When basketball teams at any level looks for a dominant center, they hope for someone who can block shots, intimidate would-be scorers, and generally force opponents out of their offensive rhythm. If that same player can also be a reliable source of points at the other end of the court, even better. In Walter Tavares, Real Madrid has the best of both worlds.
Star turn: Walter Tavares, Real Madrid
Born in Cape Verde, Tavares did not play organized basketball until age 17. Gran Canaria found him in 2009 and signed him to its youth program. Six years later, Tavares was chosen to the 2014-15 All-EuroCup First Team and took Gran Canaria all the way to the EuroCup Finals. He joined Real in November 2017 and before that season had ended, he helped Los Blancos win their 10th EuroLeague title in Belgrade.
Tavares has improved every year since becoming an even more consistent defensive wall. He has learned how to make his presence felt in pick-and-roll situations, forcing other teams to use different offensive strategies against him. As a result, over the last five seasons, Tavares is the EuroLeague's runaway leader in total rebounds (1,104) and blocked shots (280).
On offense, he has polished his low- post game to become more and more of a scoring force. His 2.40-meter wingspan and quick feet allow him to finish strong in the paint, dunking as often as possible. In the same five-year span since his EuroLeague debut, Tavares ranks second in two-point shooting rate, at 69.4%, among all EuroLeague players, and third in shots made inside the arc, with 545.
His defensive achievements have not gone unnoticed by EuroLeague head coaches, who have voted Tavares the competition's Best Defender twice, in the 2018-19 and 2020-21 seasons. Tavares was also named to the 2020-21 All-EuroLeague First Team and to the 2018-19 All-EuroLeague Second Team, proving he is much more than a game-changer at the defensive end. This season, Tavares was chosen as the EuroLeague MVP for January.
Best known for his prolific rate of rejecting the shots of opponents, Tavares is not just a contemporary phenomenon, but a historic one. In just five EuroLeague seasons, he now sits second all-time in average blocks (1.8), third in total blocks (280), and fourth in blocks per 40 minutes (3.2).
Fully established now as a superstar, Tavares comes to Belgrade looking for one goal only: his second EuroLeague crown.