Over more than 250 games, there was plenty to see, hear, absorb and analyze from a 2017-18 Turkish Airlines Euroleague season that kept fans on the edge of their seats for almost eight months. Take a look back at some of the biggest moments and players with these Top 10 young guns of the season!
10. Aleksej Nikolic, Brose Bamberg
This was the third Turkish Airlines EuroLeague campaign for Brose Bamberg guard Aleksej Nikolic, but the first in which the Slovenian playmaker was fully healthy. As a result, he appeared in all but one game and even started on eight occasions. Nikolic accumulated more points, rebounds, assists, two-point, three-point and free throw shots than in the previous two seasons combined. With 51 EuroLeague games now under his belt, this season may go down as the starting point for the bigger things that will surely come in Nikolic’s career.
9. Santi Yusta, Real Madrid
It is easy to overlook the contributions of Real Madrid’s 21-year old forward Santi Yusta when his younger teammate Luka Doncic put together such a historic season. Nevertheless, Yusta earned more EuroLeague action as a rookie than many anticipated. Thanks to his toughness, defense and court-vision, Yusta was able to fill in when injuries struck Madrid in the middle part of the season and even started five games as Madrid went on its season-best seven-game winning streak between Rounds 12 and 18. His 5 rebounds and 3 assists in only 8 minutes in a win over Valencia Basket and 6 points in a season-high 20 minutes in a road win over Brose Bamberg helped Los Blancos during that stretch and gave a sense of the level of play and contributions he can make in a Madrid uniform for years to come.
8. Paulius Valinskas, Zalgiris Kaunas
Zalgiris Kaunas’s homegrown talent Paulius Valinskas got his first real chance in EuroLeague action this season after he had appeared in five EuroLeague games the previous season. Despite being fourth on the Zalgiris point guard depth chart behind Kevin Pangos, Vasilije Micic and Beno Udrih, he was trusted by head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius and gained invaluable experience against top opposition. Valinskas delivered when called upon. He scored 11 points in less than 6 minutes on the road at CSKA Moscow, while production like 8 points and 6 assists in a home win over Anadolu Efes Istanbul put the 23-year old on the radar and scouting reports of opposing teams.
7. Dejan Davidovac, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
Dejan Davidovac was not originally featured in Crvena Zvezda’s plans before the season, but with the skills of a point guard in a forward’s body, Davidovac was productive in his limited appearances early in the season and soon earned a place in the rotation. He became an irreplaceable backup point guard and carried an important load for the team by season’s end. Davidovac produced 17 points on 3-of-4 three-point shooting plus 5 rebounds in 18 minutes in Round 27 against Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens and 48 hours later had 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals against Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul as he showed just how good his best version can be.
6. Luca Vildoza, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz
Playing for the first time on the European continent, Luca Vildoza’s contributions for KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz grew as the season progressed. The young point guard had the privilege of learning behind veterans Marcelinho Huertas and Jayson Granger and in the second half of the season found his place in the rotation, playing at least 16 minutes in 10 of his last 14 appearances. While shooting a respectable 41.8% from long range, Vildoza shined as a ball distributor. His 6.2 assists-per-40-minutes ranked 20th overall and ahead of every Rising Star Award-eligible player not named Luka Doncic. In a four-game stretch between Round 26 and 29, he averaged 4.8 assists per contest, including 10 in a win over Zalgiris Kaunas that helped Baskonia make the playoffs and go undefeated in the month of March.
5. Alberto Abalde, Valencia Basket
After helping Valencia Basket to victories by scoring 13 points in Round 3 and 18 points in Round 4, Alberto Abalde earned a regular place in the rotation and never let it go. Amid expected ups and downs, the young sharpshooter’s role grew over the course of the regular season, leading him to a place in the starting lineup for nine of the last 10 games. Apart from his hustle on both ends of the floor, Abalde stood out as one of the deadliest three-point shooters in the competition. The 22-year old made 51.9% of his three-point shots, which ranked him third in the league. Abalde made at least one triple in 10 of his last 11 games and for the season posted 7.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists over 25 games, establishing himself as a big-time player in the making.
4. Matthias Lessort, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade center Matthias Lessort proved to be a handful for opposing big men in his first EuroLeague season. Athletic and passionate, Lessort was a fixture on highlight reels and wreaked havoc with his inside presence and by dominating the offensive boards. Lessort ranked second in the league with 2.9 offensive rebounds per game and his 86 total offensive rebounds were the third-highest single-season total in EuroLeague history. He was 10th in the league and led his team in total rebounds (5.67) and placed second among all Rising Star Award-eligible players with an average performance index rating of 10.7. Lessort had the most blocks (22) on the team, second-most steals (25) and averaged the fourth-most points (8.5 ppg.) among Zvezda players.
3. Jonah Bolden, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv forward Jonah Bolden wasted little time in establishing himself among the most versatile big men in the EuroLeague. Standing 2.08 meters, Bolden made his presence felt on both ends of the floor throughout his first Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season in which he started 28 of 29 games. Bolden scored in double figures nine times, had three games with 10 rebounds and impressed in many other areas; He ranked seventh in blocked shots (0.9 bpg.) and eighth in steals (1.2 spg.). Among his highlights was a great all-around performance against Zalgiris Kaunas in which he posted 6 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals and 4 blocks. Bolden also led Maccabi with 5.5 rebounds per game and his average PIR of 10.5 was third best among Rising Star Award-eligible players.
2. Marko Guduric, Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul
After making the leap from Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade to perennial contender Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul last summer, swingman Marko Guduric established himself as one of the EuroLeague’s up-and-coming scorers. Although Guduric’s 6.7 points per game were the lowest of his three-year EuroLeague career, Guduric made strides under Coach Zeljko Obradovic who had him start 17 of the team’s 36 games this season. His 65.4% two-point shooting ranked seventh in the league and he shot a very respectable 44.6% from behind the arc, including 69.3% in the playoffs. He led Fenerbahce’s star-studded roster in scoring four times this season and among his shining moments were scoring a career-high 23 points in a home win over Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and dropping 22 points on KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz in a playoff series-clinching Game 4 victory.
1. Luka Doncic, Real Madrid
There is only one player who can be No.1 in this category. In the 2017-18 season, Luka Doncic was voted by the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague head coaches as the winner of the Rising Star Trophy and then chosen by fans and media members to the All-EuroLeague First Team and as the youngest MVP in competition history. Doncic eventually picked up the EuroLeague Final Four MVP too after leading Real Madrid to its 10th continental championship. Doncic led the league with an average PIR of 21.6 and ranked fourth with 16.0 points per game as he scored in double figures in 28 of his 33 appearances. Doncic also ranked second among all EuroLeague players in fouls drawn (5.82), ninth in defensive rebounds (4.0 drpg.), 11th in steals (1.1 spg.) and 13th in assists (4.3 apg.) while leading Madrid in minutes played (25:56). Doncic’s season was one of the best ever by a teenage player and he crowned it by winning the major individual honors and the EuroLeague crown.