Race to the Euroleague awards

The Euroleague Top 16 is at the half-way mark and as the race to Madrid inches closer, the race to Most Valuable Player, Rising Star and Best Defender quietly heats up.

It is usually a subject that is rarely spoken of until the Final Four but there have been a number of outstanding performers this season and a few players up for contention.

Here, we pick our standout performers, anyone that we have missed? Give us a shout in the comments below.

BEST DEFENDER NOMINEES 

Bryant Dunston is a solid bet to retain the crown that he claimed last season. Dunston has been one of Olympiacos’ key components and is the key reasoning behind their current run this season.

The 6’7” forward averages 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals a game as the Piraeus side top Group F of the Top 16, with Dunston the main defensive clog.

Jan Vesely has enjoyed a strong return to the Euroleague following his stint in the NBA. The Czech Republic international has been effective at both ends and his influence could lead Fenerbahce to its best ever season.

Offensively, Vesely is deadly. But his defensive attributes are seriously underrated. He has averaged 5.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks a game and under a steal a game. The 24-year-old also has excellent ball security, averaging just one turnover in 17 Euroleague encounters.

Alex Tyus is an outside bet, but Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv’s active forward is an intimidating presence when he is met in the paint. Currently third in the Euroleague for blocks with 1.7 a game, it’s easy to see why he is a strong inspiration.

Tyus is mainly used off the bench for the Israeli side, so he is an outside bet for the award, but his style of basketball and key play could be subject for that to change as the season goes.

Artsiom Parakhouski is the leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in the Euroleague and for newcomers Nizhny Novgorod, he has been one of their key weapons, alongside Taylor Rochestie.

The Belarusian leads the Euroleague in blocks with 2.1 swats in 17 games, and Parakhouski also pulls down 7.1 rebounds a game, so along with the volume of scoring of Rochestie, the 27-year-old Minsk native is Nizhny’s leading defensive specialist.

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RISING STARS 

Cedi Osman has been filling the statsheet off the bench for Anadolu Efes this season. The 19-year-old has shown mass amounts of confidence when on the court and looks very comfortable amongst the more established Euroleague guards.

The Macedonian-born Turkish prodigy has averaged 6.9 points and 3.6 rebounds a game.

Osman’s Anadolu Efes team-mate Dario Saric is odds-on to win this year’s Rising Star award purely on his hype and how established he already is.

A two-time FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year and NBA Draft pick, Croatian international Saric has impressed in his first Euroleague season for the Turkish side.

Like Osman, Saric has a great tutor in experienced coach Dusan Ivkovic and the 6’10” 20-year-old is reaping the benefits, by averaging 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists a game.

Mario Hezonja has had a breakout season with Barcelona and while the European basketball researchers are not surprised with this phenomenon’s performances. He has caught the attention of fans all over the Euroleague circle.

Hezonja has won medals and awards across the junior spectrum and despite Barcelona’s subpar start to the Top 16 so far this season; the Croat is averaging 9.2 points off the bench.

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RACE TO MVP 

Nando De Colo has led CSKA Moscow to as near a perfect record in the Euroleague as you could possibly fathom. The Russian champions have only been bested once this season, but the Frenchman has been at the heart of everything.

In his first season since leaving the NBA, De Colo averages 15.3 points a game, and ranks third in index rating.

Alongside De Colo, Milos Teodosic cannot be ignored. The Serbian leads CSKA with 17.1 points and he leads the Euroleague with 7.2 assists. The veteran has shown no signs of slowing down and alongside the Frenchman, have produced the most dangerous backcourt in Europe.

Even though he has endured an injury lay-off, Nizhny Novgorod’s Taylor Rochestie has excelled for the Russian newcomers and currently leads the Euroleague in scoring with 19.7 points a game.

The point guard’s deceptively quick bursts to the bucket often result in points, and Rochestie has led Nizhny to a solid Euroleague debut.

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John Hobbs wrote and published the article. TB reporters contributed to the report.