So far this season, Ioannis Papapetrou and Sasha Vezenkov have been among the main protagonists for the two Greek powerhouses, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens (4-12) and Olympiacos Piraeus (11-5), which are set to square off in another Athens derby. While the two forwards know all about playing in one of the greatest basketball rivalries, in this one, on Thursday night at OAKA Aklion, Papapetrou and Vezenkov will be under the spotlight as leaders of their respective teams.
Even though their scoring averages are similar going into this Round 17 clash, the seasons for each player and their respective club, have been very different so far this season.
The two players have spent a similar amount of time on the floor this season, with Vezenkov playing 28:05 minutes on average and Papapetrou 28:49; both marks are team-highs. The Panathinaikos forward has taken more shots despite having one fewer appearance, but Vezenkov has been a more productive player and has been shooting the ball better so far this season.
Papapetrou ranks second on Panathinaikos in scoring, but is shooting less than 50% on two-pointers and just 26.8% from long range, which is the lowest three-point shooting percentage in his nine seasons in the competition. Papapetrou has 2.2 assists, creating more for his teammates than Vezenkov, but the Olympiacos forward is enjoying a career-best season.
Vezenkov is averaging 12.6 points and making 64.1% of his twos. He leads Olympiacos in rebounds with 5.6 per game, as well as in steals with picking up 1.1 per contest.
Moreover, the Olympiacos forward has been one of the best players in recent weeks in all of the EuroLeague. Since Round 10, only two players have accumulated a better performance index rating than Vezenkov. Over that seven-game stretch, Vezenkov has an average PIR of 21.7.
He has scored at least 12 points in each of the last seven games, averaging 15.6 points, 1.9 triples made on 48.1% three-point shooting, while pulling down 5.7 rebounds and dishing 2.1 assists.
Vezenkov will now try to carry that momentum into the derby, in which Papapetrou has had an upper hand in the five derbies the two players have played over the last three seasons.
Starting with the 2018-19 campaign, when Vezenkov joined Olympiacos and Papapetrou swapped his Reds jersey for a Greens one, Papapetrou has scored three times in double figures when Vezenkov was on the opposite side and has averaged 8.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists.
Papapetrou has also taken twice as many two-pointers, more threes and has gone to the free-throw line more often than Vezenkov when Panathinaikos played Olympiacos.
As the basketball world braces for another Athens derby, so do these two competitors, poised to lead their teams to a victory over their greatest rival.