March Is The Month Of European Big Men

01 April 2014

BASKETBALL IN EUROPE

Ante Tomic (Croatia)
Ante Tomic is the first player in Euroleague history to earn back-to-back monthly MVP honours

Ante Tomic, Nikola Vucevic and Maciej Lampe broke new ground in the last 24 hours, by earning three individual accolades in three different competitions on either side of the Atlantic.

Tomic was named on Monday Turkish Airlines Euroleague MVP for the month of March and became automatically the first player in the 10-year-long history of the monthly awards in the competition to have won it twice in the same season.

To make his accomplishment even more impressive, the Croatian international was named MVP on consecutive months, as he had also won the award in February.

The 2.16m FC Barcelona center registered an average efficiency index rating of 21 during March and the highest in each one of his team's four games, as the Spanish giants dispatched of their opponents with an average winning margin of 17 points.

Tomic stayed on the court for only 22 minutes per game last month but averaged 14 points (on 25-of-39 two-point shooting), eight rebounds, two assists and 0.75 blocks per night.

The Croatian big man, who just turned 27 in February, is probably at the best moment of his career this season as he has improved enormously on defence while maintaining the silky-smooth offensive moves that make him so effective under the basket.

Late on Monday, the NBA were announcing that Montenegrin international Nikola Vucevic had been named the Player of the Week in the Eastern Conference, for the first time in his still young career.

The Orlando Magic center averaged a double-double of 22.7 points and a league-leading 14.3 rebounds in his team's last three games in March.

Vucevic missed several games this season due to injury and his team have already been eliminated from contention for a play-off spot, but the 23-year-old European did enough to consolidate his position among the best centers in the NBA.

The 2.11m Montenegrin has improved his free-throw percentage from 68% to 77% and increased his scoring average from 13.1 points per game last season to 14.4 points per game this year.

While he is unlikely to finish again as the second-best rebounder in the regular season, as he had done in 2013, he is currently tied with Joakim Noah and LaMarcus Aldridge in sixth place, with 11.1 boards per contest.

Maciej Lampe (Poland)
Maciej Lampe has been named MVP for the month of March in Spain's top-flight Liga Endesa

Perhaps the most surprising announcement however came on Tuesday, when the ACB proclaimed Maciej Lampe the MVP for the month of March in the Spanish Liga Endesa.

The 29-year-old Polish forward/center, a team-mate of Tomic on FC Barcelona, has also won the honour for the first time in his career and has done so after hardly featuring at all during the first half of the season, his first at the Catalan side since joining from Laboral Kutxa Baskonia in the summer.

Lampe reached an average efficiency index rating of 24 in March, as he scored 19 points on an outstanding 33-of-41 shooting from the floor and grabbed eight rebounds per game.

All three big men had represented their respective nations at last September's EuroBasket 2013.

Lampe had averaged 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game for Poland, who crashed out of the First Round, while the young Vucevic contributed 7 points and 4 rebounds per contest to Montenegro's campaign, which also did not continue into the second round.

Tomic on the other hand was a linchpin of the Croatian side that reached the semi-finals of the big event in Slovenia as he averaged 8.1 points, 2.2 assists and a tournament third-best 7.2 rebounds per game.

Interestingly, every single center that, just like Tomic, is leading his team in efficiency rating in the Euroleague Top 16, had also honed his skills at EuroBasket 2013 ahead of the start of the club season.

Joffrey Lauvergne, who conquered the gold medal with France, is Partizan Belgrade's highest-rated player in this stage, with an average efficiency rating of 15.4.

Robertas Javtokas, a silver medal-winner with Lithuania, leads Zalgiris Kaunas in efficiency in the Top 16, with an average rating of 16.8.

Germany's Tibor Pleiss is similarly standing out at Laboral Kutxa with an average rating of 15.3 in the Top 16, while Serbia captain Nenad Krstic averages an efficiency index of 14.9 as the highest-rated player in the Top 16 on the star-studded CSKA Moscow side.


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