The Reds’ point guard was an on-the-ball menace all season long

Thomas Walkup of Olympiacos Piraeus is the recipient of the 2023-24 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Best Defender Trophy, the first end-of-season award of his career.

Walkup has achieved this honor after a vote conducted among EuroLeague head coaches. With his relentless effort, aggressive and disruptive perimeter defense, and ball-hawking of the opposition’s most creators, Walkup anchored Olympiacos’s top-ranked scoring defense, which allowed a league-low 74.4 points per game on its way to a third consecutive Final Four berth.

Walkup picked up more steals than any other player this season – 60 and counting – good for a 1.6 average, second-best in the league. He was accountable for 21.7% of all steals that Olympiacos recorded this season.

The Best Defender Trophy is one of several end-of-season awards that recognize the elite play of the best players in the EuroLeague. The first of this season’s honorees was Markus Howard of Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz as the winner of Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy. Gabriele Procida of ALBA Berlin was chosen as the EuroLeague Rising Star, another award voted upon by the head coaches. The identity of the All-EuroLeague teams will be revealed shortly, as will the EuroLeague MVP and Coach of the Year awards. The Executive of the Year award will be announced in the summer.

Walter Tavares of Real Madrid finished second behind Walkup in the voting for the Best Defender Trophy. John Brown of AS Monaco placed third in the voting, Josh Nebo of Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv finished fourth and Jerian Grant of Panathinaikos AKOR Athens was fifth. Others who received votes were Nicolo Melli of EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, Real’s Vincent Poirier, Alessandro Pajola of Virtus Segafredo Bologna, Serge Ibaka of FC Bayern Munich, Semi Ojeleye of Valencia Basket and Edmond Sumner of Zalgiris Kaunas.

Walkup also averaged 8.1 points, making a career-best 50 three-pointers, and dished a team-best 4.8 assists this season. What’s more, he collected 3.0 rebounds, including 2.4 on the defensive end, all while playing a team-high 26:39 minutes per game in 38 appearances this season, all as a starter. Walkup had 3 or more steals in 11 games this season. No other EuroLeague player had more than eight such performances in steals. He also had 4 steals five times, tied for the league high, including once in the playoffs. During the playoffs against FC Barcelona, his average improved to 2.2 steals per game as the Reds came out on top in a five-game series despite not having home-court advantage.

The 31-year-old Walkup is in his sixth EuroLeague season, the third with Olympiacos. He debuted with Zalgiris in the 2018-19 season and spent three seasons there before joining Olympiacos in the summer of 2021. During his time in Piraeus, Walkup has started in all 108 of his appearances for the Reds, who have reached the Final Four in each of those three seasons. A Texas native and NCAA star at Stephen F. Austin University, Walkup turned pro with the Windy City Bulls of the G League in 2016. He then came to Europe and spent a season with Ludwigsburg in Germany before making the leap to the EuroLeague with Zalgiris. Walkup has helped his teams win a dozen domestic trophies so far, including two Greek League titles and three Greek Cups with Olympiacos.

Walkup is the ninth different player to be chosen as the EuroLeague Best Defender and the first Olympiacos player to do so since Bryant Dunston received the award in consecutive seasons, 2014 and 2015. Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos AKTOR Athens has won the award six times (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011). Walter Tavares of Real Madrid is a three-time winner, taking home the award in 2019, 2021 and 2023, as is Kyle Hines who received the award in 2015 and 2018 with CSKA Moscow, and then in 2022 with EA7 Emporio Armani Milan. Other Best Defender honorees include CSKA players Victor Khryapa and Andrei Kirilenko, in 2010 and 2012, respectively; Stephane Lasme in 2013 winner with Panathinaikos; and Adam Hanga, in 2017 with Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Source: EuroLeague Press Release