No player came into the 2019-20 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with bigger expectations on his shoulders. At nearly the halfway point of the regular season, it's clear that Nikola Mirotic of FC Barcelona, Euroleague Basketball's choice as MVP of December, is not only meeting expectations – he's exceeding them. Mirotic was the driving force as Barca went 5-0 this month to join a three-way tie for first place. Mirotic was largely unstoppable in December, leading Barca in rebounds and performance index rating in four of those victories, and in scoring for three of them. In a month when just two teams went unbeaten, Barca's average victory margin was 10.2 points. Mirotic shot 73.7% on two-pointers for the month and 92.3% at the free-throw line, providing Barcelona with all the efficiency it needed to stay with the top teams in the standings heading into 2020.
The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 16th season. Although statistics and performance index ratings are taken into consideration for the award, they alone do not determine who is honored. The winner is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his and his team's performance. The award for December covers the five games that all teams played between December 5 and December 27. This marks the third MVP of the Month award for Mirotic, who was previously honored as the December MVP 2011 and the October 2013 MVP. He is the first Barcelona player to win the award since Ante Tomic in March of 2014. He joines Tomic, Barca legend Juan Carlos Navarro, Vassilis Spanoulis and Nando De Colo as the only players to win the award three times.
Barca was in second place with Real Madrid, both a victory behind Anadolu Efes Istanbul, at the start of December. Its first game was a visit to Khimki Moscow Region, which had a 4-0 home record going into Round 12. Mirotic posted game highs of 28 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals that night as Barca left the Russian capital with a 94-102 victory. Panathinaikos OPAP Athens visited Barcelona the next week, and again Mirotic outscored and outrebounded everyone on the floor, with 23 points and 7 boards. In two victories over three days the following week, Mirotic had 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals in 23 minutes of an 80-67 home win against LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, then 14 points and 9 rebounds in a 67-77 road victory over FC Bayern Munich. Mirotic topped off the month with game highs of 21 points and a career-best 15 rebounds as Barca downed visiting Olympiacos Piraeus 90-80 for its fifth victory without a loss in December.
All told, Mirotic put up 19.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and a PIR of 25.4 per game over the course of a perfect December that Barcelona finished with a 13-3 record and tied for first with Efes and Madrid. He ended the month ranked fifth in per-game scoring for the season, with 18.9 points on average; third in rebounds (7.2); and second in PIR (21.7). After more than a five-year wait, Barca fans will be more than ready to celebrate a new MVP of the Month for their team when Mirotic receives his award at an upcoming home game.