BARCELONA — After nine weeks and 108 games, the final session of the Euroleague’s regular season tipped off with four Top 16 slots still empty, and eight teams vying to fill them.
In Group B, Zalgiris tucked Ty Lawson and their organizational turmoil under the rug long enough to end Zagreb’s season with an 87-76 victory, while Bamberg faltered in Athens, losing to Panathinaikos 71-66.
And in Group C, Olimpia Milano silenced Partizan’s notoriously noisy home fans as they gobbled up that fourth and final ticket in Pionir Arena by a final score of 72-66.
So with the Top 16 draw still days away and the next Euroleague game scheduled for January 18, some premature congratulations are in order for 10 exceptional individuals.
Ladies and gentlemen: your Regular Season All-Euroleague teams.
Marcelinho Huertas, Regal Barcelona
9.2 ppg | 5 apg | 65% on two-pointers
Sometimes it’s Chuck Eidson’s night to hurt you. For a quarter here, quarter there, Pete Mickeal might even dust off a few of the powerful moves that made him Europe’s toughest cover a couple seasons ago. Obviously any talk of Barcelona can’t be taken seriously without mention of Juan Carlos Navarro, and we’d be remiss to gloss over Erazem Lorbek, Boniface N’Dong, Kosta Perovic, Fran Vazquez and their bench’s worth of big people.
Yet there’s only one point guard, one man that controls the tide with a flick of his wrist. That’s Marcelinho Huertas, and nobody in Europe is playing basketball’s most important position better than the Brazilian.
Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos
19.8 ppg | 4.9 apg | 54% from the floor
When a club traditionally built upon stars decides they’ve only got the budget for one, pressure is on its way. Vassilis Spanoulis dealt with that burden swiftly and professionally, raising his scoring average from 14.2 to 19.8 without sacrificing efficiency. In fact, Spanoulis raised his percentages across the board—twos, threes and free throws—and his assists are up while turnovers are down from last season. He’s played his entire career as if auditioning for a bigger role; now he carries as much weight as any Euroleaguer, and he’s making it look easy.
Henry Domercant, Unics Kazan
16.5 ppg | 4.5 rpg | 56% on 3-pointers
With a linebacker’s neck and a pair of frightening eyes, you’d expect Henry Domercant to bully his way to the bucket. Instead, the barrel-chested guard out of Eastern Illinois prefers operating from a distance, and with enough space to continue knocking down 56 percent of his treys (contrasting with the 35 percent he hits from inside the arc). You might not always get what you expect, but as Kazan has discovered, it’s nice to have him on your side.
Mirza Teletovic, Caja Laboral
21.7 ppg | 6 rpg | 1 bpg
A week ten 77-72 loss to Bilbao may have kept Caja Laboral out of the Top 16, but there’s no way it’s keeping the Euroleague’s best player off of this list. It’s a veritable shame that we’ll be Mirza-less the rest of the way.
Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
15.6 ppg | 7.1 rpg | 58.3% on two-pointers
An injury forced Andrei Kirilenko to abandon an historically dominant Euroleague campaign, now an NBA contract might divert his attention for good. But with everyone—fans, media, opposing coaches—fixated on AK47′s omnipotence, NK12 was planted in the post, leading CSKA Moscow to an undefeated regular season.
Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
10.8 ppg | 5 apg | 1.6 spg
One of these days I’ll leave Dimitris off this list. Twelve years of pro ball interspersed with taxing summers on the Greek national team will finally wear him out. He’ll stop playing stellar defense and his hyper-efficient game will start to wilt its way toward some forced, Marcus Brown mess. He’ll no longer wear the captain’s hat on the S.S. Obradovic, and all the brilliant passes and clutch shots will be a thing of the past. One of these days, Dimitris Diamantidis will tumble from his perch atop the European basketball world. But Panathinaikos keeps on winning, so today is not that day.
Jaycee Carroll, Real Madrid
16.9 ppg | 2.7 rpg | 57% on 3-pointers
As whispers of a lifted lockout circulated through Europe, basketball fans started to wonder: with Rudy Fernandez out of the picture, can Jaycee Carroll handle the load? I mean, he’d excelled in a complementary role, but would he rise to the occasion as the superstar on the winningest club in European hoop history?
Rudy’s frosted tips and public trade requests might have thrust him into the spotlight, but here’s reality: Jaycee had been in charge of the heavy lifting since day one. Even with Rudy soaking up all the shots, Jaycee scored more off better percentages despite less playing time. So while not as stylish or vocal as Fernandez, it turns out Jaycee Carroll is a superstar, and has been since his record-setting days at Utah State.
Sonny Weems, Zalgiris
17.5 ppg | 5.9 rpg | 1.3 spg
With a reputation as a raw athlete and only limited NBA success to draw on, I thought Sonny’s intenational maturation would be miles behind teammate Ty Lawson’s. Well, Lawson struggled to be a distributor, turned some of his own fans into enemies thanks to a social media mishap, and left Kaunas with a bad taste in its mouth and an even worse record when he returned to the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile, Sonny’s point total dipped below 14 only once in ten weeks as he led the team in both boards and steals, helping Zalgiris secure a Top 16 berth even when everyone had left them for dead.
Marko Banic, Bilbao Basket
15.7 ppg | 4 rpg | 69.7% on two-pointers
Besides Bennet Cantu, there’s no Top 16 team that accepts shared glory more willingly than Bilbao Basket. Part of that is the exceptional job Fotios Katsikaris has done as the head coach; part of that is winning games in front of such an emotionally charged crowd; and part of that is when your best player has all of the ego of the twelfth man.
Erazem Lorbek, Regal Barcelona
14.7 ppg | 4.6 rpg | 56% on three-pointers
Five times I’ve hopped the metro to Palau Blaugrana for one of Barcelona’s Euroleague games, and all five times I’ve watched as the hosts dished double-digit losses to their visitors. They scheme their way into better shots, defend the daylights out of you and bring elite big men off the bench in pairs; but above all else, it’s Barcelona’s spacing that will inevitably be your undoing. Extend your defense and watch as Huertas waltzes in and carves up the paint before dishing it to one of the large, talented men standing underneath the basket. But pack the interior and allow Juan Carlos Navarro or Chuck Eidson to punish you from deep. And when spacing is the objective, it never hurts to have a 6’10″ Slovenian who knocks down 56 percent of his threes and 65 percent of his twos, either.
Nick Gibson, editor of EuroleagueAdventures.com, covers Euroleague and other European basketball developments for SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear each Friday. Click here to follow him on Twitter.