Credit: Fedor Aebor-Lokomotiv
Credit Fedor Aebor-Lokomotiv

Few EuroLeague teams passed on him in previous summers. But a 26-year-old center from Houston, Texas, shows he can't be overlooked anymore. Meet Johnathan Motley, the next big free agent for the EuroLeague market.

Second in points averaged (21.22 PPG).

Second in performance index rating (23.89 PIR).

First in offensive rebounds (3.33 ORB).

First in 2-pointers made (7.67 2FGM).

Third in blocks (1.11 BPG).

Third in fouls drawn (5.89 FDPG).

Lokomotiv Krasnodar-Kuban big man dominates the EuroCup this season.

In the recent EuroCup GMs survey, Motley was voted the MVP award front-runner and the most spectacular player of the tournament.

Most EuroCup GMs took him first before Kevin Punter, the legit EuroLeague scoring star, as their first most wanted signing selection.

Motley had to go through many doubts and adversities to receive such recognition.

After he went undrafted in 2017, Motley appeared in 46 NBA games wearing Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers jerseys, averaging 4.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

EuroLeague teams had Motley on their radars for the last few years. But he turned down all offers focusing only on his NBA future.

He even registered a 26-point and 12-rebound performance in his rookie NBA season, but that wasn't good enough for a guaranteed roster spot on the NBA team.

Motley got stuck in the grey area of the NBA. Good enough for a two-way contract, not good enough for the roster spot.

He finally turned to overseas opportunities out of the hunger for playing time. There were at least two Top 8 caliber EuroLeague clubs who considered signing this explosive frontcourt player, sources say BasketNews.

However, they had some questions over his off-the-court activities and finally passed on him.

Points this season

Points made: 90,7
Accuracy: 47,5%
Place in standings: 1
Record max: 101
Record min: 77
Best scorer: Errick McCollum

Motley signed a deal in South Korea. The plan was clear: a few well-paid months with Incheon Elephants and then a late NBA season call-up.

Motley dominated immediately, averaging 20.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks in 2020-21. But the NBA plan was ruined by COVID-19.

EuroLeague teams again were afraid of taking risks with Motley, but it turned out to be a very high-risk high-reward move for Lokomotiv.

When he was unstoppable for Zalgiris and Anadolu Efes in the preseason tournament at Gloria Cup, NBA scouts started whispering about Motley. They were sure that sooner or later, he'd prove himself on the EuroLeague court.

His teammate Errick McCollum, the EuroCup champion and MVP with Galatasaray Istanbul, has no doubts Motley could significantly impact EuroLeague powerhouses right away.

"He has a unique blend of athleticism, mobility, and skill that you usually don't see on a big man. This is a guy who's 6 foot 9, who can run like a guard, who can stop on the dime, change direction in traffic, who dunks anything around the basket.

He's shooting 65%, and it's not all the layups and dunks, which is what he's extremely confident with. But he can also make the mid-range shot, and he showed the propensity to be able to hit a 3-point shot," McCollum said on the Urbonus podcast.

According to the 34-year-old veteran, Motley is a matchup nightmare for bigs.

Lokomotiv sometimes uses him the way Milan does with Kyle Hines. The big man, who can bring up the ball up the court, initiates the offense by setting the screen, popping, or rolling. Switching from 1 to 5 on the other end.

On top of that, Motley just never gets tired.

"He has an incredible motor which is something that's not seen in a lot of big men. He can go hard for four straight quarters. I don't care if you have him on hedges and screens, going for the glass for every rebound, or send him on hundred of pick and rolls. He's going to do that in 100 miles per hour, and you're going to say: does this guy ever gets tired?" McCollum laughs.

The experienced guard believes that as soon as Motley learns to avoid early foul trouble and develops his passing out of double team skill, he's going to be almost unstoppable.

"When he does that, look out! I know all the big dogs that come from all the Final Four teams. He's that type of talent," McCollum assures. 

Check the latest Urbonus podcast with Errick McCollum, where he discusses if Motley could help EuroLeague powerhouses like Anadolu Efes Istanbul:

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Johnathan Motley

Johnathan  Motley
Team: Lokomotiv Krasnodar
Position: PF
Age: 26
Height: 206 cm
Weight: 108 kg
Birth place: Houston, United States of America