By Nikos Varlas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to one of Eurohoops’ trademark columns, aiming to do some creative thinking and enjoy basketball from other perspectives too! In this particular case, we try to match up – but not compare – players now with players of past eras, even recent ones. Every player is unique – just like any person – and comparisons are never exact, especially considering how much basketball has changed, even from last decade to this.
In this space, then, we’ll put players who peaked in the 2000s side-by-side with players who we would classify as belonging in the 2010-2020 decade, either players just starting out or those who will peak within the next few seasons! In these match-ups we are going to be looking at everyone from superstars to role players and athletes of every sort. Because, the fun of looking for which player now reminds you of one from last decade never gets old! Readers have every right to agree or not with our choices. When you disagree, we are interested in hearing who you think is a better match for the players we have chosen. Have fun!
Ramunas Siskauskas (1978, 1.98 -meters, forward)
The renowned Lithuanian played in the Euroleague for eight seasons: Two with Benetton Treviso, one with Panathinaikos Athens and five with CSKA Moscow. He announced his decision to retire in the summer of 2012. He’s one of the most successful and charismatic forwards that we’ve seen in the top competition and was a two-time Euroleague champ in consecutive seasons with different teams: in 2007 with Panathinaikos and 2008 with CSKA! In the summer of 2006, when he moved to Panathinaikos at 28 years of age, he established himself at the highest level of the Euroleague. In addition to his two titles, from 2007 to 2012 he took part in a total of five Final Fours.
The averages of his career
Siskauskas completed his great journey with 143 games in the Euroleague. He averaged 11.6 points (55.4% in two-point shooting, 41.9% in three-point shooting, 76.7% in free throws) plus 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists.
His MVP season
The most productive and comprehensive season of the Lithuanian star was in 2007-08, his first season in Moscow, at age 30. He tallied averages of 14 points (57% in two-point shooting, 44.2% in three-point shooting, 84.6% in free throws), 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals and a 16 personal index rating. CSKA won the title in Madrid and he was voted MVP of the season.
Siskauskas was a full package and when he was dominant, he could do everything well on the court. He was also a strong leading figure who influenced his teams. On offense, he was a threat in every way. He had a very reliable shot from the perimeter and effective post-up play with a full repertoire of movements. The third way he threatened was with his one-on-one game. Without having any special athletic qualities, he was charismatic in “reading” the feet of his opponents as well as the overall behavior of the defense. He could finish plays on his own through isolation situations or create for his teammates if the defense adapted to him and sent reinforcements. At the peak of his career he often undertook challenging defensive missions as well, showing commitment and effectiveness in this area, too.
All these elements, combined with his personality, made up the profile of a forward who dominated in the Euroleague for five years. Mostly from the ‘3’ position, but often in the ‘4’ as well, like in the unforgettable final between Panathinaikos and CSKA that ended 93-91 in 2007 in Athens! The key to one of the greatest games in the history of the competition saw Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic moving Siskauskas to the ‘4’ position, with the Lithuanian finishing the game with 20 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a PIR of 30!
Luigi Datome (1987, 2.03 Forward)
With the necessary footnote that the 28-year-old Italian forward has returned to the Euroleague and is playing on a top-level team for the first time, one with clear ambitions of reaching the Final Four and going after the title, the match-up that we’re putting forward leads to one question:
Can Luigi Datome, as he enters the peak of his career, develop into a dominant forward in the competition for the next few years and remind us of… Siskauskas? The answer will be given when the course of Datome’s career comes to a close, but our view is this: He has quality as a player, the attributes and the potential to make it, and his collaboration with Obradovic further increases his chances!
When he was that age
Luigi Datome joined the Euroleague at a very young age! He made his debut in the 2004-05 season with Montepaschi Siena. He played in 6 games, the following season in 11, and in 2008, he reappeared with Lottomatica Roma. For Roma, he played in the tournament for three consecutive seasons, his last being his most productive, in 2010-11. Then, in 24:30 minutes of playing time he averaged 9.1 points and 4.3 rebounds, with 50% in two-point shooting and 36.7% in three-point shooting.
Five years had to go by for Luigi Datome to return to the Euroleague, this time more mature, more complete and with a team like Fenerbahce Istanbul. Coincidentally, when he signed with the Turkish team this summer, he was the exact same age as “Siska” when the Lithuanian got his transfer to Panathinaikos and under the same coach! And just like Siskauskas, at 28 years of age, the peak of his career is more than likely still ahead of Datome.
His numbers this year
In the first five games of the regular season, with 24:30 minutes of playing time, the Italian averages 11.8 points, 4 rebounds and almost 1 assist, with 47% in two-point shooting, 30.8% in three-point shooting, and a PIR of 11.2.
So far, his numbers look very similar to those of Siskauskas in 2006-7 with Panathinaikos. Then, in 20 games and averaging 26 minutes of playing time, Siskauskas tallied 10.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and a PIR of 11.6.
Numbers are important but not as important as the profile and the athletic characteristics of Luigi Datome. The truth is that many of those characteristics point to Ramunas Siskauskas. The Italian can also play in the ‘3’ as well as the ‘4’ position with ease, and his biggest weapon is his quality in offense.
He’s an excellent mid- and long-range shooter. We believe that his percentage in three-point shooting is going to stabilize at higher levels in the immediate future. He often chooses the one-on-one game to score or create for his teammates (with slightly more explosiveness than Siskauskas). Even greater similarities exist in their post-up games. Just like the Lithuanian before him, Datome loves to play with his back against the basket and he’s just as effective. One difference in the way they execute from the post is that the Italian uses the off-balance shot a lot, but while Siskauskas attempted it as well, he preferred pivot moves close to the basket.
In this current season, we see Datome working with tenacity on defense, putting a lot of energy into this area, and the extent to which his range in the defensive aspect of his game is going to grow will be seen in the future.
The answer…in 2020!
Luigi Datome has many quality characteristics, he’s now a key player in top-level clubs and it remains to be seen whether, beginning with this season and working with Obradovic’s program, he will develop into a top forward in the league in the next few years and win titles and make history.
No player is the same. But Obradovic’s intention is definitely to improve the player, help Datome realize his full potential and win titles with him. If this happens during the rest of this decade or not we can’t say, but the Italian forward has in front of him the time, the opportunities and the stature to become the “new Siskauskas”!
Art credit: JPsportart