By Nikos Varlas/ email@example.com
Welcome to one of Eurohoops’ trademark columns, which aims to do some creative thinking and enjoy basketball from other perspectives, too in this particular case, to match up but not contrast current players with players of past eras, even recent ones.
Every player has their uniqueness – just like any person – and it’s not always necessary for them to be compared, especially when we consider how much basketball has changed, even when we’re talking about “back-to-back” decades.
Here, we’ll place side-by-side players who peaked in the 2000s with players that we would classify as belonging in the 2010-2020 decade. In these match-ups we are going to be hosting stars, good players, but even role players and athletes of every sort. Because, the magic in looking for which player comes to mind from all those currently playing when you look back at the 2000-2010 decade never gets old! You have every right to agree and of course to disagree with our choices. When you disagree, we are interested in hearing your own version of matching up one player with another. Have fun!
In this article, we are going to be dealing with two huge names of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, both with global reach! They are two amazing players and floor managers who, even though they might have met as rivals in the same decade, the peak of their careers and their dominance on the courts relate to different decades.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about Sarunas Jasikevicius and Milos Teodosic! Two of the most talented and charismatic products of two of the most important basketball schools in the world. The Lithuanian and the Serbian, or, to put it more in basketball terms for the romantics, the erstwhile Plavi school!
We are not comparing titles, we are not going to try to draw any conclusions regarding whether one is better than the other. We are simply going to highlight the greatness of two point guard-computers who have so many characteristics in common!
Sarunas Jasikevicius (1976/1.93 meters, Point Guard)
After a long career, the great Lithuanian and EuroLeague legend is now Zalgiris Kaunas’s head coach, and first indications point to him possessing all the elements for a great career as a floor manager from the bench as well!
Saras, as is his basketball nickname, played in the EuroLeague for 12 seasons with six different teams: FC Barcelona Lassa, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, Fenerbahce Istanbul, Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, Panathinaikos again, then Barcelona again, and his swan song in the league was written where it was meant to be, in his hometown of Kaunas with Zalgiris! Jasikevicius has won four EuroLeague titles with three different teams and is the only player in European basketball history to accomplish this!
A basketball computer, he is the definition of the point guard with a big and strong ability to lead. He has an excellent knowledge of the sport’s basics (dribble, pass, shot) and a charismatic instinct in the way he functioned and made decisions on the court.
On defense he was an average player, but on offense he had the whole package and was a big problem for every rival defense! An artiste of the pick-and-roll, he had the gift of “reading” plays and passing anywhere and at any time. He is, without doubt, one of the best passers ever!
He was also charismatic in terms of execution as well. A constant threat from the three-point line either off the dribble or as a spot-up shooter, and with a great mid-range shooting ability, something that made him even more unpredictable and gave him extra options in the pick-and-roll. Drives were always his third option for scoring and he was one of those players who very rarely missed a free throw!
Overall, he had a historically successful career and he’s among the top guards in the modern history of the EuroLeague and one of the best ever to come out of European basketball.
His career in numbers and distinctions
In 12 seasons in the EuroLeague and a total of 226 appearances with six different teams, Saras completed his career with the following averages: 10.4 points (2,343 in total), 3.3 assists and 1.6 rebounds.
He shot in 50.9% of his two-pointers, 39.4% of his shots from long range and an amazing 92.3% of his free throws! That remains the best percentage from the line for players who have retired and only the active MVP of the EuroLeague, Nando De Colo, shoots with a higher career best, 92.6%.
He won his four EuroLeague trophies over seven seasons with three different teams: Barcelona (2003), Maccabi (2004, 2005), and Panathinaikos (2009). He was a two-time All-EuroLeague First Team selection, in 2004 and 2005, and the MVP of the 2005 Final Four in Moscow.
At an international level he has won three medals: bronze in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, gold in EuroBasket in 2003, where he was also the MVP and bronze in the 2007 EuroBasket.
Milos Teodosic (1987/1.95 meters, Point Guard)
He’s definitely the best guard Serbia has produced in the last 15 years. At 29 years of age, Teodosic is already in his 10th season in the EuroLeague, with two different teams. He played for Olympiacos for four years and this is his sixth season with the reigning champions, CSKA Moscow.
He, too, is a rare player with great talent and a very unique basketball instinct. Like Jasikevicius, he has an excellent grasp of basketball basics. He is a venomous shooter, an excellent ball-handler, and perhaps the most unpredictable and charismatic passer we have ever seen in the modern history of the EuroLeague!
Teodosic gets that king of praise not just because of the result, but also due to the style and variety of his passes. No other player has pulled off some of the assists we have seen from the Serb, a point guard with a sizeable body who can be a conductor and an executioner at the same time, both at a very high level.
Like the Lithuanian legend, he’s an excellent three-point shooter, either off the dribble or stationary. He has a very consistent mid-range shot and in the last couple of years he often chooses to go to post-up against smaller guards. Drives are also his third alternative for scoring, and like Jasikevicius, defense was never his specialty.
With head coach Dimitrios Itoudis over the last few years, he has shown improvement in his willingness to offer up his body on defense, which has improved his effectiveness in this area. If we had to put a label on Teodosic that wouldn’t only be about his ability as a point guard, we would say that, at the peak of his career he’s now evolving into the most fun-to-watch player in the EuroLeague!
His career in numbers and distinctions
At this point in his career, Teodosic has played 10 fewer games than Jasikevicius. Note how similar their numbers are! In 216 appearances so far, the Serbian guard has the following career averages in the league: 11.4 points (2,462), with 4.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds! He’s shooting 51.7% on two-pointers, 37.3% from the arc and 87.3% at the free throws line
He won his first EuroLeague title last May in Berlin and was chosen to the All-EuroLeague First Team in 2016 and in 2010. That season, in Olympiacos‘s colors, he was voted the league’s MVP at 23 years of age. He was named to the All-EuroLeague Second Team in 2012 and 2013.
At the international level, he has been the undisputed leader of the Serbian national team from 2009 onwards. He has the same number of medals as Jasikevicius, three! They are the silver medal at EuroBasket 2009, silver at the 2014 FIBA World Championship, and the silver he wore on his chest after the recent Olympic Games in Rio. In the last two competitions, the World and Olympic tournaments, he emerged as the best point guard.
Are there any differences?
In this article we are not comparing accomplishments in their careers. Those depend on the teams each player competes for, the opponents, the teammates, the circumstances. We place them side-by-side and study their player’s profile and their technical characteristics.
Essentially, Jasikevicius and Teodosic do not have big differences in the kind of basketball they represent, in their strengths and weaknesses. The Lithuanian managed to dominate in the halfcourt game, when the leader of a team has to react and make decisions, although he made them at high speed on fastbreaks, too, especially in the Maccabi years, when they won the EuroLeague title back-to-back.
In the years of his dominance, the Lithuanian was a better decision-maker than the Serb, but Teodosic has greatly improved this aspect, too, in the last two seasons. Perhaps, to joke a little, their biggest difference is that one is fair-haired and the other is dark-haired!
The similarities: Same style and DNA, virtuosos with very high IQs!
Meanwhile, the similarities are many. Maybe too many! Both are point guards, both of them are kings of the pick-and-roll, big shooters, and amazing passers! Saras as well as Milos rely on their flawless basketball training, their basketball IQ, and the unique perception of the game that each has. Neither of the two has athletic qualities, quite the contrary.
Their big impact on the game, their gift for making their teammates better and guiding their teams, the deep instinct and the art of the pass, are all elements that unite them and make them stand out as truly unique in the history of European basketball.
One flourished in the 2000-10 decade, the other is winning titles and playing the best basketball of his career right now! Both belong in the same category: elite players, inspired artistes, and fun-to-watch basketball virtuosos!
Their DNA and their style definitely contain influences from the home countries and basketball schools in which they came of age. Really, if one was named Milos Jasikevic and the other Sarunas Teodocius, who would be surprised?