The BCL's Underrated All-Star Starters
MIES (Switzerland) - Are you someone who spends an unusual amount of time thinking about the unheralded heroes of the Basketball Champions League? (of course, you are..... Well then, keep reading.
The BCL has possibly more high-level talent than ever and we give them plenty of love with our coverage of the race to win the MVP and the Team of the Month. However, there are also players who fly under the radar and don't always get the recognition they deserve. Maybe you don't see them leading the charts for individual stats or they don't make the eye-catching, highlight plays but if you took them out of their team you'd certainly notice them by their absence.
If we made a starting five for an underrated all-star team, who would make the list? In truth, there is at least one player like this on every team, sometimes more than one, so we decided to pick five from teams that have either qualified for the Quarter-Finals or are still in with a chance. Even after applying that filter, we have probably still missed some of your favorite unsung heroes but here we go.
Janis Strelnieks - AEK
With the brutal news that Strelnieks is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles (get well soon, Janis), we may be about to find out exactly how underrated he really is. There is no doubt the 'Queen' have an almost impossible task replacing what he does for this team.
You may be wondering how Strelnieks is even underrated in the first place when he's averaging 14 points and 3 assists, whilst shooting 54.4 percent overall, 49 percent from 3-point range, and 87 percent from the line.
In truth, what Strelnieks does on and off the court is so much more than stats. If you need a clutch shot at a key moment in the fourth quarter, Janis is your man. If you need leadership that stands out, even in a team of veterans, Janis is your man. Strelnieks is the ultimate cool customer and has been a major part of the AEK revival.
James Anderson - UCAM Murcia
James Anderson's role in this UCAM Murcia team is probably more of what you might think of in terms of the traditionally underrated players. Kinda like the Andre Iguodala role on the Warriors in the 2015 season.
If Murcia need a last-second shot, the ball is likely going to Thad McFadden, if somebody needs to throw a no-look pass, you are looking at Travis Trice, and if the fans go home from the game talking about a thunderous dunk, most likely Artem Pustobvyi was responsible.
Anderson does a bit of everything for Murcia and on any given night could end up doing any of those things, if his team needs it. Does he need to rotate on help and block a shot? No problem! Does he need to throw a pinpoint pass? Done! How about making smart plays on the offensive end? You already know the answer.
It's no surprise that three of UCAM Murcia's four most efficient lineups include Anderson (McFadden is the only other player present on three). With McFadden, Bellas, Anderson, Rojas, and Pustovyi on the floor, Murcia have a ridiculous offensive rating of 166 points per 100 possessions.
Leo Cavaliere - SIG Strasbourg
How underrated is Leo Cavaliere? Well, he is possibly having his best-ever season and you probably hadn't even realized. That's how underrated he is.
The Frenchman is averaging 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds, whilst shooting 66 percent from the field, so the numbers are there but what is also there - that you don't see in the box score - are the versatility and consistency. Cavaliere could be playing hard-nosed perimeter defense on one end, then setting screens and rolling to the rim for dunks on the other end.
The word that comes to mind when you watch Cavaliere play? Trust. You just know you can trust him to not only do his job but also cover for his teammates and make them look better as well.
David Kravish - Unicaja
In a team with the likes of Dario Brizuela, Tyson Carter, and Kendrick Perry (let's face it, we could go on, this Unicaja team is stacked), David Kravish was never likely to be a headline-grabber on most nights but that hasn't stopped him being a superstar in his role and a completely indispensable cog in the Unicaja machine.
If you want to know how his coach feels about the work that Kravish does for his team, you just need to read this conversation we had with Ibon Navarro earlier this season. The coach said that 'a team is as fast as its big guys run the floor'.
Kravish enables this Unicaja team to be fast with his effort and drive to run the floor every night. Sometimes it results in monster poster dunks, other times he's doing the dirty work and picking up the garbage then turning it to gold but whatever it is, he's there and quietly enabling this team to play the way it does. Don't sleep on his contribution on the defensive end either.
Leon Kratzer - Telekom Baskets Bonn
If we recorded stats for screen assists in the BCL, Leon Kratzer would almost certainly be at the top of the charts. We actually noticed this earlier in the season when Telekom Baskets Bonn qualified early from their Regular Season group.
His averages, of 6.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, may not jump off the page but his shooting percentage of 59.6 does and he leads the BCL in Offensive Rebound Percentage, pulling down 20.4 percent of Bonn's misses.
Kratzer also leads this Bonn team for individual net rating. Usually, efficiency ratings aren't great for measuring an individual as they are so dependent on the other four players on the court at the same time but when you see that Bonn are +41.5 points per 100 possessions with Kratzer involved, you have to take that as signal more than noise.