It is all about filling the baskets and a lot of great players in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague can do that. Only one of them, however, will take the Alphonso Ford EuroLeague Top Scorer Trophy home at the end of the 2021-22 campaign. This trophy is awarded annually to the EuroLeague player with the highest average of points scored per game. The list of former winners is a who's who of basketball greats. The trophy is named in memory of the late Alphonso Ford, who died of leukemia in September 2004 after a brilliant career in which he was the competition's leading scorer twice. The list of potential winners is long at the start of the season, but gets shorter as the season goes on. Here is a list of 10 potential scoring champs, in alphabetical order, which includes three former Ford Trophy winners and another who led the 2019-20 campaign in scoring when the competition was canceled.
Wade Baldwin IV, Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz
Baldwin wowed a lot of observers in his second EuroLeague season by averaging 15.3 points, ninth-best in the EuroLeague, last season. Despite not being a great three-point shooter (28.5% 3FG last season), Baldwin always found many ways to score inside the arc, often by hitting mid-range shots with great effectiveness in pick-and-roll and stop-and-pop situations. He knows how to use his physicality and quickness to get past his defender, attack the rim and finish strong. Baldwin reached the 20-point mark seven times last season and at age 25, the best is yet to come for him.
Nando De Colo, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul
De Colo already won the award in the 2015-16 season. In the last seven seasons, De Colo has scored more points (3,385) than any other player in the competition; Mike James is a distant second at 2,696. In the last two campaigns playing for Fenerbahce, De Colo amassed 1,390 points, ranking fourth overall. De Colo is a deadly free throw shooter, arguably the best in professional basketball history (94.0% FT, 872-of-928), and is also effective from beyond the arc (42.7% 3FG), off screens, going to the basket... a true scoring machine!
Mario Hezonja, UNICS Kazan
In just eight EuroLeague games last season with Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, Hezonja proved that he is a serious candidate for the award. He averaged 14.4 points and showed that his off-the-charts self-confidence is still intact. Hezonja has unlimited shooting range, loves to take shots in transition and is tall, strong and talented enough to play one-on-one and challenge any defender. UNICS coach Velimir Perasovic knows him well and it should not be a surprise if Hezonja is his team's main scoring reference. Hezonja is ready for a breakout season that could take him to the scoring title.
Mike James, AS Monaco
His unique combination of athleticism, explosiveness, self-confidence and talent is rare and James knows it. He was the EuroLeague's top scorer in the 2018-19 season when he averaged 19.8 points for AX Armani Exchange Milan. He scored even more (21.1 ppg.) in the 2019-20 campaign with CSKA Moscow. Last season, James was second in the scorers' charts (19.3 ppg.). He joined AS Monaco, where he will play a leading role and make things happen. Can he reclaim the Ford Scorer Trophy? It will be fun to find out.
Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Everything clicked for Larkin in the 2019-20 season. Efes was rolling, leading the standings, and he led the competition in scoring with 22.2 points on 50.9% three-point shooting. Larkin set the EuroLeague's all-time scoring record with 49 points against FC Bayern Munich on November 29, 2019. Last season, Larkin did not score as much, averaging 15.1 points as the EuroLeague champions' second-best scorer behind Vasilije Micic. It looks to be just a matter of time before Larkin reaches his previous scoring level and becomes an almost unstoppable force.
Jordan Loyd, Zenit St Petersburg
Loyd did it all for Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade last season; he drained pull-up jumpers in front of his defenders, three-point shots from way downtown, backdoor baskets, driving layups – and that allowed him to rank third overall among the league's scorers. He averaged 17.3 points and was accurate from the foul line (90.6%). Now playing for Zenit, Loyd should get even better shots with more talent around him and that only makes him even more dangerous.
Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona
No other frontcourt player in the competition has his versatility, shooting range, experience and talent. Mirotic can use his footwork and post moves, highlighted by a deadly turnaround jumper, to beat his defenders. He is also an extremely good ballhandler for a player his size, which allows him to attack the basket and finish around the rim. Mirotic is also well-known for his deep range and can change any game with his three-pointers. He also gets to the foul line often with great effectiveness (84.8% FT last season), so expect Mirotic to challenge for the award.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Zalgiris Kaunas
He is the only EuroLeague newcomer on this list, but Mudiay has a great opportunity in front of him and should make the most out of it. He is a very physical, athletic and explosive player. Mudiay uses that advantage in one-on-one situations due to his great ballhandling and an extremely quick first step. However, he is an up-and-down shooter, both from three-point range and from the free-throw line. Still, Mudiay is in the right environment to improve his shooting skills and if he does, not many teams will be able to stop him.
Nemanja Nedovic, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens
Despite being troubled with injuries last season, Nemanja Nedovic proved he is a great scorer who can put the ball into the basket with consistency. Nedovic averaged 16.0 points in 25 games to rank fifth in the league. He took a lot of three-point shots, 7.2 per game, and 37.0% of them. Nedovic also found many ways to score around the basket thanks to his high basketball IQ. If Nedovic stays away from injuries and can find his scoring rhythm, it would not be a surprise to see him challenging for the award this season.
Alexey Shved, CSKA Moscow
Last but not least, Shved won the Ford Trophy last season and also claimed it in the 2017-18 campaign. His unlimited range, outstanding one-on-one skills and incredible ability to create his own shots turn him into a natural contender for this award. Some may say that by playing for CSKA Moscow, Shved has more talented scorers around him, but he has always been surrounded by those throughout his career. The fact that he led the league in scoring (19.8 ppg.) and assists (7.7 apg.) last season says it all: Shved is unpredictable and dangerous.