17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
9 Alberto Diaz (UNI)
Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider
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First Take: Defensive Player of the Year Award


MIES (Switzerland) - With the Regular Season done and dusted, and runners and riders of season 8 starting to take shape, let's take a (way too early) look at the front runners for the Defensive Player of the Year award.


We have to start with the current holder of this award.

Six clubs still give up less than 100 points per 100 possessions on defense and Unicaja are one of them with a Defensive Rating of 99.9 and - as usual - Alberto Diaz is a major reason for that.

You can't switch off even for a second if you are playing offense against Unicaja and Diaz is on the floor.

He's just as likely to steal the ball as you dribble it across half-court as he is to get in the passing lanes and turn what you thought was an assist into two points going the other way.

You aren't even safe after you just caught the rebound and the scorer's table hasn't had a chance to start the new shot clock. 


If we had this award earlier than last season, Howard Sant-Roos would almost certainly have one of those shiny trophies sitting on his mantlepiece somewhere.

UCAM Murcia knew exactly what they were getting when they signed the Cuban and he has delivered on his reputation as one of Europe's best playmakers on the defensive end.

Murcia have the second-best Defensive Rating in the BCL, giving up just 96.2 points per 100 possessions, and Sant-Roos being able to guard the opponent's best scorer, whilst also coming up with game-changing steals and blocks, is something they couldn't live without. 

SELOM MAWUGBE - Le Mans Sarthe Basket

Selom Mawugbe is the best shot-blocker left in the competition.

In fact, he has the joint-most blocks in the whole BCL with Terrell Carter (13). To make that even more impressive, five of those blocks came in one game against Unicaja, and three more of them from Le Mans' other game against the Copa del Rey champs.

Eight shots blocked in two games against possibly the biggest favorite to win the BCL. Not bad Selom, not bad!


Margiris Normantas is the best stealer of the ball left in the competition. 

In fact, he has the joint-most steals of anyone in the BCL with Toney Douglas and Andrzej Mazurczak (14). Normantas must be really annoying to play against.

He stays in front of you at all times when you have the ball, you can't shake him when you are off the ball and the guy is so strong and determined he's almost impossible to screen to get him off you.

If/when we write a column about the most underrated players in this league, you can already expect to see Normantas featuring again. 

OR CORNELIUS - Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem

Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem were probably the best defensive team in the BCL last year.

This summer they added Chris Johnson, Maurice Ndour, and Yovel Zoosman, so guess what? They are absolutely the best defensive team in the BCL this year!

They concede just 94.5 points per 100 possessions. It will get tougher in the Round of 16 but if they keep it up they have a shot at suprassing  2016-17 AS Monaco as the best defensive team ever in this league.

And yet, with all these star defensive assets added to the squad, Or Cornelius is still the most important cog in their defensive machine.

Cornelius is what is often referred to as the "Point Man" on defense. He guards the opposition ball-handler from the moment they receive the inbound - at times it feels like until they leave the arena and swipe their key on the hotel door...

Hes is a one-man-press and even when he's not coming up with steals, he is forcing mistakes and eating up the shot clock to make the offense even more rushed as they look for a way to score.  

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon is a basketball coach and analyst living in Madrid. Constantly digging in the crates of box scores and clicking through hours of game footage. Diccon is on the hunt for the stories within the stories. If you like to get a closer look at what’s going in the Basketball Champions League, you have found it.