Every year for more than a decade, the EuroLeague Rising Star Trophy highlights the top young players in the competition. The only criterion a player needs to meet for eligibility is to be younger than 22 years of age on July 1 of the summer before the season starts – for this season, then, all players born after July 1, 1995. All 16 head coaches in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague have seen the Rising Star candidates up close and are set to vote for the winners at the end of the playoffs. Here is a short list of the top candidates to win the 2018 EuroLeague Rising Star Trophy at this year's Final Four in Belgrade.
Luka Doncic, Real Madrid
Doncic already won the Rising Star Trophy last season and is the main candidate to lift it again. He leads all Rising Stars-eligible players in a lot of categories: points, assists, steals, fouls drawn, two-point shots, three-point shots and free throws made and performance index rating. Not only that, but the 18-year-old leads all EuroLeague players in per-game PIR (23.9) and free throws made (114) while ranking second in scoring (17.4 ppg.). In other words, Doncic is having a dominant EuroLeague season by any measure, but unprecedented for someone so young. (He turns 19 in late February.) He could be the third player to win multiple Rising Star awards, after Nikola Mirotic (2011, 2012 Real Madrid) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (2014 Partizan Belgrade, 2015 Fenerbahce Istanbul).
Mathias Lessort, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
Mathias Lessort is beating everyone's expectations in his debut EuroLeague season with Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade. At age 22, Lessort has become a pillar in Zvezda's frontline, leading the entire competition in offensive rebounds (3.0 per game). Among Rising Star-eligible players, he is also second in performance index rating (11.5) and scoring (9.0). Lessort has reached double digits in scoring nine times this season and is one of the best rebounders in the competition, averaging 5.9 in 22 games to tie for seventh overall. Lessort has hit 77 of his 140 two-point shots (55.0%) and draws 2.9 fouls per game. Born in Fort-de-France, Martinique, Lessort is a force of nature and a still-developing talent who is already paying dividends for Zvezda.
Jonah Bolden, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
Jonah Bolden may be a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague rookie, but he has shown great maturity and know-how while getting better and better throughout the season. Bolden is tied with Lessort for seventh overall, making them the best rebounders among Rising Star-eligible players, with 5.9 boards per night. He is also first in blocks (1.1 bpg., fourth overall) and third in performance index rating (10.9 per game). Born in Melbourne, Australia, Bolden played in the United States and Serbia before joining Maccabi. Bolden has had PIRs of more than 20 in three games this season; twice against Zalgiris Kaunas, (22 in Round 10, 27 in Round 21), and 24 against Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Round 7. After an adjustment period, he is averaging a PIR of 13.3 in his last 15 games.