Alexey Shved's name may not carry the weight of Andrei Kirilenko, but when CSKA Moscow tips off the Euroleague Final Four on Friday against Panathinaikos, Shved will be a one of four must-watch role players who can push his team to a title in Istanbul, Turkey.
It's not even about Juan Carlos Navarro or Dimitris Diamantidis.
But when the 2012 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four begins Friday with the semi-finals between CSKA Moscow versus Panathinaikos, and FC Barcelona Regal against Olympiacos Piraeus in Istanbul, Turkey, those are probably the first four names that will be mentioned regarding their respective teams' chances at winning the prestigious Euroleague championship.
And for good reason too.
Kirilenko is "the man" in the Euroleague and best player in Europe for that matter. Spanoulis is MVP worthy and hard to handle. Navarro already has a Euroleague Final MVP on his mantle after leading Barcelona to a win over Olympiacos in 2010, and Diamantidis has the chance to be chosen as the Final Four MVP for the third time in his career.
But much like in the NBA playoffs, these Final Four games could easily come down to a bunch of role players stealing a superstars thunder when all is said and done.
Here are four players not named Kirilenko, Spanoulis, Navarro, or Diamantidis to keep an eye on in Istanbul:
CSKA Moscow - Alexey Shved
Don't let the footage fool you. There is more to Shved's game than putting away a twisting layup. The clip doesn't show the 6-foot-6 combo guard putting the ball on the floor and breaking down defenses by getting into the paint, or even connecting from deep.
We are talking about one of the more accurate three-point shooter in the Euroleague, shooting at a 50% clip from beyond the arc (82 attempts) and a guy was third on the team in scoring during Euroleague play (10.7 points per game). And while guys like AK-47, Nenad Krstic and Milos Teodosic will be looked upon to prevent Panathinaikos from winning its seventh Euroleague title, don't overlook the 23-year old sporting the protective arm sleeve.
Shved will catch you sleeping.
Panathinaikos - Nick Calathes
This is one of those cases where the numbers don't tell the whole story.
Looking at Nick Calathes' totals from the regular season and the points per game (7.8), rebounds (2.7) and assists (2.5) aren't going to scare anyone, but shooting 60% from the field should make CSKA take notice as Dimitris Diamantidis and Mike Batiste go about their business.
In the Euroleague 2010-11 Final Four semifinals, Calathes scored a career-high with 12 points against Barcelona, then turned around and put up 17 points, 6 rebounds and 6 versus Montepaschi Siena, before finishing with 4 points, 6 assists and 2 steals to win a Euroleague title over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
What will Calathes do for an encore this time around?
Olympiacos - Kyle Hines
Here's the funny thing about choosing Kyle Hines as the one guy to keep an eye on from Olympiacos: this spot very easily could belong to Acie Law.
After struggling to adjust to a new situation with the team after signing during the middle of the season (he started the season with Partizan), Law has been killing them softly in the Euroleague. In five Euroleague games, the former Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies guard went from averaging 2.2 points per game to 10.2 over his last five games.
But this moment belongs to Hines -- the undersized and under-appreciated "shortest center in the Euroleague".
They may come bigger than Hines, but the heart and hustle he brings to Olympiacos really can't be measured. Just know the 6-foot-6 center has a way of elevating his game on the big stage.
Regal - Boniface Ndong
Die-hard Los Angeles Clippers fans will remember Ndong as part of the 2005-06 squad where the then 28-year-old, 7-foot rookie center from Senegal appeared in 23.
Ok, maybe not.
But Ndong is at least made an impact for FC Barcelona Regal this season in both the Euroleague and Spain's ACB League. The most glaring statistic is one that will likely help put him on display against Olympiacos - Ndong's shot blocking ability.
While he averaged 5.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in Euroleague competition, he also averaged 1.2 blocks per game and has strung together five-straight games where he's swatted away at least one attempt. And if he's not blocking shots, he is one of those big men who can alter shots and force turnovers.
There is no doubt Ndong will have his work cut out for him matching up against Joey Dorsey, but Regal still likes their chances. Knowing Ndong will be roaming the paint certainly makes guys like Evangelos Mantzaris, Vassilis Spanoulis and Acie Law a bit more leery for Olympiacos.