Alexey Shved leads Euroleague in scoring this season with 22 points per game. (Credit: EuroLeague)

NBA Veterans to keep an eye out before end of Euroleague season

We are almost at the finish line of Euroleague’s regular season, and it’s that time to highlight the faces that will have a considerable impact on their teams’ final records and standings. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them are NBA veterans. Right away we should mention two criteria that were vital for this list. Firstly, player’s team should have rock-solid chances to make final eight. That’s why we won’t see here the likes of Dorell Wright, Erick Green and Kevin Seraphin. Finally, there will be no Mike James or Bobby Brown because this season there are little to no European stats to analyze.

Luigi Datome – Fenerbahce, Turkey

Italian’s attempt to find his place in the NBA was too little too late. He wasn’t able to grow from bench warmer to a legit role player with limited opportunities in Detroit and Boston. However, his last stint with Celtics was somewhat productive. His place was clearly in Europe, and he found himself a perfect home in Istanbul. The combination of excellent three-point shooting with a substantial presence in the paint made Datome one of the critical parts of Fener’s success. Luigi is averaging around 10 points per game and 45 percent marks last season. This season he’s averaging 9.7 points per game and 45.2 percent from deep is no exception.

James Anderson – Khimki, Russia

James has been hell and back with a variety of NBA and Euroleague contracts. In fact, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy is the most experienced guy on our list not named Thomas Robinson or Norris Cole when it comes to games played in the NBA (247). He can be called Euroleague veteran as well with solid performances for both Zalgiris and David Blatt’s Darussafaka last season.

His role in heavy-loaded with American talent Khimki hasn’t changed much. When Alexey Shved somehow can’t get a shot, most of the time it will be James who will punish you from any distance. Anderson is shooting career-high 45 FG% this season while averaging almost 10 points per game, a very serviceable number considering the depth of Georgios Bartzokas’ squad.

Norris Cole is averaging 12.9 points per game with Maccabi in the Euroleague. (Credit: EuroLeague)

 

Norris Cole – Maccabi, Israel

Two-time NBA champion and a veteran of 360 regular season and 68 playoff games is not the best player on his European team. Yes, this is not the overstatement. Pierre Jackson is having a career year and no matter how much you love Cole’s work ethic and professionalism you can’t have argue against that. Still, more often than not it’s Cole’s job to pull a rabbit out of the hat for Maccabi. The problem is, he is inconsistent. Having a so-so or even a bad game after an excellent performance is the story of Norris’ season in Europe. Maccabi is still holding on to the 8th spot, and they will need some NBA flashbacks from Cole down the stretch.

Chris Singleton – Panathinaikos, Greece

Washington Wizards are one of the most successful “built from the draft” projects in the NBA with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the talented core. However, Wizards weren’t perfect in their choices, and Chris Singleton is one of those players who left the capital without any significant imprint on the franchise. Once failed to become a solid role player in the NBA, Chris was able to turn his luck in Europe. Singleton was one of the leading forces of fairytale-like run put up by Russian side Lokomotiv-Kuban in the 2015-16 season. His productivity on both ends of the floor hasn’t dropped in Greece with another Euroleague side, Panathinaikos. Chris is struggling with middle-range shots this year but still keeping his career numbers above 10 points and five rebounds per game.

Jan Vesely – Fenerbahce, Turkey

Even a bigger Wizards’ draft mistake is in sight. We won’t fool anyone here and say that somehow Jan Vesely we all know has vastly improved since his NBA days. He is that limited guy who amazes everybody with his pure athleticism and lack of other important tools at the same time. But Jan is still a significant force in the paint and signings of Nicolo Melli and Jason Thompson helped to boost his offensive productivity. With 13 points per game, he is Fenerbahce’s leading scorer. He also tied Melli for most rebounds per game (5.1) on the team. Yes, Bogdan Bogdanovic left this guy in charge.

Sergio Rodriguez – CSKA, Russia

CSKA couldn’t find a better replacement for Milos Teodosic.”El Chacho” wasn’t shining in his NBA comeback with Sixers due to his shooting struggles, but the floor generalship was still there. That was the main thing for CSKA bosses who weren’t desperate to sign another dominant scorer with Nando De Colo still on the team. Spaniard gave Russian powerhouse much more than that. 14.2 points per game, 56.4 2P%, and 50.6 FG% are all new career highs for Sergio. Struggles with three-point shooting in the NBA are also put behind. Rodriguez converts almost 47 percent of his long-range attempts this season.

 

Thomas Robinson had been one of the best bigs in Europe before he suffered major injury. (Credit: EuroLeague)

Thomas Robinson – Khimki, Russia

An opportunity is all Thomas Robinson asked in the NBA. He wasn’t given that chance, and soon enough was headed to Europe. His revenge tour had been a thing of beauty before he broke his hand. Thomas was head and shoulders above every big with three double-doubles in first eight weeks of action and averages of 11.1 points and  8.1 rebounds per game. His brief comeback has been a different story. Still, his services are very much needed by Khimki that traditionally struggle with production in the paint. Malcolm Thomas and Tyler Honeycutt’s wonders won’t be enough to cover holes in the paint against massive frontcourts.

Nick Calathes – Panathinaikos, Greece

With Milos Teodosic gone, there is a new king of all point guards on the continent. We will keep it simple here. Nick Calathes is historically good this season. If Chris Singleton is a “do it all guy” defensively for Pao, Calathes is entirely responsible for the offensive flow. Calathes is flirting with a double-double every game and in some cases could’ve recorded a triple-double. His 8.4 assists per game are unprecedented. He is not only one of a few players that can be somewhat compared to Luka Doncic, but also the one that is better than Slovenian in one particular regard.  At this point, you still should go with Calathes running your team’s offense. He is that good.

Nando De Colo – CSKA, Russia

Talking about Nando De Colo’s constant presence among Euroleague’s greats is really a dead horse at this point. Frenchmen has been a member of 50-40-90 club for last four seasons and get the actual nod twice. He is even better this year with a .540/.481/.960 line. De Colo’s performance index rating has never dropped below 20 points in last three seasons. He is a perennial MVP candidate in both Euroleague and domestic Russian VTB League. With CSKA still being the top team with 19-5 record, expect this guy to beat Luka Doncic to a punch and get his second trophy.

Alexey Shved – Khimki, Russia

Russian shooting sensation is blossoming this season. Shved is a very rare specimen, a home-grown guy who leads the team full of experienced Americans. You can argue about the quality of his leadership and decision making at times, but you can’t deny the level of his talent. When Shved is hot, he is almost unstoppable on any European court. And even when he is not, he will get his 20 points regardless.

Shooting slumps and mediocre team record keep him out of serious MVP contention. But if he will be able to lead Khimki to a Top 4 spot, then everything is possible. Because the scoring crown technically has been shining on his head since the middle of the regular season. 22 points per game in the second-best league in the world is no joke.

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