What to watch for all 14 weeks of the Top 16!

Dec 18, 2012 by Frankie Sachs, Euroleague.net Print
Frankie SachsAs a Euroleague.net writer and editor since 2006 and the site’s correspondent in Tel Aviv before that, Frankie Sachs has had the honor to see dozens of Euroleague games live and hundreds more on Euroleague.TV. One of his claims to fame is being among the very few live witnesses the two greatest shots of this century – Derrick Sharp’s miracle three against Zalgiris in 2004 and Georgios Printezis’s title-winning basket last season. Now, after years of editing some of the many personalities and journalists who have written and continue to write for Euroleague.net, Frankie will regale readers each week with what he’s looking forward to most in the next Turkish Airlines Euroleague games. Follow him on Twitter @ MrEuroleague.

The new and improved Top 16 is just over a week away and many of the teams that advanced are already hard at work tweaking their rosters to improve their chances on the road to London. Sometimes those changes are forced by injuries, such as Alba Berlin's recent signing of veteran guard Je'Kel Foster, who steps into the shoes of Vule Avdalovic after the latter's season-ending knee surgery. Other moves can be to shake up a team or for insurance in case of an injury later on, after the signing deadline. One need only to go back to last season to see just how important transfers coming before the Top 16 can be: it's hard to imagine Olympiacos wearing the Turkish Airlines Euroleague crown today were it not for the contributions of Acie Law and Joey Dorsey, who both signed with the Reds prior to the Top 16 a year ago. Likewise, Montepaschi Siena's march to the 2011 Final Four may not have been possible without the stellar play of midseason pickup Marko Jaric.

There are other moves that pay off only down the road, like CSKA Moscow bringing Viktor Khryapa back in the midst of the 2007-08 campaign: he was an end-of-the-rotation player that season as CSKA won the title, but Khryapa was an All-Euroleague selection just two years later. Or Mirza Begic, Real Madrid's current starting center, who signed in February 2011, but played sparingly that season as Los Blancos marched to the Final Four. And there are moves that scarcely impact the action beyon delivering a Euroleague title to the new addition, like Bruno Sundov joining Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2004. What is practically impossible to account for are the dozens of midseason moves that ultimately backfired and left the hungry teams far from the Final Four and in many cases even on the outside looking in for the playoffs. As we look ahead to the Top 16, who will be the new faces that take their teams to the next level? Time will tell.

I will save my previews of the exciting matchups in the Top 16 for each coming week, but instead will look here at some of the impressive milestones that we can expect to see met or the Euroleague records that are on pace to fall during the Top 16. Of course the lengthier schedule leaves more games and more time for such records to fall, which is a great bonus for all of us! One player that seems to pop up more than the rest on this list is former MVP Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos, who might not only become the Euroleague's career steals king during the Top 16, but is also set to reach some impressive numbers in assists, blocks and Euroleague starts. Two other players with multiple mentions are reigning Final Four MVP Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos and scoring king Juan Carlos Navarro of Regal FC Barcelona. Without further ado, my projected weekly highlights for the upcoming Top 16:

Week 1

Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos overtakes Pablo Prigioni for sole possession of second place on the Euroleague's all-time steals list. Diamantidis enters the Top 16 tied with Prigioni for second place with 320 steals.

Sergi Vidal of Unicaja Malaga moves back into the competition's top 10 in games played. With his 195th career appearance, Vidal ties former Maccabi Tel Aviv captain Derrick Sharp for 10th place. Vidal was knocked out of 10th place earlier this season by Fenerbahce Ulker's Mike Batiste.

Week 2

Juan Carlos Navarro of FC Barcelona Regal becomes the first Euroleague player to score 3,000 points! Navarro, already the competition's all-time leading scorer, enters the Top 16 with 2,975 career points and is averaging 13 points per game this season.

Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos overtakes EA7 Emporio Armani guard Gianluca Basile for 10th place on the Euroleague's all-time assists chart. Spanoulis enters the Top 16 with 471 career assists – 7 fewer than Basile – and is averaging 5.9 assists per game.

Week 3

Juan Carlos Navarro of FC Barcelona Regal becomes the Euroleague career leader in three-pointer made. Navarro enters the Top 16 with 416 career triples, just 5 fewer than former teammate Gianluca Basile, the all-time leader. Navarro is averaging 1.9 threes per game this season.

Week 4

Kostas Tsartsaris of Panathinaikos moves into second place on the Euroleague's all-time list of games played with 224. He overtakes EA7 Emporio Armani's Gianluca Basile for second place. Tsartsaris (220 appearances) could potentially become the all-time leader by topping Theodoros Papaloukas (235 games) in the playoffs.

Week 5

Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos becomes the ninth Euroleague player to dish 500 career assists. He enters the Top 16 with 471 career assists and is averaging 5.9 assists per game this season.

Week 6

Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos becomes the sixth player in competition history to knock down 500 free throws. Spanoulis enters the Top 16 with 482 career free throws made and is averaging 3 per game this season.

Week 7

Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos will overtake retired CKSA Moscow star J.R. Holden for the most starts for one team in Euroleague history. Holden made 164 starts (among 189 CSKA appearances) during nine seasons with the Russian champs. Diamantidis, who has played his entire Euroleague career with Panathinaikos, enters the Top 16 with 158 career starts.

Week 8

Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos overtakes Theodoros Papaloukas to become the Euroleague's all-time steals king. Papaloukas has 327 career steals. Diamantidis enters the Top 16 tied for second place with 320 steals and is averaging 1.1 steals per game this season.

Viktor Khryapa of CSKA Moscow moves into fifth place on the Euroleague's career blocked shots list. Marcus Goree is currently fifth with 120 blocks. Khryapa enters the Top 16 with 112 career rejections and is averaging 1.1 blocks per game this season.

Week 9

Juan Carlos Navarro of FC Barcelona Regal becomes the first player to score 1,000 career Euroleague field goals (two-point and three-point shots). Navarro enters the Top 16 with 966 field goals made and has an average of 3.8 baskets per game this season.

Week 10

Mike Batiste of Fenerbahce Ulker overtakes former CSKA Moscow star J.R. Holden for fifth place on the Euroleague's all-time scoring charts. Batiste enters the Top 16 with 2,332 points – which is 56 fewer than Holden – and is averaging 5.6 points per game this season.

Felipe Reyes of Real Madrid becomes the fifth player in competition history to haul in 1,000 career rebounds. Reyes enters the Top 16 with 949 rebounds and is averaging 5.1 rebounds per game this season.

Week 11

Sarunas Jasikevicus of FC Barcelona Regal ties former teammate Derrick Sharp for 10th place on the competition's games-played list. Saras enters the Top 16 with 185 career appearances.

Week 12

Stephane Lasme enters the Euroleague's all-time top 10 in blocked shots. Lasme, the regular season leader with 2.6 blocks per game, enters the Top 16 with 80 career rejections. The retired Gregor Fucka and Benjamin Eze of Montepaschi Siena currently sit in 10th place with 106 blocks and there are seven active players between Lasme and Eze.

Week 13

Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos will overtake Pablo Prigioni for second place on the Euroleague career charts with his 799th career assist. Diamantidis enters the Top 16 with 715 career assists and is averaging a league-best 6.3 assists per game this season.

Diamantidis becomes the first guard in Euroleague history to amass 100 career blocked shots. Diamantidis enters the Top 16 with 95 career rejections and is averaging 0.4 blocks per game this season.

Week 14

Fran Vazquez of Unicaja Malaga becomes the first player in Euroleague history to reject 200 shots. Vazquez enters the Top 16 as the competition's career rejections leader with 188 – 48 more than the closest competitor – is averaging 0.7 blocks per game this season, which is below his career 1.1 blocks per game average.