By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
With eight weeks of hard fought basketball behind us, it was time to fire up the Rising Star Ranker again. If you missed the first edition, how dare you. Between last season and this season I think this is the absolute best, talent wise, list of five Rising Stars that I’ve put together. Tons of draft talent and the already drafted. Sit back, dive in, and if you think I missed someone, comment below.
Out of School Suspension: Sasu Salin, Mateusz Ponitka
New Kids: Kostas Papanikolaou, Nemanja Nedovic
1. Kostas Papanikolaou, F, Olympiacos
Points: 10.9 Rebounds: 4.1 3FG%: 60.7%
Can I get a bucket of water? No I need like a whole bucket not a glass, like a buckets worth. More, I need more. Seriously water, ice, something. Anything you have cold that I can throw on Kostas Papanikolaou’s burning body. Quick the guy is going to burn to death if we don’t water him down. NOW! He’s shooting 60.7% from three and a 100% from the line. 14/14. He hasn’t missed a free throw yet. He’s flaming he’s so hot.
It’s no coincidence that once Papanikolaou started asserting himself, Olympiacos went on a tear. Five straight games in double figure scoring, five straight Olympiacos wins. Please, anyone though, we need help. A man is going to suffer death by fire if we don’t put him out now. Zalgiris, Barcelona, Panathinaikos, can anybody cool Kostas down?
2. Jaka Blazic, G, Union Olimpija
Points: 12.8 Rebounds: 3.9 Assists: 2.0
There’s no one that brings a bigger smile to my face when I watch him than Jaka Blazic. Zooming up and down the court, hopping all around when he has the ball, screaming whenever the opportunity. It’s just a pure treat to take in. But his young Slovenian squad is not going to the Euroleague’s next round and we might soon have to bid adieu to Sir Blazic. Not so fast. Union isn’t exactly swimming in cash and a transfer to another Euroleague team is a possibility. I saw a Besiktas rumor at one point (please) but we can only hope and pray.
3. Nikola Mirotic, PF, Real Madrid
Points: 13.1 Rebounds: 5.3 FG%: 60%
Look who finds himself batting third. Mirotic has been good this season, improving in new areas like open court scoring, rebounding, and getting to the line, but he hasn’t been dominant. After his past two campaigns with Real there was hope, myself included, that Mirotic would take his game to a different level. Really assert himself every play, become unstoppable as a scorer, and be comfortably in MVP talk. Well this is still not quite his team and he hasn’t been overly electric but just you wait. With 17 points and eight rebounds two weeks ago, followed up by 18 and six last week, he’s hungry and he’s coming.
4. Leo Westerman, PG, Partizan Belgrade
Points: 9.1 Rebounds: 2.4 Assists: 4.0
I and most every NBA GM wants to send a “Season’s Greetings” to the Euroleague group draw picker who was able to pair Westermann against Nemanja Nedovic in Group D. The two went head to head last week and Westermann walked out a winner, narrowly, 75-74. There isn’t too many more fun things in basketball to watch than these two going up against each other. Two players, similar age, same position, entirely different games. Westermann is a throwback with a new twist, call him the remix. He uses an old school point guard game of valuing the pass over the shot and contriving strange angle passes that you never saw coming. But he’s added his own flair to all of this with in the air no lookers, baseline drop-offs to bigs, one hand bouncers to a cutter and many more tricks. Name a pass, he has it in the arsenal. And for every human that is privileged enough to walk planet earth, watching this Westermann pass from last week should be a requirement.
5. Nemanja Nedovic, G, Lietuvos Rytas
Points: 10.4 Rebounds: 2.4 Assists: 1.6
So if Westermann is the old school remix, Nedovic is just the straight new school. Athletic combo guard who’d rather run by you or shoot over you than pass around you. What makes Nedovic special is his athleticism, ups, and build. He just screams basketball player. He’s beginning to progress quickly with his jump shot improving and point guard game slowly evolving as a he starts to see the game slightly more as a distributor. With 12 and 16 points in his last two games Nedovic is getting more comfortable and with that his aggressiveness goes to a whole new level. If they do make it to the NBA, I demand Westermann and Nedovic be placed in the same division, it would just be too perfect.