Credit: D.Repečka, Angel Martinez - Getty Images, ZUMAPRESS - Scanpix | BasketNews iliustracija/M.Didė
Credit D.Repečka, Angel Martinez - Getty Images, ZUMAPRESS - Scanpix | BasketNews iliustracija/M.Didė

As the EuroLeague is nearing the end of the first part of the regular season, the overall picture of the teams and players is clearing up.

There have been numerous breathtaking performances by newcomers who took the EuroLeague by storm. Even so, several players have not met the expectations set for them before the season.

BasketNews takes a look at the top-fives of the most surprising and the most disappointing players so far.

It is worth noting that players who already left the team did not make the list. Also, players like Nikola Milutinov, whose poor numbers were caused by injuries, or OJ Mayo, who we already had doubts about after the signing, were not included. Some other notable players not on the disappointing list include Bryan Dunston, Alex Poythress, and Jaleen Smith.

Few of the players were close to making the surprising list, such as Daryl Macon, Chris Jones, Tyler Dorsey, and Luka Mitrovic.

Surprises

Elie Okobo

Credit AFP - Scanpix

28 MIN, 18.5 PTS, 55.9% 2PT, 45.3% 3PT, 3.8 AST, 3.6 TO, 17.7 PIR.

One could hope that Okobo could become the leader of the LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne if he gets accustomed to the EuroLeague system. Still, nobody could hope for him to become the top scorer of the tournament after 13 rounds.

The dazzling EuroLeague debutant has a plethora of dribbling skills up his sleeve, he attacks the basket with elite accuracy, and subsequently, he's now one of the hardest perimeter players to guard.

The 24-year-old likes to have the ball in his hands, and as a result, turnovers come naturally. Although it is a concern, we are sure the player will sort it out as the duo of him, and Chris Jones is the main power keeping ASVEL near the top-8.

There was only one occasion when Okobo did not reach the double-digit point mark, and if he continues to play like he's been playing, there is no doubt that we will see the French guard in one of the EuroLeague's powerhouses next season.

Rokas Jokubaitis

Credit BasketNews/D.Repečka

17 MIN, 7 PTS, 62% 2PT, 53.8% 3PT, 3.2 AST, 1.6 TO, 8 PIR.

During the summer, there were a lot of talks on which path Rokas should choose - whether he should stay at Zalgiris Kaunas or whether he should leave for FC Barcelona. He chose the second option, and it looks that it was the right one.

It is sometimes hard to believe how quickly the 21-year-old got accustomed to the EuroLeague star teammates in Barcelona and how he manages to make correct decisions in the dying seconds of the matches. There might have been some moments when Sarunas Jasikevicius turned to his coaching staff and just said, "Wow".

It is unbelievable to see that Rokas' numbers are even better this season than they were when he played for Zalgiris last year. If the Euroleague Rising Star award was stolen right in front of his eyes last season, the Lithuanian guard is now the clear favorite to win the prize.

Tremendously efficient Jokubaitis has known Saras' schemes for a long time, and he takes full advantage of it. With Nick Calathes sidelined due to an injury, Rokas takes the reign during the final minutes of the games. If he keeps improving at the rate he has so far, Lithuania will have a perimeter player of the highest class after long years of waiting.

Oscar da Silva

Credit BasketNews/D.Repečka

24 MIN, 11.2 PTS, 69.3% 2PT, 3.3 REB, 12.6 PIR.

EuroLeague sensation that joined ALBA Berlin after the start of the season.

The 23-year-old athlete started to prove his worth right from the very first game in the EuroLeague. His stats could look even more solid if not for the last four matches where he averaged only 5 points and 5 PIR.

Despite the poor four-game stretch, the forward still averages double-digit numbers. From what we've, there is little doubt to think that ALBA will tie their future with da Silva.

The 2.05-meter forward is physically strong, has a soft touch from distance, and possesses great court vision. Having Luke Sikma beside him makes ALBA perimeter players' life considerably easier.

Guerschon Yabusele

Credit Imago Sports-Scanpix

27 MIN, 12.5 PTS, 59.8% 2PT, 4.5 REB, 1.8 AST, 14.6 PIR.

We learned about Yabusele's talent during his time in ASVEL, but his quick adjustment in Real Madrid could be foreseen by only a select bunch. His situation is similar to Jokubaitis, as the Frenchman has better numbers in a more powerful team.

With Anthony Randolph and Trey Thompkins sidelines due to injuries, Pablo Laso had no other choice in the power forward slot. It doesn't seem to be an issue seeing how well Yabusele, who averages the most minutes in the club, looks on the court. 

The 25-year-old forward shows tremendous stability on a better team, scoring less than 9 PIR points only twice. His ability to attack the basket from long range paired with great court vision and quick decision-making allowed Yabusele to become one of the leaders of the team in a short time.

With Randolph already playing in the ACB and Thompkins nearing a return, Laso will have a pleasant headache when deciding the minutes between these three players.

Yabusele's success story should inspire Okobo, and there would be no surprise if the guard's path would lead to one of the Euroleague powerhouses the next offseason as his fellow Frenchman's did.

Ante Zizic

Credit ZUMAPRESS.com-Scanpix

21 MIN, 12.4 PTS, 66.7% 2PT, 5.4 REB, 16.8 PIR.

Zizic was not the epitome of stability last year as he had unpredictable patches of good and bad matches. During the summer, there were even talks that the Croatian was not the right fit for Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv.

As Jalen Reynolds arrived and Zizic got sidelined due to a serious thigh injury, there was little evidence suggesting that his last year's 9-point average would be beaten this year.

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old center started to prove he was a high NBA draft pick for a reason the moment he came back, and the first year in Tel Aviv was just a warm-up for the things to come.

Zizic scored a single-digit PIR number only during his first game after the injury. He now seems to provide guaranteed stability in the frontcourt, punishing his opponents with unwavering power in the paint and tremendous pick-and-roll proficiency.

This kind of performance puts the question of who the main center in Tel Aviv is to bed as Reynolds' dominance last year is now just a mirage.

Disappointments

Mike James

Credit ZUMAPRESS - Scanpix

14.8 PTS, 45.7% 2PT, 26.2% 3PT, 5 AST, 2.5 TO, 15.2 PIR.

James' stats don't look particularly bad, but there is absolutely no stability in the guard's game. He frequently looks discouraged, and his numbers are boosted by the 34 PIR performance against Real Madrid and the 33 PIR match against Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul.

Many Euroleague experts prematurely handed James the Alphonso Ford trophy when the American signed with AS Monaco. At the same time, many considered James to be a locked-in top-3 MVP candidate, but his first months in the new club have not been inspiring.

James' field goal shooting percentage is sub-par, his on-court decisions are sometimes illogical, and there have already been some sparks between him and head coach Zvezdan Mitrovic.

It looked as though the match against Fenerbahce might mark a new beginning for James, but the guard got immediately sidelined by an injury.

The EuroLeague superstar claimed to be highly motivated when he arrived in Monaco, but it is noticeable that he looks much less intimidating than during his days in CSKA Moscow.

James' career indicates that the top EuroLeague coaches can fully open up his talents, but the player himself seems to have a hard time getting along with them.

Wade Baldwin

Credit D.Repečka

25 MIN, 10.9 PTS, 43.9% 2PT, 21.9% 3PT, 2.8 AST, 3 TO, 8.8 PIR.

One more disappointing player that averages double digits, which once again proves that plain stats can sometimes be deceiving.

After playing a wonderful season for FC Bayern Munich, the American guard arrived at Vitoria to be the team leader, but his partnership with Dusko Ivanovic instantly rose a lot of eyebrows.

The doubts were confirmed as the Basques are in the bottom part of the standings, and Dusko Ivanovic has already been fired.

Neven Spahija's arrival increased Baldwin's minutes up to 28, but it is not because Baldwin has been playing lights out - the rotation on the perimeter is just too shallow.

Baldwin makes more turnovers than assists, and Baskonia's offensive ranking is the worst in the league. The 25-year-old holds the ball for too long, makes bad decisions, he sometimes takes illogical shots, which should drive his teammates insane.

Baldwin's offseason signing currently seems like a massive mistake for the Basque club, and it's represented in the standings.  

Austin Hollins

Credit Zuma Press - Scanpix

22 MIN, 8.2 PTS, 43.5% 2PT, 26.7% 3PT, 1.1 AST, 1.5 TO, 4.1 PIR.

After showing great promise in the preseason, Hollins was projected to become the Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade team leader. Still, an ankle injury got him off the optimal form, and the return to it has not materialized so far.

The 30-year-old has been valued as a terrific shooter throughout his career, but he makes only 26.7% of threes during this season even though he attempts 5 such shots per game.

Hollins' numbers were better on the better team last season when he played for Zenit St Petersburg. This year, the American guard scored 2 or fewer PIR in half of his games (6).

The Serbian club needs Hollins' contribution as Zvezda's offensive ranking is 17th in the EuroLeague. A solid defense is the only thing that currently helps keep Hollins on the court.

Chris Singleton

Credit Reuters – Scanpix

18 MIN, 3.9 PTS, 45% 2PT, 26.9% 3PT, 2.2 REB, 3.5 PIR

Singleton's role in the Anadolu Efes Instanbul's offensive system has been decreasing for several years already, and this season marks the never-before-seen low for the forward with sub-par shooting from the field.

It is not that Ergin Ataman's philosophy has changed, and Singleton has to alter his game. The American forward met the season out of shape, that fact that was even mentioned several times by Ataman himself, which played a part in several of the team's losses.

Singleton's involvement on the offensive end is not the biggest issue, though, as Efes has multiple players who can score points in bunches. Singleton is mostly valued for his defense on the Turkish team, but his contribution on this end has not been stellar so far, and we doubt whether we should hope to see the player that played a key part in last year's playoffs series against Real Madrid.

As Anadolu Efes started to look better during the last weeks, Singleton started reviving himself as well, but the forward missed last week's match after 214 consecutive appearances on the EuroLeague court, which stopped his progress towards an optimal form.

With Singleton and Dunston being far from their best selves, it is difficult to believe that Efes can repeat their last year's run for the trophy. If those two players do not find themselves before the New Year, it is not unreasonable to believe that Ataman might want to invest in addition on the frontcourt.

Hassan Martin 

Credit Imago-Scanpix

12 MIN, 4.3 PTS, 48.3% 2PT, 2.8 REB, 5 PIR.

Martin made his debut in the Euroleague last season, he stayed in the same system this year, but his numbers decreased almost twice.

The 26-year-old athlete might not feel his best yet after having knee surgery, and Georgios Bartzokas subsequently gives only 12 minutes of playing time to him so far.

Olympiacos Piraeus can be happy that they signed Moustapha Fall this offseason as the player has been grinding for two on the court. Fall has even been used in the switch-all defense this season, a system where Martin shined last year.

Olympiacos are a playoff-caliber team. If the 2.01-meter center can get back to his best days and start punishing his opponents with deadly pick-and-rolls with Kostas Sloukas, the Greek club can start dreaming about the Final-4.

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2022-01-10
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