make their appreciation known when Melli receives his award at an upcoming Bamberg home game.