After what seems like forever, the PGBL is finally back this week! From all of us here with the league, we hope that you, the fans, enjoyed your Thanksgiving and the holiday weekend with all of your friends and family. But now that we’re back to business this week, I figured I’d go into a brief overview and analysis over who could possibly take home our individual awards this year. Yes, I realize that these predictions regarding these races are perhaps far too early to determine just yet, as we have only played 25% of the possible games (partially due to inclement weather and rescheduling). However, I find myself wanting to add more to my PGBL corner than just game recaps. Perhaps a forum discussion or poll in the future on these topics could also be fun. But for now I’ll stick to my own opinions. Without further ado, let’s begin:
Part of the reason I wanted to start this discussion so early in the season was because during the last set of games on Thursday, November 8th (yes, it WAS that long ago), we had 2 individuals score over 40 points in their respective games. First, the Outlaws vs Warriors game caused me to owe a personal apology to star swingman and potential MVP (we’ll get to that later) Laz Makrides. After I came on here in the Week 2 game recaps and stated that he had a “relatively quiet” performance the previous week against the Revolution (scoring only 11 points while looking passive and disinterested on offense), Makrides caused me to eat my words, as he ended up dropping 41 POINTS against the Warriors, with an array of shots from all over the floor. He hit several three pointers, was an effective slasher to the bucket, and caused matchup issues from all positions on the floor. It was a very impressive performance, and I will be careful in the future not to second guess Makrides’ skills again.
However, not to be undone was PAS Giannina swingman Evan Tsiklidis, who led his team to an upset victory over the defending champion Kings by scoring 43 of his team’s 59 points. That type of individual offensive production is ridiculously impressive when considering he only made 3 three pointers (as opposed to Makrides’ 6 made threes). Tsiklidis has always been capable of carrying and willing his team to points, but his performance to help give the Kings their 1st loss is the performance of the year thus far in the PGBL. Tsiklidis’ reminds me so much of Spurs swingman DeMar DeRozan, as both players have impeccable midrange game and can get to the foul line to add free throws to their scoring totals. Tsiklidis will look to show off his offensive prowess yet again this week, as he and PAS look to outduel Makrides and break the Outlaws seemingly endless regular season win streak.
The scoring title discussion concludes with none other than Bill Zonios. A PGBL veteran who consistently averages 20+ points per season has somehow not won a scoring title yet in this league. I find this to be quite unbelievable, as Zonios is the best 3 point shooter the league has to offer. However, Zonios is more than just a shooter. Despite being a step slower than he used to be, he can still get to the bucket when he wants to, and he is able to step out from well beyond the 3 point line to make shots that would even impress the likes of Steph Curry. And of course, Zonios is near automatic from the free throw line. Don’t look now folks, but Zonios could become the first player since 3 time scoring champion and 2 time PGBL champion Pete Kathopoulis (in 2013-14) to win both the scoring title and the championship in the same season.
Now, my personal opinion on who will win the scoring title is a difficult one, because each of these talented players (Zonios, Makrides, and Tsiklidis) all come with various obstacles on their path to the scoring title. Both Zonios and Makrides have star teammates who can also score, thus taking away both shots and points from them. Even Makrides’ teammate, combo guard Jimmie Armentani, has an outside shot to win the scoring title this season, as he is currently 4th in scoring at just over 21 points per game. Zonios, on the other hand, has several teammates capable of scoring 20 points on any given night (despite not all of them having shown up to games), from former PGBL Finals MVP Alex Veronis to former league MVP Niki Veronis and even former DVGOBL MVP (and champion) Niko Balis. Additionally for Zonios, while his effectiveness as a playmaker alongside point guard Chris Kourelias helps the Kings tremendously in half court sets (especially late in games when teams key in on him defensively), this unselfishness could hurt him in his quest for his 1st scoring title.
As for Tsiklidis, his PAS teammates have thus far not been able to provide much offensive support (despite their strong defensive skills). Not a single PAS player besides Tsiklidis is currently averaging more than 9 points per game, and this will allow other teams to key in on Tsiklidis defensively, whether it be through a variety of double teams, pick and roll switches, or box and one zone schemes. Tsiklidis is also slightly hampered by the fact that his 3 point shooting, while solid, is not quite as good as both Zonios and Makrides.
With all being said however, with Zonios, Makrides, and Tsiklidis as the current frontrunners for the scoring title, I’d have to say (as of right now) that Makrides will win it. While his great supporting cast can certainly take away both shots and points, Makrides does not quite have the playmaking and distributing responsibilities that both Zonios and Tsiklidis have on their own teams. Additionally, Makrides is a better slasher than Zonios and a better 3 point shooter than Tsiklidis. Finally, the Outlaws are most effective when Makrides serves as the primary scoring option, and his combination of speed, shooting, athleticism, and 6’5″ frame (I’m just guessing here) makes him nearly unguardable in almost any game he plays in. Thus, I have Makrides winning the scoring title by a hair over both Zonios and Tsiklidis.
Defensive player of the year (DPOY)
This particular award is significantly more difficult to determine the frontrunners for, as it is far harder for the league to track rebounds, steals, blocks, and field goal percentages than it is for the league to track points scored. Thus, I can only use the eye test to determine the DPOY frontrunners. Warriors guard Spiro Karalis comes to mind to start, as he is a 2x winner of the award. His lateral quickness and nose for the ball are both very helpful for the Warriors on defensive, and he has the straight ahead speed to both recover in transition and jet start the fast break. Another really solid defensive player is Revolution guard Vangeli Carabeses, whose team allows the 2nd fewest points in the league (around 53 points per game), despite having already played the Outlaws (who typically score over 65 on anybody regardless). Carabeses is always marking an opposing team’s best player, and has both the quick hands and the lateral agility to cause problems for opposing point guards.
Another defensive beast that can win the DPOY award this year is The Process’ uber athletic guard Chris Dawson, who is the league’s best pound for pound athlete. Despite being shy of 6 feet tall, his lateral quickness, raw strength, and tremendous leaping ability amazes me, and he causes so many issues for anyone that he guards. The amount of energy he exerts on defense on every possession is astonishing, and it typically leaves him gassed by the time he is eventually substituted out for a much deserved break. It seems as though every single transition bucket the Process have had this year is due to a disruption caused by Dawson, and his ability to rake down rebounds, even as an undersized guard, is quite obvious to even the average PGBL fan and is quite impressive.
I also see a couple of other players who have an outside shot to win the award. Both Evan Tsiklidis and the Tune Squad’s Chris Voutsakis are great defenders who primarily use their length to disrupt would be slashers, while both Process and Revolution big men Vasili Nasis and Tommy Tzumakaris can rebound with the best of them. However, I find Chris Dawson’s superb athleticism to trump the rest of these fundamentally sound players, and that natural ability has him as my current frontrunner (for now) to win his first DPOY award.
Most Valuable Player (MVP)
The year that Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry won the 2015-16 NBA MVP award as the first unanimous winner, then-Cavaliers swingman (or freak of nature, whichever you prefer) LeBron James insinuated that although Curry was well deserving, the idea of a player being the MVP of the league does not necessarily mean that said player is indeed the league’s best player. The majority of NBA fans would agree that Curry was deserving, but that LeBron was indeed the best overall player. I find this take to be rather interesting, and I like to use it for this particular discussion as the basis for who I believe will win PGBL MVP.
To me, the best player in the league is Outlaws swingman Laz Makrides. His combination of abilities: to be able to score from anywhere, ignite the fast break, and be an effective defender (when he so chooses) is currently unrivaled in the league. However, Makrides does benefit from a great supporting cast on his Outlaws squad, with combo guard (and 4th leading PGBL scorer) Jimmie Armentani, former PGBL MVP Pete Kada, and sharpshooter Kosta Pavlidis. Bill Zonios has a similar dilemma, with the array of talent that he has in HIS supporting cast (see above in the scoring title discussion). Both the Kings and the Outlaws, at full strength, would be great teams even without their best respective individual players, similar to the way some fans believe the Golden State Warriors to be without Kevin Durant.
Thus, I must look elsewhere to determine my early pick for MVP. In my opinion, the early frontrunner has to be PAS Giannina’s Evan Tsiklidis. Last year, Tsiklidis helped lead his team to a championship game appearance and an 8-2 regular season record with the help of a supporting cast that could both score and defend, with current Tune Squad guard, former MVP, and PGBL vet Chris Vasiliou as his then teammate. But even then, Tsiklidis carried and willed his team to wins. Thus far this year, without Vasiliou to aid him on offense, he has carried his team offensively in both games this season, with PAS being quite sluggish offensively out of the gate. Fortunately, PAS allows the fewest points per game in the league thus far, and the individual defensive talent on their roster allows Tsiklidis to save his energy for the offensive end. While this is further proof that no individual can achieve in basketball without contributions from his (or her) teammates, I believe that Tsiklidis’ individual contributions on offense thus far this season are quite tremendous, and on a team with no other proven second scorer (at least this season) thus far, it comes down to Tsiklidis to both take the bulk of the shots and be the primary slasher and playmaker. Thus, Tsiklidis is my early pick to win his 1st MVP.