By: Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures

The first Rising Star Ranker of the Top 16 has to give a quick belated goodbye to those young pups that weren’t able to make it this far:  Milan Macvan, Donatas Motiejunas, Tornike Shengelia.  You guys were at the core of everything the RSR stood far and I truly thank you for trying your hardest.  If only the rest of your squad mates matched your respective efforts, maybe you’d still be here with the rest of your young friends, hooping in the Top 16.

Hate to see you go:  Milan Macvan, Donatas Motiejunas, Tornike Shengelia

Welcome (back) to the party: Kostas Sloukas, Furkan Aldemir

1. Nikola MiroticPF, Real Madrid
Points: 12.1   Rebounds: 4.1   Assists: 0.8
Last Ranking: 2

As long as the Euroleague is ok with a repeat performance, it looks like the Marvelous Mirotic has a pretty open road to claiming his second Rising Star Trophy.  Even if the likes of Macvan, Motiejunas, and Shengelia had advanced, Mirotic would still be the Rising Star frontrunner.  He was the December MVP, has been averaging over 16 points a game his last five Euroleague games, and has decisively put his name in consideration for another award: a spot on an All-Euroleague team.  The only thing that might slow him down now is a nagging ankle injury or Furkan Aldemir transforming into a super-human scoring beast.

2. Furkan Aldemir, PF/C, Galatasaray
Points: 6.7   Rebounds: 4.7   Assists: 0.5
Last Ranking: Unranked

Aldemir has been solid but not spectacular lately, and that won’t be enough currently to catch Mirotic.  He is no question the best competition that Nikola has left, but there’s a wide gap between first and second.  With a big win versus Olympiacos last week, Galatasaray has become a real contender to advance.  The better Galatasaray plays, the better chance Aldemir has of snatching this award from Mirotic’s grip.  Can you imagine a world where Galatasaray advances to the playoffs and Real Madrid doesn’t?  I can’t really either, but if it does happen, Aldemir all of a sudden becomes a much more appealing candidate.

3. Kostas Sloukas, G, Olympiacos
Points: 6.0  Rebounds: 1.6   Assists: 1.6
Last Ranking: Unranked

Holy shot and a half, Kostas Sloukas has arrived.  Not only did Sloukas hit one of the most amazing shots of the season last week to push Galatasaray into overtime, but he’s been playing wildly better these past few weeks. He’s averaging nine points and three assists in the Top 16.  Quality numbers, but not award winning just yet.

4. Kostas Papanikolaou, F, Olympiacos
Points: 4.4   Rebounds: 3.1   Assists: 0.5
Last Ranking: 5

There is a small cliff between the first three people on this list and the last two.

Papanikolaou’s production is not deserving of the minutes he’s receiving.  He’s getting over 20 minutes a game in Olympiacos’ last three matches, but there hasn’t been a single scoring effort over six points or a rebounding night over four.  Papanikolaou tends to disappear sometimes on the court, with Olympiacos running most of their offense through Spanoulis and whatever bigs are in with him. He finds himself on this list because of a dearth of candidates, but is getting enough playing time to move up the RSR.

5. Alessandro Gentile, G, Armani Milano 
Points: 3.0 Rebounds: 2.3 Assists: 0
Last Ranking: Unranked

After playing in only three Euroleague games so far, Gentile has pretty much no chance of winning this award.  His play so far hasn’t even been good enough to deserve a spot on this list.  He is a total byproduct of a weak Top 16 pool of rising stars, but since he’s known as one of the best prospects in Europe, he has a chance to breakout offensively at any time.  Consider yourself lucky Alessandro, another bad game and you’ll never been seen on the Rising Star Ranker again.