Sergio Llull: The best two-way player in Europe
The Spaniard’s tremendous performance against Olympiacos Piraeus on Friday night proved he is a game changer and the number one favourite to win the MVP award.
My initial thought was to write about Anadolu Efes or Baskonia, which qualified to the playoffs and now look ready to make the surprise and advance to the Final-Four.
However, I changed my mind and decided to write about Llull, as the versatile guard was again excellent on both ends of the floor and led Real Madrid to a difficult win over the “Reds” (73-79), which let the “Whites” secure either the first or second place on the table (21-7 record).
The 30-year-old player is simply unstoppable this year and is Madrid’s undisputed leader.
Thanks to his extraordinary footwork and speed, he is able to not only score crucial points, but also dish out many assists, averaging 16.6 points and 6.2 assists per game in almost 28 minutes of action.
As the club’s roster is full of talented players, coach Pablo Laso’s tactics revolve around Llull, who executes most plays either through pick’n’roll (central or side) or 1 on 1 situations.
Due to his great shooting percentage, it’s difficult for the defenders to stop him, with the Spaniard taking advantage of his agility in order to create open shots for his team-mates.
Against Olympiacos on Friday, he scored 21 points, on 8/17 shooting, along with five assists and 24 in the ranking system.
Most importantly, though, he hit difficult shots, which changed the momentum, and helped his squad retain its advantage, despite the Reds’ effort to turn things around.
It’s also worth mentioning that Llull probably is the best “clutch” player in the league and has repeatedly scored crucial points at the buzzer, which happened many times on Friday as well.
Moreover, every time the Greek team’s defence tried to stop him, he was able to dish out assists for his team-mates, making the difference when everything was on the line.
Defensively, Llull is equally effective. Being a great on-ball defender, his target is to stop the opponents’ best player (like Vassilis Spanoulis, Nando De Colo and Kostas Sloukas) and, most times, he successfully completes his mission, due to his strength and speed.
Concurrently, he is very productive in the off-ball defence and helps his team-mates retain their balance. That said, the opponents avoid making him a target defensively.
Above all, though, what makes the 30-year-old Spaniard the best player in Europe is his ability to take over in the last minutes of every game.
Apart from his accomplishments on both ends of the floor, Llull has hit many big shots at the buzzer, either from mid-range or (from) beyond the arc, giving his team many victories, both at home and on the road.
Consequently, and as I said above, he is considered Euroleague’s best “clutch” player and his performances have made him a target for the Houston Rockets, as James Harden’s team wants to offer him a contract during the off-season.
Although he would perfectly fit in Houston’s playing style (which is based on run’n’gun plays as well as many three-point shots), the versatile guard is unwilling to leave Real Madrid and wants to keep on being the best two-way player in Europe.
Because, in the end, the 2015 Euroleague champion is in the ideal playing condition and looks ready to further enhance his performance and become even better, as he is nowhere near his prime yet.