April 2, 2022
Revealing Antonio Losada’s 2021-22 All-EuroLeague Teams
It's time to unveil Losada's selections for First and Second All-EuroLeague Teams
One week. That’s it. We’re just one week away from knowing who will become the 2022 EuroLeague champion. It feels like yesterday when we were kicking off this weekly column, but here we are now, as ridiculous as that sounds. Halfway through the two-week hiatus the ELW is going through, I chose last weekend to present the first part of my season awards ballot including all of the individual accolades. I left the second part for this weekend as I planned on covering the First and Second All-ELW Teams as I see it.
The first one is the “official” one that I submitted before the Mar. 27 voting deadline. The second team, though, was nowhere to be voted for but I thought it’d make for an interesting inclusion on the weekly column as some of the players picked for it probably deserved a heavier spotlight than they got through the 2022 season.
Without further ado, here are your First and Second All-EuroLeague Teams of the year.
First All-EuroLeague Team of the Season
This squad is comprised of two backcourt and three frontcourt players among a field of 40 evenly split contenders from each of those two positional groups. Like last week, WNBA imports are italicized in the lists ahead.
Why do they deserve it?
Alyssa Thomas: I am going top to bottom, and that’s why I’m starting with Alyssa Thomas. Thomas, who I picked for the MVP Award a week ago, was always going to feature in the All-ELW team. It is a logical move, and it is more than justified. Thomas couldn’t play in all 17 games Praha disputed through the regular season and the quarterfinals round (she arrived in time for Week 3) and also missed one more game in the middle of the season. Even then, the 14 games played and a total of 457 minutes gave her a large enough sample to prove her worth and run away with my pick for MVP.
Among the five players selected for the All-ELW team, Thomas didn’t really stand out in any particular statistical category. She finished fourth of five in points per game, tied for first in steals, dead-last in blocks, and first in rebounds and assists–though only by 0.3 in each category over the second-best player. The thing Thomas did that no other player could replicate in this team, let alone the whole field of ELW players, was rank clearly above average in all of those statistics. Nobody scored 14 or more points while grabbing nine or more rebounds. Nobody combined five assists with those prior two statistics. Keep adding stats, and things look even more impressive on Thomas’ resume. She was the clear-cut best player of the season, and there’s no arguing that.
Elizabeth Williams: In a similar fashion to Thomas, Williams was good enough to snatch an award from my ballot: Defensive Player of the Year. And again, I consider that a good enough reason to have Eli featured in this All-ELW squad. Williams’ numbers were absolutely incredible in helping Fenerbahçe recover from a shaky start to their campaign (2-3 through the first five regular-season games) and start a still-ongoing 11-game winning streak with only two victories separating the Turkish side from the ELW championship.
Williams missed on averaging a double-double in points (13.2) and rebounds (9.2) per game, but she was one of only five players with 10 or more points per game while pulling down at least nine rebounds a pop. That’s good, but not entirely great. The ultimate deciding factor for Williams’ DPOY title and her All-ELW pass: the impossibly great stocks (steals plus blocks) she racked up through the year. Williams averaged 1.9 steals and 2.5 blocks in her 16 games and 559 minutes played overall. No other player in the whole EuroLeague blocked more than 1.8 shots a game (no games-played threshold) and only two others outside Williams swatted more than 1.2 while appearing in at least 16 games through the regular season and quarterfinal portions of the season. I guess missing on that double-double didn’t hurt that much considering the full sample of work, did it?
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Jonquel Jones: Jones is, along with Kahleah Copper, the main beneficiary of my lifting of the availability/play-time restriction used for the MVP selection. Jones only played 11 games this season and didn’t even have a crack at the quarterfinals after playing for 16-0 UMMC (the Russian teams were removed from the postseason by the organizers). Even then, Jones was her unstoppable self and absolutely nobody could prevent her from playing the best overseas basketball we’ve gotten to watch this season. That’s no hyperbole, folks. They say brevity is the soul of wit. Enter Jones and her measly 24.6 minutes per game in the ELW competition for a grand total of 271 rounds of the clock.
The statistics in those minutes? 17.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.3 dimes, 0.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks. Pro-rate that to a per-36 minute basis and if Math 101 doesn’t fail you then you’d be almost looking at a 25-13-3-1-2 player. No need to say that, obviously, no woman in the ELW this season got even remotely close to those numbers. But you bet I’m 100% convinced Jones would have done so had she played 10 more minutes per game for UMMC. So great was she, full stop.
Kahleah Copper: If there is a simple way to define Copper’s EuroLeague campaign, I guess it’d be “Jonquel Lite.” In other words: Copper won the WNBA Finals MVP Award, arrived in Europe late, played only 12 games for Avenida, but was a walking flame-thrower putting the league on notice from the moment she stepped onto an overseas court. Avenida, contrary to UMMC, put Copper on the court for as many minutes as possible (30 MPG) and that was more often than not the right decision: the Finals MVP helped the Spaniards finish second in Group A (ultimately the no. 1 seed after UMMC got removed) thanks to a 9-3 run that ended with Avenida making the Final Four. And of course, aiming for the title after falling just one game short of it last year when they finished as the 2021 runner-up.
Copper did what she does best: putting nets on fire. Nobody in the competition scored more than 20 points per game, yet Copper found her way toward averaging 22.5 a pop. That’s absolutely incredible all by itself, but it’s even crazier when you consider she was attempting nearly 16 field-goal attempts per game while hitting them at a 48.3% clip. Just for context, only five players attempted more than 15 field goals per game, with Copper and Natasha Howard the only two scorings 48% or more of them. Of course, Copper did it as a two-guard compared to Howard’s wing/big-woman role for Dynamo Kursk, making it easier for the latter to rack up higher percentages. Copper also contributed on the boards with 6.1 rebounds while adding a couple of dimes and a little over a steal per game to her season-wide stat line.
Alina Iagupova: The two-time and back-to-back reigning, defending, undisputed EuroLeague MVP is about to surrender the title, I’m afraid. While the Ukrainian do-it-all guard started the season with an unheard-of performance (29 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, two steals), she then proceeded to struggle (by her own sky-high bar) for a bit before getting back to her true-talent levels of play. And that improvement explains why Iagupova made it to my All-ELW team as much as it does explain Fenerbahçe’s unstoppable run toward a Final Four and a very serious case to win the 2022 chip.
Iagupova didn’t change one bit this season compared to prior years. She kept hoisting shots (14.8 field-goal attempts) at a staggering pace no matter the efficiency (39.7% from the field, 34.6% from beyond the arc), was the only player contributing more than 14 points, five rebounds, five assists, and two steals other than Alyssa Thomas (14-9-5-2), and she did so while staying on the court for more than 35 minutes per game; that helped her numbers, yes, but you also have to keep those averages up on such large and exhausting amounts of playing time through the whole season. Iagupova is most definitely not the description of finesse, but she knows how to bulldoze her way through games and opponents while helping her team all across the board, and she just proved that once more this season.
Second All-EuroLeague Team of the Season
Using the same field of 40 nominees, and removing the five who made the First Team, here are the five next-best players that would make the second-best team of the year cut if that was even an official thing. So tough to pick just one All-ELW squad, so here’s a second one to give me some relief–and another headache while making my selections.
Why do they deserve it?
Maria Conde: I have to admit I’m glad the EuroLeague decided to split its team of the year into two-backcourt/three-frontcourt players. Not a lot of trouble picking the five-best players for the First All-ELW Team. On the other hand, I would have had so much trouble picking the third-best backcourt member of the Second Team. Other than Conde and Gabby Williams, things can’t get tighter, and choosing Williams above the rest of the field was already a tough decision. Good for me, again, this was down to just a couple of names. Oofffff… Crisis averted. Conde had something going against her through the whole season in terms of getting to a brighter spotlight: she shared the court with two bona fide MVP contenders in Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones. That has nothing to do with how great Conde was this season, but it obviously impacted how folks perceived her game while it surely was not her fault to play on the same team as those other two behemoths!
Conde is coming off a season for the ages. She is the only woman among the 10 I picked for these two teams to appear in all 17 games played by Praha this season from Week 1 to the winner-take-all game in the quarterfinals. She finished fourth among those 10 players in points (17.5) and assists (2.9) per game. She was one of only nine players with at least 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, and one steal per game and she did it while turning the ball over the second-fewest times among those in the group. The shooting couldn’t have gotten much better as Conde hit shots at a 44.2% clip from the field on a bulky volume of 15.5 field-goal attempts per game and scored 79.8% of her 3.4 freebies per game. With Thomas and Brionna Jones manning the wings and the paint, Praha found its floor general in Conde and never looked back.
Gabby Williams: The line between Gabby and the rest of the eligible players for the second backcourt position is as thin as it gets. The second team was always going to feature players for “lesser” teams, and that means the likes of Olivia Epoupa, Yvonne Anderson, and Kennedy Burke (among many others) were in clear consideration here. At the end of the day, though, I had to side with Williams. I don’t love the pick, but I don’t hate it either. Williams has gotten much praise through the season, but I never fully bought into it. After studying the cases of all 20 eligible players for the All-ELW teams, though, things became a little bit clearer on why Williams–even underperforming a bit–still deserved this accolade.
Williams has been present in 16 of Sopron’s 17 games this season. That’s already a positive in her resume, to go with her near-32 minutes per game average (511 total minutes played, one of only nine players to reach that mark this season). For a negative, Williams’ average efficiency (13.7) was barely a top-20 figure among players with at least 350 minutes played in 2022, ranking even below a non-eligible player for the All-ELW teams. Overall, though, Gabby just found a very Iagupova-like way to bulldoze her way toward this reward. Williams just keep going, shooting, contributing on all fronts, and never cared about the negative impact of actions such as turnovers or missed shots. That served her well as she closed the regular season and quarterfinal portions of the season averaging 13.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 2.3 steals per game (though turning the ball over 2.8 times a pop and shooting a paltry 35% from the field). In other words, consider Gabby some Lite Version of Alyssa Thomas with Alina Iagupova tendencies baked into her game: only those three were good enough to end the season averaging a 13-5-3-2 or higher per-game baseline.
Brionna Jones: You can say something similar about Brionna Jones as you can say about Maria Conde–and even Alyssa Thomas by extension. Playing in the same and such a loaded team most definitely boosted all of these three’s numbers through the season, but it also hurt them in a way by limiting their upside due to the fact that all big fish had to eat a good chunk of the opportunities on offense while sharing the load on defense. But on a pure counting/raw-stat basis, Jones had no competition. With the exception of Elizabeth Williams (mostly because of her impressive 2.5 blocks per game and DPOY case), there was no big woman at the level of play and availability of Jones in the 2022 ELW campaign.
Jones averaged the second-most points per game (19.8) this season only behind Kahleah Copper though shooting fewer field goals and hitting them at a higher clip (59.5%) compared to Copp. The rebounds (8.5 per game) were lower than Natasha Howard’s 11.0 mark, but Jones edged Howard at all other categories by a hair (more assists, steals, and blocks, all while committing a bit fewer turnovers). If you prefer efficiency to raw stats, then Howard would probably overtake Jones by a nail in your leaderboard; if you side with the most-available player doing it over a much larger sample (Jones played 488 minutes to Howard’s 421), then you’d probably choose Jones for your squad. It’s just a toss-up.
Natasha Howard: If you read Brianna Jones’ section above then you already know how close her season was to that of Howard. In fact, only playing time separated them here and there in the statistical leaderboards. Howard, on a little smaller sample of games and minutes played, was the more efficient of the two when it came to shooting as she was good for a 29.9 three-point percentage on 2.1 three-point attempts per game compared to Jones’ non-existent contribution on that front. Even then, the points finished at 19.0 per game for Howard and 19.8 for Jones, quite close. Howard topped Jones by 2.5 rebounds averaging 11.0 per game and thus got one of only two season-wide double-double statistical lines this year (the other one belongs to Sandrine Gruda).
Again, the pair of Jones-Howard was super close but with three spots open in the frontcourt there was not a chance any of them would miss this team after failing to make the First All-ELW squad. Howard was in contention for MVP until I faded her in favor of Alyssa Thomas just one week before detailing my final ballot, so you knew she was going to be here no matter what.
Satou Sabally: This is the pick that excites me the most for what is already happening and what is coming in the not-so-distant future. Sabally (if she hadn’t already) has arrived for good. No way anyone can argue against it. It’s just as simple as that. We all know–or should–Sabally by now. It’s been two years of WNBA basketball for her already, though it is also true that she’s missed ample time playing only 16 and 17 games in her first two seasons among pros. That’s a shame, and here’s hoping she can appear on 30-plus games this summer!
Sabally landed in Turkey for the 2022 ELW averaging around 26 minutes in her rookie and sophomore seasons in America with averages of 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and almost one block per game. And against the best possible overseas competition all the youngster did was put up 16.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 dimes, 1.1 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game through her 10 games played, averaging just 26 minutes on the court. Yes, those are the same minutes she plays in the W, yet the average stat line went a bit up and the efficiency was absolutely crazy. Sabally’s case for bigger awards was cut short because of her limited availability for Fenerbahçe (10 games) but that doesn’t take at all from her exploits against Europe’s cream of the crop in a very similar total-minute count.