After playing a minor role as a EuroLeague debutant last season, the forward has changed teams and emerged as one of the league's most dangerous offensive weapons.
Stats review: What a difference a year has made for Chima Moneke
There was no shortage of excitement in Round 7 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague as several teams eked out narrow victories. In perhaps the week’s most exciting finish, Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz hung on to claim a 1-point win over Olympiacos Piraeus, which came all the way back from an 18-point second-half deficit at Peace and Friendship Stadium before coming up short. The high-scorer for Coach Dusko Ivanovic’s team was globe-trotting 27-year-old forward Chima Moneke, whose 20-point effort was not only key to his team’s win, but also lifted him into third place in this season’s scoring race.
While it may be too early to talk about who may claim the Alphonso Ford EuroLeague Top Scorer Trophy, it already feels like it is time to give Moneke his due. After scoring only 3.9 points per game over 16 appearances with AS Monaco last season, playing a bit part with most of his touches coming on drop passes and effort plays, he has emerged as one of the league’s most productive offensive players this season, finding his jumper, looking dramatically more aggressive with the ball in his hands, presenting a real matchup problem for opposing defenses, and posting gaudy efficiency numbers.
To put Moneke’s rise in context, the graph above displays the change in points scored per game from one season to the next for the 1,230 players who played more than 125 minutes in consecutive EuroLeague seasons over the last decade. As the numbers suggest, around half of all players see subtle movement in their scoring averages year-over-year while only a handful of players every season tend to make major breakthroughs on the offensive end.
That’s part of what makes Moneke’s turnaround so compelling. Not only has he broken out, but he is scoring 13.7 points per game more than he did a year ago, an outlier-level differential that nearly stands by itself in recent history. Only one other player since the 2014-15 campaign has made a jump of over 10 points per game: Taylor Rochestie who played a reserve role for one season before changing clubs and capturing the Alphonso Ford EuroLeague Top Scorer Trophy in his first major opportunity in the following year.
The names above the 8-point-per-game improvement threshold only add legitimacy to what Moneke is achieving. Including memorable seasons like Shane Larkin’s golden pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, Wade Baldwin’s sharp rise to stardom during the 2020-21 campaign, and Luka Doncic’s first step towards greatness in 2017-18, even that is truly rarified territory. The kind of leap Moneke has made is not just based on volume or opportunity — he currently ranks third among volume scorers in efficiency visibly lifting Baskonia in several games already — it’s something legitimately special that is impossible to ignore even this early.
While Moneke has a chance to go down in EuroLeague history if he can maintain anything close to the torrid pace he’s set this season, he’s not the only player stepping up. Alec Peters has more than tripled his scoring average filling the vacuum left behind by Sasha Vezenkov for Olympiacos, Tornike Shengelia has looked rejuvenated for Virtus Segafredo Bologna, and Shavon Shields has shaken off the rust from an injury-shortened campaign. With several young players like Alen Samilagic and Tadas Sedekerskis hitting their stride at the EuroLeague level, there are more players than usual on the rise this season — an exciting development for the league and something to monitor as this season progresses.