We know the NBA season is in full swing, and with players like Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, why would you turn anywhere else to watch some basketball? Here’s one reason: Luka Doncic. The Slovenian star is heading to the NBA, and it’s worth watching some European action to get a glimpse of the 18-year-old. The EuroLeague is largely considered the second most talented league in the world behind the NBA and there are a number of stars to watch. It has a combination of players who tried their luck in the Association but couldn’t find their place in the league and young talent who will hear their names called in the upcoming NBA drafts. So, who’s exciting so far?
The other McCollum brother. Errick McCollum is the older brother of C.J. McCollum, the Portland Trail Blazers guard. Older brother Errick headed right overseas after playing college ball at Goshen College, an NAIA D-II school.
In his first EuroLeague season (after several seasons in national leagues, the Chinese league and EuroCup play), he’s averaging 15.4 points per game and is shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range and completely schooled a Maccabi Tel Aviv team that was coming off a big win against Doncic and Real Madrid, scoring 31 points, including 8 triples, in 27 minutes against Neven Spahija’s squad.
Before debuting in the EuroLeague, McCollum won the 2016 EuroCup (the second-tier European league behind the EuroLeague) with Galatasaray Istanbul and was named the EuroCup MVP. He once scored 82 points in a game in the Chinese League and in 2014-15 he led Chinese CBA League in scoring with 39.6 ppg.
Luka Doncic is the biggest and most exciting name on this list, and for good reason. The 18-year-old Real Madrid guard is already considered one of the top international prospects, if not the top prospect. Some are even projecting the Slovenian will be the No.1 overall pick. In his second EuroLeague season, Doncic is averaging 19.8 points in 26:47 minutes.
He’s leading the EuroLeague in points per game, free throw percentage, and index rating and is drawing fans to games for a chance to see the next NBA sensation. Just two months into league play, Doncic has already made history, recording the highest performance index rating, 129, through four EuroLeague games since 2000. He scored a total of 96 points during his first four games (27, 14, 27, 28), matching the most points scored total in the first four games during this decade.
Doncic became the youngest player in EuroLeague history to earn MVP of the Month for his October performances.
Nick Calathes, the former Florida Gator, is playing in his sixth EuroLeague season (while taking two seasons off in the middle to play for the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA), and putting up his best numbers by far. The Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens point guard is averaging 14.5 ppg, 3.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists a game, is leading the EuroLeague in assists and is fifth in index rating.
Calathes scored 29 points and added 10 assists and 9 rebounds in a win over Anadolu Efes Istanbul. He was one rebound shy of becoming the first EuroLeague player in over a decade to record a triple-double. His performance won him Round 8 MVP honors.
Calathes is currently considered one of the hottest players in the league, and will face Doncic head to head this evening in Athens.
The former Kansas Jayhawk just landed in the EuroLeague after bouncing around the NBA for five seasons. In his first season in Europe, Robinson seems to have found his place coming off the bench for Khimki Moscow Region in Russia. Robinson is averaging 12.4 ppg in 19 minutes played and 8.1 rebounds, a league high. During his last game, Robinson recorded 13 rebounds.
Sergio Rodriguez is a well-known name around the EuroLeague. He starred in the league before trying his luck in the NBA, and since leaving the Association he’s returned to being one of the top guns. During his last season in the NBA, 2016-17, Rodriguez averaged 7.8 points and 5.1 assists per game for the Philadelphia 76ers. In eight games so far in the EuroLeague season, the CSKA Moscow point guard is averaging 13.5 points per game – including 45.5 percent from 3-point range and 92.3% from the line – and five assists in 25 minutes.
Not only are his numbers this season better than his last in the NBA, Rodriguez is putting up the best numbers of his career.
Honorable mention: Norris Cole
If you watched the Miami Heat play at the beginning of the decade, you’ve heard the name Norris Cole. The point guard won two NBA championships while playing with the Big Three in South Beach, but never averaged more than 10.6 ppg during his his NBA career (in 2015-16 while playing only 45 games with the New Orleans Pelicans).
In eight EuroLeague games this season, Cole is averaging 11.5 ppg in 25 minutes off the bench and is already considered one of the top guards in the league. Cole tallied six steals during Maccabi’s last game against Khimki, the most by any player this season.