MVP for December: Nikola Milutinov, CSKA Moscow

Jan 04, 2021 by Print

After setting all-time Turkish Airlines EuroLeague records for offensive rebounds in a single game and double-doubles in one month, CSKA Moscow center Nikola Milutinov has been chosen by Euroleague Basketball as the competition's MVP for December. Milutinov combined the power of an elite rebounder with the flash seen in his rim-rocking slams and remarkable blocked shots to help CSKA sweep to a 6-0 December record and extend its winning streak to 12 games. Milutinov, in his first season with CSKA, averaged a rare, month-long double-double by putting up 12.3 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. He also shot 66.0% from the field, committed just 3 turnovers in nearly 165 minutes on court, and registered an average PIR of 24.0. In a Round 17 overtime road win at AX Armani Exchange Milan, Milutinov pulled 16 offensive rebounds to shatter by 5 a EuroLeague record that had dated to 2006! It marked his fifth consecutive double-double and came on his 26th birthday, culminating what was truly a December to remember for Milutinov and CSKA.

The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 17th 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 during the month in question. Milutinov followed his CSKA guard Mike James, who was MVP for November, to become just the second pair of teammates to win the award in consecutive months. The first pair was also from CSKA: Andrei Kirilenko and Nenad Krstic in October and November of 2011.

Milutinov's brilliant month started with a showdown against Olympiacos Piraeus, the club for which Milutinov had played the previous five seasons. CSKA won the game handily by keeping the Reds to 61 points in a 19-point victory. Though Milutinov only scored 4, he anchored the team in the paint with a game-high 8 rebounds and a highlight-reel block in the second quarter. A week later in the Leningradka Derby, he produced 11 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and a block in an 87-96 win over Khimki Moscow Region. CSKA completed the two-round week for December with a 100-65 rout of Anadolu Efes. Milutinov did not miss any shots from the field in posting 12 points, 10 boards and 1 block that night. Round 15 featured a date with Zenit St Petersburg and the CSKA center contributed 13 points and 13 rebounds to an 83-65 victory. CSKA's final two games of 2020 would be on the road. Milutinov amassed 17 points and 14 rebounds in a 78-87 win in France versus LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne. And then came his monster 17-point, 19-rebound effort against Milan.

Milutinov was a tower of consistency all month for CSKA despite having to deal with opposing centers of a variety of different styles. He was just as strong against the undersized and quick, Milan's Kyle Hines and Olympiacos's Hassan Martin, as he was against ASVEL's massive Moustapha Fall or Efes's shot-blocking king Bryant Dunston. The MVP of the month award is the first in Milutinov's eight EuroLeague seasons. He made his EuroLeague debut with Partizan Belgrade in 2012 and played in two EuroLeague campaigns there before joining Olympiacos in 2015. Milutinov leads the league this season with 8.8 rebounds and 4.5 offensive rebounds per game. Despite his youth, Milutinov is now tied for seventh place all-time with 438 offensive rebounds; his career average of 2.5 per game is highest among all players in the top 10. The MVP for December Trophy will be awarded to Milutinov at a future home game.