It is hard to remember a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season so full of individual talent. The entire 2021-22 All-EuroLeague First Team is back in the competition. There are stars who have returned to the competition after a long absence and others who have gained the experience needed to take their game to the next level. Here is our list of preseason MVP candidates, in alphabetical order.
Many stars enter the season as MVP candidates
Nemanja Bjelica, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul
Nicknamed "The Professor", Bjelica was chosen as the 2014-15 EuroLeague MVP after leading Fenerbahce to its first-ever Final Four appearance. He has returned to the team after a seven-year absence as a reigning NBA champion who wants to make the most out of his rare combination of size, ball-handling ability, shooting range and know-how. If Bjelica adjusts to a very different EuroLeague and can showcase his many skills, he could lead Fenerbahce to another special season.
Mike James, AS Monaco
By taking a newcomer to the EuroLeague Playoffs and one win away from making it to the Final Four, James confirmed he is a natural-born leader who can make anything happen. Since Coach Sasa Obradovic joined the team, James has made the most out of his court vision, which comes in addition to his phenomenal one-on-one skills, highlighted by his trademark move: the right-side step-back jumper. James's explosiveness and experience can lead Monaco to even bigger heights this season.
Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Larkin enters his fifth season with Efes and has shown himself to be quite comfortable with the club and the city. By joining forces with Vasilije Micic in arguably one of the best backcourts in EuroLeague history, Larkin has helped Efes win back-to-back titles, making history in golden letters. Last season, he was named to the All-EuroLeague First Team. Larkin's impressive scoring skills, high basketball IQ, growing experience and outstanding feel for the game make him a legitimate MVP candidate.
Vladimir Lucic, FC Bayern Munich
Lucic has led Bayern to back-to-back playoff appearances the last two seasons, in which he was named to the All-EuroLeague teams. Lucic is a modern small forward with great versatility, quickness and strength, who can to attack the rim due to his fast first step, dunk in traffic or knock down the outside shot. A great clutch player, Lucic is Bayern's undeniable leader and you can expect the basketball to be in his hands if a game is on the line.
Vasilije Micic, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
When it comes to crunch time, Micic has been the most dominant player in the competition over the last two years during which he's led Efes to consecutive EuroLeague titles and earned back-to-back Final Four MVP honors. Right at the prime of his career, Micic knows how to use his size and strength to drive to the basket, has a fantastic court vision and is reliable with the game on the line. His combination of talent, experience and a track record of success makes him a top contender for the MVP trophy.
Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona
Mirotic is the reigning MVP after one of the most efficient seasons any player has ever had in the competition. He will begin the 2022-23 campaign on the sidelines, which may damage his chance to become just the second player to win consecutive MVP titles, after Anthony Parker of Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2005 and 2006. Mirotic is the complete package, an all-around scorer who is deadly from downtown, helps on the defensive boards and improves on defense every season.
Kevin Pangos, AX Armani Exchange Milan
In his last EuroLeague appearance, Pangos was chosen to the All-EuroLeague First Team after leading Zenit St Petersburg to the playoffs. Pangos is an old-school floor general who can dominate any game from the point guard position. He is never afraid to take big shots and has made them with great efficiency (41.4% career 3FG). Pangos also has a terrific assist-to-turnover ratio (2.24). With legendary coach Ettore Messina guiding him, Pangos can take another step forward in his career and challenge for the EuroLeague MVP crown.
Georgios Papagiannis, Panathinaikos Athens
Papagiannis was selected to the 2012-22 All-EuroLeague Second Team even though Panathinaikos finished the season with a 9-19 record. He led the competition in rebounds and blocked shots and averaged double digits in scoring for the first time in his EuroLeague career. Papagiannis knows how to use his size and quickness to finish above the rim, but is also a reliable mid-range shooter. Panathinaikos revamped its roster and with a much better regular season ranking, Papagiannis could be considered in the MVP discussion.
Walter Tavares, Real Madrid
A defensive wall like no other in recent EuroLeague history, Tavares can change any game with his long arms, great timing and quick feet. Tavares is much more than a world-class defensive player. He has converted more than 65.0% of his shots in each of his five EuroLeague seasons and averaged double digits in scoring in each of the last two campaigns while improving his free throw shooting along the way. With more scoring talent around him, Tavares should have more space to keep excelling on offense, too.
Sasha Vezenkov, Olympiacos Piraeus
Vezenkov comes off a career-defining season in which he led Olympiacos to the Final Four for the first time since 2017. A versatile forward, Vezenkov can be deadly from beyond the three-point range and has a high basketball IQ which he uses to read his defender and find advantages, either facing the basket or low post situations. A great rebounder, Vezenkov is a silent leader, who seems to always put up numbers and makes sure his team is as competitive as it can be.