Sloukas: “Tavares should not have been Defender of the Year”

Edy Tavares was chosen last week as the Best Defender of the Euroleague for the third time in his career (2019, 2021 and now, 2023). The Cape Verdean center of Real Madrid won a vote carried out among the coaches of the continental competition after a 2022-23 course in which he has broken the record for the most blocks in a season: 88 in total, after the semifinal against Barça and an average of 2.3 per game. That duel against the Catalans, who lived totally dependent on the shot from three, was a clear sign of the influence in the game of five from Real Madrid, the team against which the rivals shoot worse from two (the reason is clear): 49.7%. No one else is below 50%.

The second in the vote was Thomas Walkup, the point guard of Olympiacos, Real Madrid’s rival in the grand final and the best team in the regular phase. A point guard, therefore another defender profile, sandwiched between Tavares and two other centers, John Brown (Monaco) and Matthias Lessort (Partizán), who finished in third and fourth positions.

Tavares’s award seemed fair enough not to raise controversy, but Walkup’s teammates (an exceptional defender, to be sure) stood up to the guard US. Kostas Sloukas, the Olympiacos franchise player in the spiritual (Vezenkov has been MVP and Top Scorer in the regular season), showed his disappointment with the coaches’ decision: “With all due respect to the Euroleague and to a player who has been dominant for years like Tavares, and In my humble opinion, Walkup deserved the Best Defender award this time. Although he doesn’t have the size of Tavares, he puts any rival in trouble, contributes to everything and was key for our team to finish in first position”.

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This comment provoked the reaction of Tavares himself, also on social networks: “Walkup deserved it too, but the numbers don’t lie”. Already in Kaunas, and before the Final Four dispute, Sloukas defended his position again: “They both deserved it, 100%. But I think Thomas deserved it a little more. First, he plays in the team that was the best in defense in the regular season. In addition, he is matched on the outside with the best of the rival and slows them down, takes them out of their rhythm. I respect Tavares, a great player”.

Walkup himself ended up also giving his opinion: “In this team we are a family, a brotherhood, we support each other. It means a lot to me that my teammates say that. More than win the prize, especially if it comes from someone like Sloukas who plays in the same position as me, whom I defend every day while training. That he says that is very important to me. Beyond that, I can’t say whether or not he should have won the award. Facts resonate louder than words. The prize should be about more than statistics, there’s a reason so many centers have won it. I wanted to take it with me, of course, but I’m here to be a Euroleague champion.”

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