The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Most Valuable Player award is the pinnacle of individual achievement. A total of 13 players from seven different clubs have won the award to date. Anthony Parker of Maccabi Tel Aviv won the inaugural award in 2005 and the next season, making him the only player to be chosen MVP twice. The list of MVP winners includes the retired greats like Theo Papaloukas, Ramunas Siskauskas and Juan Carlos Navarro, as well as some of the upcoming season's candidates, like Vassilis Spanoulis (2013), Sergio Rodriguez (2014), Nando De Colo (2016) and Sergio Llull (2017). At the start of every season, many names circulate in MVP conversations, and their number filters down to a handful of candidates late in the season. Here is a list of the Top 10 candidates to win the EuroLeague MVP award for the 2018-19 season.
10. Scottie Wilbekin, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
He proved himself to a star in the 7DAYS EuroCup and now wants to do the same in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Scottie Wilbekin dominated last season's EuroCup campaign like no other player before him, earning the Regular Season MVP, full season MVP and EuroCup Finals MVP honors, as well as leading the competition in scoring (19.7 ppg.) and PIR (21.3 per game). He singlehandedly took Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul to the EuroCup title and now has another mission – leading Maccabi back to the playoffs, with a chance to play the Final Four. If he succeeds, he will be a hands-down MVP candidate.
9. Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos Piraeus
He might be 36 years old, but few would dare to bet against Olympiacos Piraeus mastermind Vassilis Spanoulis. One of the most clutch players in basketball history, Spanoulis consistently finds ways to elevate his performances as games get more important and stages get bigger. He has averaged double digits in scoring in all of his 12 EuroLeague seasons so far. Last season, he ranked 10th in the EuroLeague with 14 points per game and his 5.6 assists were fourth-best in the competition, helping him earn All-EuroLeague honors. Olympiacos is a perennial contender, and if he avoids injuries, there are few reasons to believe Spanoulis will not be right there in MVP mix once again.
8. Sergio Rodriguez, CSKA Moscow
This former EuroLeague MVP shined in his first year with CSKA, posting a career-high 14.1 points per game, hitting a total of 92 three-pointers, the second-highest total in EuroLeague history, and ranking ninth in assists with 4.9 per contest. He delivered excellent shooting percentages from all distances, orchestrated a depleted CSKA through the playoffs, and earned All-EuroLeague honors last season. At 31 years old, Rodriguez is in his point guard prime and is poised to accomplish even bigger things. Contending for another EuroLeague MVP honor, to go with the one he was given in 2014, would be one of those things.
7. Mike James, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan
Italian League champion Milan has big ambitions and a revamped squad for the upcoming squad, and no player will carry a bigger load of expectations than point guard Mike James. This will be the fifth EuroLeague season for one of the most athletic point guards in the competition, one who delivered at both of his previous destinations, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz. Last season, James re-joined the Greens for the second part of the season, and posted 16.2 points, 4.1 assists and 1.3 steals. Milan and its fans are hungry for big things, and to meet those ambitions, James will need to be huge.
6. Jan Vesely, Fenerbahce Istanbul
When Jan Vesely joined Fenerbahce, the club had never reached a EuroLeague Final Four. Since then, Fenerbahce has been to four in a row and became Turkey's only EuroLeague champion ever in 2017. Las season was Vesely's best with the Turkish powerhouse. The high-flying center averaged career highs in scoring (12.9 ppg.) and PIR (16.8), and led the team with 5.2 rebounds per contest. It earned Vesely his second All-EuroLeague First Team selection, with the previous one having come after the 2015-16 campaign. Even though Vesely would rather become champ again than win individual awards, both could happen together if Fenerbahce's 28-year old motor has another fantastic season.
5. Tornike Shengelia, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz
Tornike Shengelia of KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz is another player coming off a career season, one in which he turned into the competition's most productive and highest-scoring big man. But Shengelia's contributions go far beyond his averages of 18.2 PIR, 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds, third best among EuroLeague players last season. Those figures resulted in Shengelia earning his first All-EuroLeague honor, but more importantly, it has made him a true team leader in Vitoria, which happens to be where the 2019 EuroLeague Final Four will take place. If he repeats his performance from last season, Shengelia would have a chance to become the first player to be voted EuroLeague MVP as a member of a team whose city hosts the Final Four.
4. Alexey Shved, Khimki Moscow Region
The scoring machine of Khimki Moscow Region is coming off a season to remember. Last season, Alexey Shved had the second-highest scoring average this decade (21.8 ppg.), shattering the single-season records for total points (740) and three-pointers made (107). He was also second in average PIR (20.4), tied for fourth with 1.3 steals per game, and ranked sixth with 5.2 assists per contest. He led Khimki in points scored, assists and steals, sparking the team's first-ever EuroLeague Playoffs appearance. This season, Khimki is eager to make another step forward, and so is Shved. He is no stranger to picking up MVP trophies, having won that honor for the 2016-17 EuroCup season.
3. Sergio Llull, Real Madrid
After returning late last season to help Real Madrid lift its unprecedented 10th EuroLeague crown, Sergio Llull is back to full strength. Last time he played a full EuroLeague season, in 2016-17, Llull was the competition MVP, posting career-best EuroLeague averages: 16.4 points, 5.9 assists and 2.2 three-pointers. Madrid is set to defend its EuroLeague title and Llull, who will turn 31 years old in November, is the team leader. Poised to get back to his old status as an explosive and energetic game-changer, Llull undoubtedly sits high on our list of MVP candidates for the upcoming season.
2. Nando De Colo, CSKA Moscow
Nando De Colo already won this award once, in 2016, when he became the only EuroLeague player ever to be Euroleague MVP, Final Four MVP and Alphonso Ford Top Scorer in the same season. Last season, De Colo ranked third in points (16.7 ppg.) and average PIR (18.9), sixth in steals (1.3 spg.). He also made 49.2% of his three-point shots, the second-highest accuracy rate for a player who attempted more than 110 threes in a season. As proof of his consistency, CSKA's guard has earned All-EuroLeague First Team honors in each of the last three seasons. He enters this one, too, in his perennial role of MVP contender.
1. Nick Calathes, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens
Panathinaikos OPAP Athens playmaker Nick Calathes is coming off not only the best season of his career, but a historic season for any point guard, by any measure. Calathes set new EuroLeague all-time marks with a total of 249 assists and an average of 8.03. He collected 11 double-doubles in points and assists, another record, and posted double-digit assists in 13 games. The Panathinaikos guard also led the EuroLeague with 1.7 steals, and had career-highs in PIR (18.5 and scoring (14.6 ppg.), which ranked him fourth and sixth, respectively. Calathes, a former EuroCup MVP, earned his first All-EuroLeague honor last year and could become the first player to win both the EuroCup and EuroLeague MVP awards.