It is a title that every great scorer covets, but only one can take home at the end of every season. The Alphonso Ford EuroLeague Top Scorer Trophy is awarded annually to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague player with the highest average of points scored. The list of former winners is a who’s who of basketball greats. The trophy is named in memory of the late Alphonso Ford, who died of leukemia in September 2004 after a brilliant career in which he was the competition’s leading scorer twice. The list of potential winners begins with many, but dwindles as the season goes on until one player stands above the rest. This season three current or former Ford Trophies winners will compete in the EuroLeague alongside scoring champs from other domestic and international competitions. Here is a primer on 10 top candidates to receive the next Ford Trophy at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
10 Nemanja Nedovic, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan
As the runner-up to Alexey Shved for the Ford Trophy last season, Nedovic posted a career-high 16.8 points per game. It was a true breakout campaign for the fleet-footed guard, who saw his scoring increase in each of his three seasons with Unicaja Malaga. In Milan, he will be a big part of what looks to be an exciting and fast-paced attack in which he will share scoring duties with Mike James. It may take time for James and Nedovic to figure out who scores in what situations, but once they do, both are capable of lighting up the scoreboard on any given night.
9 Sergio Llull, Real Madrid
Former MVP Llull is back to his old self after missing most of last season with a knee injury, and he immediately steps into his former role as team leader. Llull posted a career-best 16.5 points per game two seasons ago and there is no doubt that Llull will be out to prove that he is even better than before. At age 30, a healthy Llull is at the top of his game physically and mentally. His first and foremost goal will be to help Los Blancos repeat as champions, but to make sure that happens, Llull will look to put up big numbers along the way whenever his team needs him.
8 Edwin Jackson, Buducnost VOLI Podgorica
A former scoring champion in both the French and Spanish Leagues, it would only be natural for Jackson to set his sights on the Ford Trophy. Although Jackson has not been able to show off his elite scoring skills in past EuroLeague stints with FC Barcelona Lassa and Unicaja, he did not feature in a main role for either team. That is not likely to be the case with Buducnost, where the shooting guard can expect to be able to put his talents on display. A somewhat streaky shooter, when Jackson heats up he is as dangerous a scorer as there is.
7 Rodrigue Beaubois, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Beaubois has been among the most efficient scoring guards in the EuroLeague in recent years, and his per-minute scoring averages have ranked among the league leaders. After a move to Istanbul, Beaubois could be in the right place for an uptick in minutes and, accordingly, a boost in his scoring numbers. He flirted with a spot in the vaunted 50-40-90 club in shooting percentages last season with KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz, for which he ranked second in scoring with 12.4 points despite being a part-time starter and playing just the fifth-most minutes on the roster.
6 Toko Shengelia, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz
The top-scoring big man in the league last season, Shengelia (13.7 ppg.) earned All-EuroLeague honors while leading his team to the playoffs. He is still only 26 years old, so another big step forward could be in the cards for the hard-charging forward. Whether throwing down thunderous dunks in transition or dropping in jumpers from mid and occasionally long range, Shengelia has developed into the offensive threat that many foresaw. Not since Linas Kleiza in 2010 has the Ford Trophy been won by a forward and Shengelia may have the best chance of changing that.
5 Mike James, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan
James has been as exciting as any player since he first landed in the EuroLeague with Baskonia in the 2014-15 season, but last year he posted his best numbers yet for Panathinaikos Athens. His 16.2 points and 4.1 assists per game were both career highs. Had James appeared in enough games, he would have ranked fourth in the league in scoring. What’s more, James got better as the season progressed; he was worth 18.9 points and 4.3 assists over his final seven games. He was brought to Milan to co-lead what promises to be a dangerous attack alongside Nemanja Nedovic. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to a serious run at the scoring title for James is that his backcourt mate is a lethal scorer, too.
4 Scottie Wilbekin, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
On the heels of one of the greatest individual seasons in 7DAYS EuroCup history, Wilbekin looks to show that he can dominate on the bright stage of the EuroLeague, too. He not only led the EuroCup in scoring with 19.7 points per game last season to take Darussafaka Istanbul to the title, but with a 41-point performance in the semifinals against FC Bayern Munich, set a new mark for scoring in a EuroCup elimination round game. He also Wilbekin came within 1 of a EuroCup record for three-pointers made with 62. He averaged double figures in points in his two previous EuroLeague seasons and will be looking for another big season now for Maccabi.
3 Keith Langford, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens
A two-time Ford Trophy winner, Langford has averaged more points than any player in competition history with at least 100 games played (17.1 ppg.). He first captured the honor in 2013-14 with Milan (17.6 ppg.) and did so again two seasons ago with UNICS Kazan (21.8 ppg.). Langford also could have contended for the 2010-11 award when he posted 18.7 points for Khimki Moscow Region, but did not play in the minimum amount of games required. He has been a go-to scorer at every stop of his career. Now, with the Greens, he will play alongside EuroLeague assists record setter Nick Calathes, which means that Langford is certain to continue filling buckets.
2 Nando De Colo, CSKA Moscow
The 2015-16 Ford Trophy winner, De Colo ranked third in scoring last season (16.7 ppg.) and has scored more points since he joined CSKA in 2014 (1,995) than any player in the league. De Colo is an offensive machine whose efficiency is as cool as it comes; he holds the all-time record for free throw accuracy (93.7%) and is ranked second all-time among guards in true shooting percentage (56.3%). He is an elite perimeter shooter and draws many fouls to get to the line, where he is all but automatic. Now entering his second season alongside former MVP Sergio Rodriguez, their chemistry should be just right and De Colo may be in for another big season.
1 Alexey Shved, Khimki Moscow Region
After rewriting the EuroLeague record books and capturing the Ford Trophy last season, Shved is naturally a favorite to repeat, though no player in the history of the award has been able to do so. He set competition records for points (740) and three-pointers made (107) while posting an average of 21.8 points over 34 games, which was the EuroLeague’s highest for a player with 20 or more games played since the late, great Alphonso Ford posted 24.8 in the 2001-02 season. He was even better with 24.3 per game in the playoffs! At 29 years old, Shved is at the peak of his powers and will leave nothing on the table as he tries to lead Khimki back to the playoffs while peppering nets all across Europe.