It is not difficult to suppose that there must be a question that many fans, especially those who care less about the fine print in basketball on both sides of the Atlantic, ask themselves on days like yesterday:Why the hell isn’t Edy Tavares in the NBA?? Why isn’t there even rumors of interest from franchises and possible great offers that tighten the rope with Real Madrid when summer arrives?
At first glance, the reasons for this to be the case are obvious: Tavares is enormous. It measures 2.21 and has a wingspan of 2.36. As one digs deeper, there is so much more. His constitution and his work ethic make the center of Maio, a town of less than 7,000 inhabitants in Cape Verde, an iron player. Tireless and unbreakable. Tavares is barely injured, never seriously and plays batches of minutes that would seem catastrophic for a player of his height and his almost 130 kilos of weight. That, the availability and the ability to always be when you have to beis another huge plus of a player who adds a third value to his monumental moment of form: maturity. At 31 years old, in the prime of his sporting life, Tavares has risen to new levels that allow him to dominate matches like never before. Already For a long time he seemed the most decisive player in the Euroleague field. Now it is clearly, That and so much more. The atomic bomb, the Enigma machine. The equation that rivals have to solve to try to beat Real Madrid. And the truth is that, right now, almost nobody knows. Or can. Or neither of the two things.
So we have Tavares as EuroLeague Defender of the Year for the third time (2019, 2021, 2023). And as April/May MVP, which implies that he was the best player in the quarterfinals. It is obvious that it was so. His knee injury in the first game against Partizan made him miss the second half of that and the whole of the following. Balance: two defeats in Madrid. From there, 3-0 with two wins in Belgrade and victory against Barcelona in the final in Kaunas. Four victories in a row that have sent Madrid from almost certain elimination to the grand final. The match for the title. In those four games, Tavares has averaged a PIR of 31.5 with 18.2 points, 10 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. And he has signed a 26/37 shooting from the field.
In the first game in Belgrade, with the noose of elimination around his team’s neck, he took advantage of Lessort’s loss in Partizan to rule the game at will: he played more than 35 minutes and finished with a PIR of 41 (26+ 11+3 with 11/14 shooting). Yesterday, against Barça, he was once again an unavoidable factor in Chus Mateo’s scheme… and in the absence of schemes from Jasikevicius: he finished with a PIR of 39 and a +17 in his more than 33 minutes on track. 20 points, 15 rebounds (4 attacking), 4 blocks, 7/9 shooting from the field. Not a comfortable shot from Barça in the paint, not an attack from the rival that was not affected by his immense presence.
So, sure,How is that player not in the NBA or, at least, on the radar of many NBA franchises?? If you want to answer as completely as possible, you have to take into account personal factors and game stuff.
An NBA that is not for classic centers
Things in the game: the current NBA is not a competition for centers like Tavares. Not of course so that they are great stars and essential pillars of the best teams. Is a three-point shooting league and schemes with almost everyone open and attacking the face rim. of positions liquid, circulation of the ball, constant movement and rapid occupation of spaces. The giants that dominate the zones, the fives immovable from the old guard, they end up becoming sacrificed towers in the chess games of the playoffs, when the outside shot and the speed of the opponent’s defensive changes almost always end up determining the flow of play. It ended up happening to Rudy Gobert, the Frenchman (2.16 and 2.35 wingspan) who has been Defender of the Year four times and who, yes, has a five-year contract and $205 million. At the moment of truth? Problems, especially in the playoffs. Victor Wembanyama, the 19-year-old phenomenon who wants to dominate the world from Le Chesnay, west of Paris, is a number 1 draft pick who many believe he can literally revolutionize basketball. He is 2.21m tall and has a wingspan of 2.34. Numbers almost nailed to Tavares … but with the ball handling of a point guard and the mobility and shooting of a forward. A overall playersomething totally different, essentially never seen before, that stands out from any positional framework.
When the Pistons were champions in 2004 conceding only 83.4 points per night and the NBA average was 93.4, cement and iron basketball, It was decided to move towards a competition with more points, more offensive brilliance. If you will, more like video games. More showy and spectacular to counteract the flight of fans that followed Michael Jordan’s final goodbye. The referees got tough with the use of their hands, arms and body in defense (hand checking, body checking…) and they began to take strides towards a basketball in which a lot is scored and it is frankly difficult to defend. At least as before, so the teams are also built from that idea.
Of that and another that seems obvious: a roll of three is worth more than a roll of two. Simple math but a lethal weapon now that it’s not difficult to put together five good shooters on the court who don’t drop below 35% from long distance. Against that, defenses have moved towards ultra-aggressive variants, anticipating with permanent matchup changes and fickle positioning. So, now, a tall, long-armed forward, with the wingspan to drive behind but quick feet to stay with a point guard after the block, has a much higher value than the old intimidating center, who suffers to permanently reach triple pointshe sees how his influence vanishes radically (if it is in one place, it is not in another) and ends up having to chase rivals short beyond the line of three.
A capital difference between NBA and FIBA
To that is added the defensive three-second rule, which completely changes basketball from one side of the Atlantic to the other. A matter that transforms the conception of space on the court and makes, on the reverse side of the reasoning, that some NBA stars find it so difficult to adapt to FIBA basketball in national team tournaments. The best example in recent years, apart from some versions of the United States team itself, has been that Giannis Antetokounmpo who beats rivals by crushing in the NBA, with many spaces on the paths to the hoop, but runs into walls that it costs him much more to surround when he plays with Greece. In the NBA basically the defensive player cannot stay in the restricted area surrounding the rim for more than three seconds if not defending directly to his adversary. In FIBA, yes. That’s why in the US players have clearer routes to the basket when they outplay their peers one-on-one. In Europe, meanwhile, you can collapse the zone more effectively and keep a player anchor that barely leaves the intimidation zone.
Here, Tavares does not have to go out constantly of the area in which it is most decisive. With his size, he can condition everything that happens near the rim without the risk that the outside shooting rhythm and the refereeing rules of the NBA will take him out of the games or turn him into a factor to be exploited by the rival. On the contrary, in the Euroleague it is the piece that determines everything, that turns the opponent’s systems upside down. Over the years, moreover, He has improved his reading, his positioning and his intelligence to make few fouls. And has honed his physique up to levels that make him a devastating player, absolutely dominant… on the Old Continent. If one searches, in fact, he can find Sergio Rodríguez, now his teammate at Real Madrid, speaking in 2018 about how he conditions the whole game, how teams have to sign to counter his effect and how the basketball rules could end up changing due to the profile and level of the Cape Verdean. So he chacho I played for CSKA. And Tavares wasn’t even as imposing as now.
A tough and very frustrating experience
But there is also a human factor. Tavares is happy at Real Madrid, where he is the best paid in the team, the limit above salaries, with one of the highest salaries in Europe. In 2017 he arrived with a three-year contract, and in 2019 he extended it until 2024. Then there was interest, he himself said, from NBA franchises. But nothing especially striking. Nothing that could make him change his mind. Neither of the two parties, in reality, had the greatest interest in a meeting that does not seem close now either. Trained in Gran Canaria, that’s why he plays as a quota, Tavares He tried his luck in the United States between 2015 and 2017, when he returned to Real Madrid after some very difficult months. Curiously, and in one of those twists that could completely change the history of our basketball, he was negotiating with Barcelona when Laso’s Real Madrid broke in, who had lost their centers Kuzmic and Ayón due to injury, had Thompkins out and recently recovered to Randolph. On the run and with the inner game between cottons, a signing was created that ended up being transcendental.
Tavares (he won the League and the Euroleague in his first season) gained prominence and experience in his first two seasons in white. Learning, adapting… and also forcing a Laso to adapt who until then had not put the weight of his idea into having dominant pivots. Thus, a frustrating period in which he had gone through Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers with many stages in the Development League was left behind: he played in Austin Spurs, Canton Charge, Bakersfield Jam Raptors 905…
With the Hawks, with whom he made his debut on October 29, 2015 (one point and one rebound against the Knicks), he played as rookies 11 games with less than seven minutes on average on court. He averaged just 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds. In the following season he played another with the Georgians and only one with the Cavaliers, who had down the gauntlet after he was cut by the Hawks. Over there he tried his hardest, before falling apart between trips to the Development League and unclear messages. he told it to giants: “I have never worked so hard for opportunities. And everything was going well, despite a hand injury. But when Kyrie Irving said he was leaving Cleveland, he reversed their plan with me. They were going to make me a contract for the following year but they didn’t. They told me to go to the Development League for another month and then I would rejoin, but that was very disappointing.”
“That disappointment after making so much effort affected me a lot. So when Real Madrid called me, I didn’t hesitate, I wanted to be happy and play”, says a giant that it has not rested on its laurels and that He has recognized that he was looking at Marc Gasol to be an increasingly complete pivot, in defense and attack. And in Madrid it continues, increasingly important and happier. That is why the NBA does not seem to be a priority for him now, while neither in the big league The teams go out of their way to have players of their profile. If you put it all together, you have the answer to the initial question of this article… and the reason why Real Madrid has secured in its ranks one of the best defenders in the history of the Euroleague and a player whose contribution in attack (blocks, finishing, rebounds, passes…) is increasingly difficult to ignore as well as a differential factor. Simply the most decisive player in Europe right now. By far.