Only one team, FC Barcelona, made it through the first six rounds of the regular season undefeated, and one player had the most to say about that, do-it-all forward Nikola Mirotic, who is EuroLeague Basketball’s choice as the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague MVP for October.
Even in his worst game of October, the sole one among seven in which his performance index rating dipped to single digits, Mirotic was the hero, making a buzzer-beater in traffic to seize the win. Otherwise, he was as solid as solid gets, leading FC Barcelona in scoring and PIR in three more victories and ranking second in one or the other category for the team’s remaining two wins. At month’s end, Mirotic had amassed the highest PIR total of all EuroLeague players, 144, and the fifth-most points, 114, despite ranking 27th in minutes played.
The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 17th season. Although statistics and performance index ratings are taken into consideration for the award, they alone do not determine who is honored. The winner is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his and his team’s performance during the month in question. October marks Mirotic’s sixth MVP of the Month honor, which gives him twice as many such awards as any other player in EuroLeague history.
The season began for FC Barcelona with a resounding 96-64 home win against ALBA Berlin in which Mirotic scored 22 points without missing a shot. He also had 5 rebounds, a steal, an assist and a block for a PIR of 31, all in under 18 minutes on court. In Round 2, Barca won 72-80 at FC Bayern Munich as Mirotic had 11 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists for a PIR of 19, behind only teammate Cory Higgins.
Next, Barca aced its first big test, beating Olympiacos Piraeus 79-78 in overtime at home behind Mirotic’s 22 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists for a PIR of 24. Two nights later, on the road in Monaco, overtime was required again as Barca won 81-85 and Mirotic contributed 14 points, second-best on the team, and 5 rebounds, for a PIR of 11. Back home for Round 5, Mirotic had 20 points with just 2 shots missed for a PIR of 28 in under 16 minutes as FC Barcelona spanked Zenit St Petersburg 84-58.
The team’s perfect record was in jeopardy on a Round 6 visit to Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul as Mirotic struggled with his long-range shooting, but with the score tied and seconds left, he made a tough, buzzer-beater in the post to claim a 74-76 victory. October finished with a first defeat for Barca, 85-68 at Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv, despite Mirotic’s 17 points and 22 PIR.
Mirotic finished October having averaged 16.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.3 assists for a per-game PIR of 20.6. He is one of just two players over seven games to make more than 60% of his two-point shots, 45% of his threes and 85% of his free throws. Most important, FC Barcelona has seen its name atop the standings, at least sharing first place, all season long, thanks to Mirotic’s leadership. Barca fans will be able to thank him when he receives the October MVP trophy at an upcoming home game.