Top 10 EuroLeague MVP candidates

Oct 01, 2019 by Print
Top 10 EuroLeague MVP candidates

The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Most Valuable Player award is the pinnacle of individual achievement. A total of 14 players from seven different clubs have won the award to date. Anthony Parker of Maccabi Tel Aviv took the inaugural award in 2005 and the next season, making him the only player to be chosen MVP twice. The list of MVP winners includes the retired greats like Theo Papaloukas, Ramunas Siskauskas and Juan Carlos Navarro, as well as some of the upcoming season's candidates, like Sergio Rodriguez (2014), Nando De Colo (2016) and Jan Vesely (2018). At the start of every season, many names circulate in MVP conversations, and their number filters down to a handful of candidates late in the season. Here is a list of the Top 10 candidates to win the EuroLeague MVP award for the 2019-20 season.

10. Mike James, CSKA Moscow

Last season's winner of the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy has a new team, none other than defending champion CSKA Moscow, and his motivation is sure to be sky-high. Just two players have scored more total points in one season than James's 595 did in 2018-19 for AX Armani Exchange Milan. He can break down defenders with ease, speed by them on the break, or step back to hit rainbow threes on all kinds of buzzers. CSKA will need to replace the scoring of two more guards on this list, but big-game James is up to the task.

9. Walter Tavares, Real Madrid

A continental title, an All-EuroLeague selection and last season's Best Defender Trophy are what the 2.21-meter Tavares has collected in less than two years with Real Madrid. His 57 blocks last season were the third-most ever in the EuroLeague and his 3.4 blocks per 40 minutes rank second all-time. Tavares finished fifth in rebounds in 2018-19, too, while his league-leading 79.4% two-point accuracy (104 for 131. was the EuroLeague's best ever for a player with more than 40 shot attempts. Tavares is very much a coach's dream: a defensive game-changer who almost never misses shots.

8. Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona

In his previous four full EuroLeague seasons, Mirotic never failed to walk away with an award. The sleek forward was the back-to-back Rising Star in 2011 and 2012, and followed with consecutive selections to the All-EuroLeague team as Real Madrid reached, but lost, title games at the 2013 and 2014 Final Fours. Now back to Europe with Madrid's archrivals, FC Barcelona, Mirotic has a lot of expectations but all the talent needed to meet them. One of the game's great tall shooters, Mirotic is the full package, too. His quest to finally fulfill his EuroLeague title dream will be fascinating to follow.

7. Jan Vesely, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul

Last season's MVP – and the first center so honored in the award's 16-year existence – will start this season still slowed by an injury, but when healthy, Vesely is all energy, all the time. His very presence has coincided with Fenerbahce reaching five straight Final Fours and becoming the first Turkish champion of Europe in 2017. His dynamic play, however, saw him voted to the All-EuroLeague First Team in three of those seasons. A force of nature when he gets the ball in his hands, Vesely's athleticism and length let him dunk from almost the free throw line. However, if he has to shoot from that spot, he has improved immensely, meaning teams can't choose to foul him much, either, making Vesely an ever-present danger on the court.

6. Alexey Shved, Khimki Moscow Region

Two years ago, Khimki Moscow Region's smooth operator scored the most points in any single EuroLeague season (740. ever. Last season, he posted the highest average in the last 15 years (23.3 ppg.) although his season was cut in half by a three-month injury in the middle of the winter. What's different this time is that Shved may have the deepest pool of talent and experience around him since he came to Khimki in 2015. His exquisite skills extend to passing, too. He ranked sixth a couple of years ago in assists on average and would have been second last season with enough games. As unstoppable a scorer as Shved is, making his teammates better in ways that propels Khimki to more victories will lift him higher and higher among any list of MVP candidates.

5. Sergio Rodriguez, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan

Having claimed his second EuroLeague title last spring, this former MVP left CSKA Moscow for the new project in Milan under legendary coach Ettore Messina. Rodriguez will be a driving force in that project as the player that will direct the traffic for Milan and most likely have the ball in his hands at the end of close games. How Milan does in those close games will influence how quickly, or not, it can rise among the EuroLeague elite. Rodriguez knows more than a thing or two about what it takes to win at this level. No player in the top 10 of three-pointers made this century can approach his 40.6% accuracy from the arc. And that's to say nothing of prolific and often magical passing that ranks him fifth or better in total per-minute assists since 2000. Simply put, Milan has its leader in "Chacho" – and the sky's the limit for both.

Nick Calathes - Panathinaikos OPAP Athens - EB18_9j5ayi5nbubsq6a7

4. Nick Calathes, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens

Talking about leaders, this EuroLeague player above all has the most responsibility for running his team, facilitating his teammates and generally calling the shots. Calathes has earned back-to-back selections to the All-EuroLeague First Team by doing things like breaking the competition's single-season assists record two years in a row and becoming the first player in more than a decade to record a triple-double. He seems to get better with age, and revels in the responsibility of taking the team on his shoulders. This season, he has a potent cast around him to feed and feed off, and it will be fascinating to see a player who was born to make teammates better try to raise them and Panathinaikos to its previous heights. If Calathes can get Panathinaikos to its first Final Four since 2012, the MVP conversation may well center on him.

3. Will Clyburn, CSKA Moscow

His meteoric rise in just three EuroLeague seasons has made Will Clyburn a force to be reckoned with. CSKA's 29-year-old forward paid his dues on the way up, but once he hit the big-time of the EuroLeague three seasons ago, he made it worth the wait. Without requiring the ball much, Clyburn simply makes things happen. He ranked eighth in per-game scoring (13.6 ppg.) last season, fourth in rebounds (6.8) and sixth in performance index rating (17.5). And he topped it all off by leading CSKA to the title as the Final Four MVP, complete with a play-of-the-year dunk in the semifinals against the best defender in the competition. As some of his teammates have moved on, Clyburn remains in Moscow as the point man in the defense of CSKA's title. If the team gets close to repeating, it'll likely be because Clyburn has had another All-EuroLeague First Team campaign.

2. Nando De Colo, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul

It is fair to say that all eyes this season will be on the most prolific EuroLeague player of the last five seasons and his new boss, the winningest coach in continental history. De Colo and Zeljko Obradovic putting their heads together on a basketball court is so tantalizing that purists will go out of their way to see every game they can. Not that De Colo hasn't thrived where he's been until now. Two EuroLeague titles, full season and Final Four MVP awards, a top scorer trophy and All-EuroLeague selections in each of those five seasons with CSKA speak for themselves. In that time, he averaged 16.8 points with astounding shooting percentages, particularly from long distance (45.0%) and the free throw line (93.6%). Obradovic is expert as any coach on the planet in getting players good shots or free throws. Which means that De Colo might improve on those numbers, a scary thought for opponents, but music to the ears of Fenerbahce fans.

1. Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul

He may not have won a title yet or been chosen for All-EuroLeague distinction, but what Shane Larkin accomplished over the second half of last season was unprecedented, and points to great things to come from the speedy guard. Over 16 games from February through the Final Four, he averaged 18.5 points, but came up even bigger when Efes needed him most. He scored 37 points against FC Barcelona to assure Efes home-court advantage in the playoffs, and then put 30 on the same team in pivotal Game 3 on the road, sending Efes forward to its first Final Four in 18 years. He was even better in the Final Four, scoring 30 points to get Efes past arch-rival Fenerbahce to the championship game, where his 29 points came up just short against CSKA Moscow. Such big games against major opponents is what makes Larkin, who will turn 27 this week, a new name to watch at the very top of the MVP race!