|Team: NON-NBA College Team: CSKA Moscow|
H: 6' 7"|
W: 200 lbs
(39 Years Old)
|Agent: Luciano Capicchioni ||
Hometown: Athens, Greece
The best player in Europe, period. If we had the Bodiroga reign or the Jasikevicius reign in past years, weíre now right into the Papaloukas reign in Europe. Everything he touches becomes a success, either with his team CSKA or playing for his native country Greece.
A superb floor general, Papaloukas always comes off the bench to provide a huge offensive spark to his team from the point guard position. Itís a repeated situation: as soon as he on the court his team builds a solid lead in the score. Theo is a very smart playmaker that tries to takes advantage of any situation to get easy points. Heís excellent in transition, but also very effective in the offensive set.
Papaloukas is an off-the-charts passer and distributor. Not only does he enjoy terrific court vision and decision making skills, but his 6-7 frame comes in very handy to easily see the floor. He particularly excels in pick-and-roll settings. In pure two-on-two plays, heís most likely going to get the job done. He enjoys very solid ball-handling skills, being aggressive attacking the basket and pretty difficult to stop around the rim due to his size, so somebody has to step into his way, and its right at that moment when he delivers the pass to the big man, usually over his rivalís head. If any defensive help arrives, he finds the open man. His biggest weakness is his perimeter stroke, but heís not that bad of a shooter to grant him a lot of space. Theo also uses his size in the low post, either to score himself or to pass the ball. Heís also very good with the kickout pass, feeding the weak-side, cutters or just moving the ball within the offensive flow.
A curiosity: Theo Papaloukas was this season the single only player able to eventually make Ricky Rubio look like a teenager on defense.
Unspectacular, but solid on defense, this is the area that might raise the biggest concerns about his position in the NBA. Heís likely not quick enough to consistently stay in front of many NBA point guards. So defensively he could really use quick perimeter teammates to switch their assignment. Another issue is his age. Heís has been peaking for a couple of years and wonít get any younger, although heís not a guy that needs to rely that much on his athleticism (actually, heís an average athlete).
Any team looking to sign him should be well aware of how to take advantage of Papaloukas. Itís either he really runs the point or he will be pretty much useless on an NBA court. Theo is the player he is now because of the way he makes decisions with the ball in his hands. Put him off the ball and heís a bust waiting to happen (heís not even a good shooter a la Jasikevicius). Indeed, heís not a teenager who needs to earn his stripes on the court; regardless of not having any NBA experience, you better give him floor general status. Any other situation is a mere waste of time, money and talent.
Recent reports on Eurobasket.com indicate that Papaloukas may have resigned with CSKA Moscow.
Looking for an unusual player? What about a 6-7 point guard? What about a Euroleague MVP that comes off the bench? What about a guy who almost always displays his best level in important and meaningful games? Thatís Theodoros Papaloukas, arguably the reigning best player in Europe, the direct heir of guys such as Dejan Bodiroga and Sarunas Jasikevicius, a fierce and insatiable competitor, a winner, a perennial hero for his team. Papaloukas was coming back to Athens, his hometown, to try and win back-to-back Euroleague titles for CSKA Moscow. It just happened that he couldnít get it done this time despite putting one of the best shows of his life in the final against Panathinaikos.
Right after the semifinal win over Tau Vitoria, CSKA coach Ettore Messina showed his concern about Papaloukas taking too much responsibility for this event in his homeland (he joked about Theo organizing travel, tickets, practice, the hotelÖ), but it was what actually happened in the final, as a huge amount of his teamís offensive load went through his hands, either with points directly scored by him, creating spaces for his teammates with his aggressive playing style or passing the ball to an open man.
Papaloukas is a difficult player to contest. Heís tall and quite strong for a guard, enjoying very good ball-handling skills to protect the ball despite his size, and displays decent quickness. Theo can drive and dribble in traffic, even with contact, which helps him overpower his match-ups. He perfectly uses his size to post up his defender, even beating guys as tall as him (like Siskauskas in the final). And then, itís a matter of his great ability to finish near the basket (partially thanks to his size), magnificent court vision and an impressive mind to take decisions. The guy always knows when to push the ball and run (either because of a certain play situation or what the game demands), when to stop and play a more drawn out sequence, and when to resolve with a pick and roll play or an individual effort.
Actually weíre talking about a master of the pick and roll, a playmaker that perfectly feeds the teammate setting the pick and rolling towards the basket, often with high passes where he takes advantage of his size. If the defense doesnít stay honest, he will either go all the way to the basket to score himself or shoot the ball off the dribble. Here we find his main weakness in terms of offensive game though: heís not much of a shooter, although he will punish you if heís left wide open. His passing game is not only about two-on-two situations, but he finds his teammates on the weak side extremely easily, heís very dangerous distributing the ball from the low post (especially because he usually attracts defensive helps), and generally speaking, if thereís any defensive mistake, chances are he will make pay by sending the ball instantaneously to the appropriate place. Itís also interesting to note how he often passes while in the air, a high risk proposition, but he rarely turns the ball over, as his mind offers him quick solutions.
Theo helps in the rebounding department, usually igniting the fastbreak (also if he receives a quick outlet pass) to look for easy baskets. Heís an unspectacular, but solid defender; letís say he fills the bill. Obviously heís not the quickest guy around when it comes to moving laterally, which would hurt him in the NBA matching-up against point guards. Neither is he very athletic for a wing. But there arenít many guys around with his combination of character and skills. In a world increasingly starving for true playmakers, heís the answer. Will the NBA feel the same way? Weíll find out this summer.
The biggest winner in European basketball currently, Papaloukas is known for clutch performances when itís time to compete for trophies, but during the regular season he usually isnít quite as impressive and dedicated.
This season he is playing a little better than last, showing more consistency in his play and effort. Durability might be one of main issues when it comes to Papaloukas and the NBA, as it is questionable if Theo can play on the same level energy-wise night in and night out when there are 82 regular season games.
Papaloukas is a pure Point Guard at 6-7 with excellent passing ability. He sees plays before they happen and delivers even the most difficult passes with outstanding accuracy. Theo uses his strength and size to get into the lane and find scoring opportunities. He is also a very good defender, making the most of his physical ability and using his brilliant basketball IQ to anticipate opponentsí moves. As noted above, Papaloukas is phenomenal in clutch situations, taking his team on his shoulders and performing spectacularly under pressure.
While he might not be the greatest athlete in the world, Papaloukas is the type of player who defies stereotypes and should be considered the exception, not the norm. His all-around feel for the game and terrific mismatch potential means that he should be able to make a solid impact in the NBA if placed in the right situation in the correct system. From what weíve been told, Papaloukas is very much interested in playing in the NBA and should be considered one of the most intriguing free agents on the market this summer. He has a set buyout in his contract and is expected to go for the market rate for European free agent perimeter playersóa la Jasikevicius or Anthony Parkerómeaning around 3 years for 12 million dollars.
Coming off the best season of his career, a year where he gathered every award possible and won every tournament that he participated in either with CSKA Moscow or with the Greek national team, Papaloukas will have enough confidence and energy to be the leader of the European champions in this World Championship. His ability to lead CSKA Moscow to the triple crown this year made Papaloukas one of the highest-paid players in European basketball, while his leadership and his clear mind in the crutch are now obvious in all major tournaments of international basketball.
Papaloukas will be coming off the bench, the same way he did last summer for Greece and over the past four years of his career with CSKA. He is a very good ball-handler, showing great court vision and the ability to perfectly organize his teammates on both sides of the court. Using more often his smarts and strength to cover for his lack of athleticism, Papaloukas is a nice guy to have in a teamís ball movement and create scoring opportunities both for him and his teammates.
His offensive weapons are not amazing, as he rarely attempts a shot unless he knows that he can make it, while, despite his proven perimeter shooting skills, it is obvious that he is not a stable threat behind the arc, given that his mechanics are just average and he needs more space to create his own shot.
On defense, he is a scrappy type of guy who will come up with a couple of steals and use his big frame and strength to prevent opponents from taking advantage of space and slash. He is more of a vocal leader than any European player and tries to challenge opponents to get the job done.
He is not particularly quick, nor explosive, and can be outrun by opponents quite often in one-on-one defenses, but he can be rather productive and, along with his experience, he makes a really good addition to any given situation. Expect for Papaloukas to come off the bench once again, but always be there at the closing minutes of the game and personally take over some offensive plays.
Papaloukas proved that he is one of biggest winners in European basketball currently, being able to take his game to another level on the most important occasions. Coming off the bench, Theo was clutch for CSKA in both of their games, helping them to finally bring the Euroleague championship to Russia. CSKA started both off the games slowly and was struggling offensively until the moment Papaloukas entered the game. Theoís leadership, intelligence and good decision making were essential in their success.
After not scoring in double digits for whole Top 16 and quarterfinals, Papaloukas posted 19 (season high) and 18 points in these two games respectively. As a result of his excellent play, Papaloukas was voted for MVP of the Final Four.
Still, despite his terrific showing, it is questionable how much interest heíll garner from the NBA, since he has some glaring weaknesses when speaking about the NBA style of play. Papaloukas gets by defenders mostly thanks to his mind, length and strength, definitely not his speed. He is a fairly slow player who is not going to blow anybody away with his explosiveness and first step. It is questionable how effective he would be offensively in the NBA, since he isnít much of a shooter, especially off the dribble. Papaloukas gets no elevation on his shot whatsoever and needs time and space to get it off since his mechanics arenít the smoothest either.
On the positive side, Papaloukas is a tenacious defender with great size, good court vision, and an excellent feel for the game that constantly allows him to make everyone around him better. He makes around $800,000 per year in Moscow, and is not clear if he would like to compromise his status of a European star to go overseas fully knowing the possibility of warming the bench just like Lithuanians Arvydas Macijauskas (all season long) and Sarunas Jasikevicius (lately). If some NBA team is ready to spend a good chunk of their MLE to get him out of Russia, he could probably be a dependable backup at both guard positions, but only for the right team.
In addition to being named the MVP of the Euroleague Final Four and the All-Euroleague First team in the regular season (despite coming off the bench), Papaloukas also helped Greece win the European Championship this past summer in Belgrade with a 22 point performance in the final.