The race for the 2021-22 Alphonso Ford Best Scorer Trophy, the only end-of season award based solely on a statistic, points scored per game, is as close and exciting as the most passionate Turkish Airlines EuroLeague fans could have hoped for.
5 + 1 midseason awards candidates: Best Scorer
Only 1.03 points on average separate the top five scorers this season and all of them have impressive resumes that make strong cases to believe they could finish atop the charts at the end of the regular season.
Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona – 16.8 points per game
Mirotic, 31, is the best shooter among the top candidates and is just one missed free throw away from a 50-40-90 shooting line. He ranks fourth in the league in three-point accuracy (46.9%). Mirotic has scored at least 20 points in a third of his 24 appearances, including a career-high 31 against Real Madrid in Round 14. He also gets to the foul line often; Mirotic's versatility leads to mismatches and opponents sending him to the line; he leads the league in free throws made (94) and attempted (105). No mere volume scorer, Mirotic ranks second in the league in true-shooting percentage (73.0%).
Vasilije Micic, Anadolu Efes Istanbul – 16.1 points per game
The reigning EuroLeague MVP, Micic remains Efes's linchpin despite injuries that have cost him a few games this season. Poor outside shooting over his last two games saw Micic's scoring average dip 0.7 points, though a player of his caliber can make that up quickly, too. The 28-year-old combo-guard, who also ranks among the top 10 in assists (4.2 apg.), netted a season-high 32 points against CSKA Moscow in Round 2. Micic scored 25 points in both Final Four games last season, proving that he is impervious to big moments. As Efes looks to climb the standings in the final rounds, he could be at the forefront.
Scottie Wilbekin, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv – 16.0 points per game
Wilbekin has averaged 20.8 points over his last six games to climb to third in the league. He is the only player to score 30 points in a game twice this season; he set a career-high with 37 against AS Monaco in Round 10. That is also the highest single-game total by any player this season. Wilbekin was the EuroCup MVP and its top scorer with 19.7 points per game in the 2017-18 season, when he led Darussafaka Istanbul to the crown in that competition. As Maccabi's go-to guy, he figures to get plenty of opportunities to shoot himself to the top of the charts.
Elie Okobo, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne – 15.8 points per game
Okobo, 24, took the EuroLeague by storm in his first season in the competition to average 19.9 points through his first 10 games. Though that number has fallen, part of the reason may be due to a shoulder injury, for which he underwent surgery last month. If Okobo returns at full strength, he is a serious threat to make a run at the trophy. He has scored at least 25 three times this season, including a personal-best 35 against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens in Round 7.
Mike James, AS Monaco – 15.7 points per game
James is the only former Ford Trophy winner on this list; he averaged 19.8 points to lead the league in 2017-18 with AX Armani Exchange Milan and was the runner-up last season with 19.3 for CSKA Moscow. His career-high was 21.1 in the COVID-19-shortened 2019-20 campaign. There is no doubting the scoring prowess of the 31-year-old James, who also ranks second in the league in assists. Since Monaco appointed Sasa Obradovic as head coach, James has averaged 19.1 points per game and all signs point to a strong finish to the regular season.
Sleeper: Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
While it seems unlikely that any player not among the top five now could ascend to the top of the charts, if anyone could do it, Larkin would be the top candidate. He is seventh in the league with 14.8 points per game and if he averaged 20 points per game over Efes's final 14 contests, Larkin's scoring average would rise to 16.8 – a fraction higher than Mirotic's current league-leading number. Larkin averaged 22.2 points over 25 games with Efes in the abandoned 2019-20 season, so the precedent for prolonged scoring power is already there.