December 31, 2022
Assessing the EuroLeague MVP race at midseason
Several WNBA imports are having fantastic seasons in Europe
The EuroLeague is in the middle of a midseason break, with the competition resuming on Wednesday, Jan. 4. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to leave you dry of content! Today, I’ll be reviewing the best individual performers through the first half of the season and breaking down the race to win Most Valuable Player at the end of the season.
The only requirement I set for this exercise was the total minutes played: a minimum of 100 through the first seven weeks of play. Whether they are WNBA imports or permanent residents of a European country, the best performers of this EuroLeague season have all played more than a handful of games through the first half of the season. Without further ado, here’s my MVP leaderboard entering 2023.
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1. Stephanie Mavunga (BC Polkowice)
Season averages: 16.6 PPG || 13.7 RPG || 1.1 APG || 1.7 SPG || 2.6 BPG || 24.4 EFF
In past columns, we have discussed how impressive Polkowice’s results have been through the first half of the season. The EuroLeague newcomers lead their group with a 6-1 record. The main reason? An unstoppable Stephanie Mavunga.
Mavunga isn’t scoring the most points per game or dishing out the most assists. In fact, she is barely playing 30 minutes per game. But she has been an all-around menace while on the court and especially when she’s roaming the paint, scoring more than 16 points per game and pulling down the second-most rebounds in the EuroLeague at 13.7 per game.
Among players with at least 200 minutes played, Mavunga (212) ranks third with an average efficiency of 24.4. She’s also one of only three players hitting 3-pointers at a 44% clip or higher (min. two 3-point attempts per game) while also averaging eight boards per game.
2. Alyssa Thomas (USK Praha)
Season averages: 18.6 PPG || 12.0 RPG || 6.6 APG || 3.3 SPG || 0.4 BPG || 27.7 EFF
Different season, same Alyssa Thomas. She was incredible last year in the EuroLeague, excelled in the WNBA, carried the USA to a World Cup gold medal in the fall, and has had a ridiculous early run in Europe again.
Thomas (38.7 minutes per game) has logged at least 33 minutes in every game and tops the league in total minutes played, with 19 more than second-place Megan Gustafson. For someone playing so many minutes, one would think the per-minute production would suffer. Not when it comes to Thomas.
The forward has already put up four double-doubles and one triple-double in her six games, and she finished the other game with 28 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block. She is the only player with a double-double on points and assists (11-11) this season, and she ranks among the top six in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game.
3. Megan Gustafson (Olympiacos)
Season averages: 23.6 PPG || 10.0 RPG || 1.1 APG || 1.1 SPG || 1.0 BPG || 27.1 EFF
If the MVP award was based purely on individual merits, then Megan Gustafson would have as compelling a case as anyone. Sadly, Gustafson plays for the only winless team in the EuroLeague, and that will inevitably hamper her chances of lifting the trophy. (That said, Gustafson led Olympiacos to qualify for the EuroLeague, so she can at least claim that.)
Gustafson is scoring the second-most points per game at 23.6 to go with 10 rebounds per game. Not only that, but Gustafson is one of only four players averaging 10-plus points; seven-plus rebounds; and one each of assists, steals and blocks per game. She’s got the second-best efficiency (27.1) in the league; has shot 59% from the field, 50% from 3-point range; and 84% from the free throw line; and has had at least 16 points and seven rebounds in every game.
4. Jonquel Jones (CBK Mersin)
Season averages: 17.6 PPG || 14.8 RPG || 1.0 APG || 0.6 SPG || 1.6 BPG || 22.8 EFF
(Editor’s note: One report out of Turkey claims that Jones will not return to CBK Mersin for the rest of the EuroLeague season, and team president Serdar Çevirgen reacted to the news here. We will be monitoring this development.)
Jonquel Jones missed the first game of Cukurova’s season, and she was also out for the last game before the break for personal reasons. In the five matches in between, Jones was her usual self, averaging more than 17 points and nearly 15 rebounds per game.
Most impressive is the fact that Jones, even missing two matches, still ranks 24th in total points and third in total rebounds to date. Let that marinate for a minute. She leads the league in rebounds per game with 14.8 while also contributing 1.6 blocks and 1.0 assists per game.
CBK Mersin has put together an All-Star team this year, so it doesn’t really need any particular player to do everything. That might end up hurting Jones’ chances at the MVP trophy, as her teammates could take votes from her.
5. Jelena Brooks (Sopron)
Season averages: 17.1 PPG || 4.9 RPG || 3.1 APG || 1.4 SPG || 0.4 BPG || 16.3 EFF
Although Jelena Brooks has played in the WNBA, that was nearly 10 years ago, so I’m including her here as the lone European hooper in the top five. Brooks earned a larger role with Hungarian side Sopron this season after the team parted ways with Brittney Sykes before Week 5. Since then, Brooks has averaged 31 minutes per game. In her last two outings, she played 36 and 35 minutes and scored 22 and 24 points, respectively.
Brooks has hit at least 11 points in every game while contributing across the board. She is one of just six players in the EuroLeague averaging at least 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal per game. Even though her average efficiency (16.3) isn’t great, that mark ranks inside the top 11 among players with at least 200 minutes played.
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If you read about Jonquel Jones above, then you know about Cukurova’s approach to the game. That’s why Jones is doing most of her damage on the scoring and rebound fronts, while teammate Chelsea Gray is focusing on scoring (24 points per game) and passing (seven assists per game), ranking third in the league in the latter.
Perfumerias Avenida had a rough start to the year (and still is suffering a bit in domestic competitions), but Aleksandra Crvendakic has never lifted her foot off of the proverbial pedal. She is averaging more than 12 points, nearly eight rebounds and more than three assists per game this season. She’s coming off her worst outing of the year, but prior to that, she had logged a couple of double-doubles and a couple of near-misses.
DVTK’s Arella Guirantes has been as steady as anyone, scoring 13 or more points in six games and finishing the other one with eight points, seven rebounds and six assists. Guirantes has led DVTK to a 3-4 record in its debut EuroLeague season while being one of just three players to average at least 15 points, five assists, five rebounds and one steal per game.
One of the other two players is Alyssa Thomas, and the remaining player is Brittney Sykes, whose deal with Sopron was terminated after four games. Sykes signed a new contract with Girona but has yet to reappear in the EuroLeague. In four games (139 minutes) with Sopron, Sykes had looked incredible, averaging 16.5 points and 7.3 assists per game. The sample is going to look tiny if she doesn’t play any more games, but if she does (and if she can keep her exploits up), she will definitely be in the MVP conversation.