Euroleague Power Rankings: Sonny Weems and The Top 16

With Bo McCalebb underperforming in Turkey, I’m ready to admit it: CSKA Moscow’s Sonny Weems is the best American player in Europe right now.

Weems jumped to Kaunas, Lithuania to play for Zalgiris when the lockout hit last season, and spent the regular season proving that if you cheated back on him too much he could burn you from distance.

Then a winless Top 16 for Zalgiris saw Weems’ numbers fall off a cliff-–17.5 points to 11.6; 5.9 rebounds to 3.2; 1.3 steals to zero; from 15-of-30 on threes to 3-of-20—while his effort and attitude on the court started to decline as well.

So which was it: stubborn American scorer who sat back as defenses adjusted to, then put a lid on, his aggressive style of play?  Or a developing talent who understands that his ability to put the ball in the basket is worth very little to upper-tier European clubs unless he learns how to minimize his negative impact and produce within a winning system?

Instead of returning to the NBA, Weems took an offer from CSKA Moscow, where we would find out if Sonny were cut out for a featured role underneath one of Europe’s most traditional bosses, Ettore Messina.

Aside from a four-point outing in CSKA’s only loss against Barcelona, Weems has showed up every week and pushed his scoring back up to 16.4 while cutting his turnovers from 2.9 to 1.8.  On defense, his length has posed many problems to passers of lazy passes, usually a staple of any CSKA wing worthy of the four letters on his jersey.

Leading CSKA Moscow in scoring normally lands you in the thick of the Euroleague’s MVP debate, and Sonny’s output this season is no exception.  But more than any points or steals or turnovers per game, winning is the criterion most crucial to a Euroleaguer’s pursuit of an MVP.

It worked for last year’s MVP Andrei Kirilenko, who got CSKA all the way to the EL Finals. Now, after knocking off previously unbeaten Barcelona in the last week of the regular season, the Red Army is 9-1 and clicking.

But let’s not get carried away with championship and MVP talk just yet.  Moscow’s first order of business is lasting a week atop these power rankings.


  1. King says

    John Bryant hands down best Amer in Europe. Not sure why this guy gets overlooked.
    Makes losing teams winners and puts up monster numbers compared to peers.

  2. AP says

    Give me Kyle Hines for the best American player currently in Europe. With the caveat that McCalebb is normally the best when at his top form. As for Hines being 6’5″ (196 cm) in shoes (according to, Olympiacos measured him, and he was 199 cm in shoes, which is over 6’6″ in shoes. So by NBA height, he would be 6’6″.

    I think I would take Bobby Brown, Keith Langford, Blake Schilb (honestly, how is he not a better SF than Weems?), and Pete Mickeal over Sonny Weems, as better Americans in Euroleague.

    I think also that American guys like Jordan Farmar, Shelden Williams, Curtis Jerrels, and Jaycee Carroll are all in a similar level to Weems – I’m not sure about Jerrels though. Actually, I’m not even sure that Weems is a better SF than Tremmell Darden.

    Farmar would be the best American player in Euroleague if he wasn’t so incredibly inconsistent, and understood at least a little bit how to properly run an offense in the half court. Anyway, give me Schilb as the best American SF in Euroleague. He’s a really nice player.

    • says

      Blake Schlib has had a good season, and got better down the stretch, but he’s playing for Elan Chalon, and has never had his chance to prove he can stick it with a top club. I once thought this dynamic was overrated, but I absolutely believe now that it’s not. If you want to be ‘the best _____’ in Europe, you’ve got to be able to do it in less than 32:30 per game, which is what Schlib is averaging this season in an offense with limited direction and more American-friendly iso/clear out sets.

      Weems has shocked me with his ability to consistently produce on a team that features a handful of players that are just as good as him and a bench full of guys that would start and/or star for Chalon. I’m not saying Schlib couldn’t produce if you stripped him of that volume, but I’d just like to see it, the same way we’ve seen it with Sonny.

      With a year as good as this one, I believe he’ll get his chance next season with a team like Siena or maybe one of the Turkish clubs.

      The same knock on Keith Langford (whom I love as a player), a guy who relies on having the rock in his hands, taking it hard to the hoop and getting fouled. It’s why Bo has struggled this season; he hasn’t found alternative ways to positively affect the game when he’s not at full strength and blowing by people.

      I’ve used Viktor Khryapa as an example before: how often do you see him take someone off the dribble or force anything offensively without a clear match-up advantage? Rarely. Yet at the top of the key, he can pick apart your defense by finding a post-man or a cutter, he can knock down the three, or he can pump and go, eluding a first defender and drawing a second before dumping down to Krstic, Kaun or kicking out to Weems or now, Christmas.

      Add a Defensive POY trophy to his case and you’ve got someone that can thrive in any basketball environment. That, to me, determines a player’s ultimate worth overseas. This is not the NBA, where systems are tailor fit to personnel; this is still a coaches league. Adapt or…end up in Lega Due, Italy’s second division.

      And I’m 6’2″, maybe 6’3″. Interviewed Kyle Hines at the Final Four last season. He’s not 6’6″. Also talked to Bamberg (his former team) officials, who confirm the same.

      You believe Olympiacos’ listing?

      Great comment, AP. Thanks as always.

    • says

      If I listed them by record, then it would be Euroleague Standings, not Power Rankings. And while the record is listed, those numbers mean very little now that the Top 16’s hit.

      Maccabi was 8-2, and they lost this week to 5-5 Siena. Zalgiris was 8-2, and they went up against 6-4 Panathinaikos (ranked ahead of them here) and they lost, too, even though Panathinaikos only had Diamantidis for 4 minutes.

      These rankings are about momentum, and so in Khimki’s case, I considered Zoran Planinic’s incredible season, the fact they’ve been perfect at home and that Paul Davis is finally rounding into the form that made him so dominant in the ACB last season (and he WAS dominant).

      In Panathinaikos’ case, while I think the James Gist trade makes zero sense for them, the Sofo injury hasn’t hurt them too terribly and word is he’ll be back shortly (in some capacity, at least). Guys like Michael Bramos and Jonas Maciulis are having wonderful seasons and Lasme has been perhaps the pick-up of the year.

      And then there’s Kapono…whom I didn’t know would do what he did when I wrote this.

      This week’s Power Rankings come out today. I hope to see you there, Mindaugas and thanks for reading.


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