This season, Joan Peñarroya’s journey as Baskonia’s head coach ended after five rounds in the EuroLeague Basketball. Under Duško Ivanović, one man – Markus Howard – is playing completely differently compared to the Spaniard’s tenure.
Not much should be expected from the 178 cm tall American in defense, but he does such a good job in the attack that the inability to slow down the opponents is not noteworthy.
If under Peñarroya, Howard was sometimes something close to a point guard, Ivanović has pushed him into a box in a good way: your job is to run, take advantage of the picks and when you get the ball, either throw it right away or take a few bounces and then shoot. Yes, here and there the baller – who has a Puerto Rican passport but is from the United States – gets under the basket, but this does not happen very often.
In the Peñarroya era, Howard averaged 13.4 points, 3.4 assists and 2.4 turnovers in five EuroLeague rounds. His usage rate (how often the team’s attack ends with a specific player’s shot, basket pass or turnover) was 28.9%, which was at the top of the strongest club series in the Old World.
Most notable, however, is the fact that Howard’s offensive rating under Peñarroya was 99.9. That meant Baskonia scored just 99.9 points per 100 possessions when on the field. His defensive rating – how many points per 100 possessions Baskonia allowed while on Howard’s field – was 118.7, a difference of -18.8.
There was one more big concern. If Howard hit 54.2% of the two-pointers under the previous head coach, the shooting percentage of the long-range shots was only 25.6, and that was in a situation where Howard took an average of 7.8 three-pointers.
With Ivanović, Howard has made a huge leap forward in many places, although he has less playing time under the Montenegrin’s guidance than before: he was on the court for 23 minutes and 57 seconds with Peñarroya, 22 minutes and 46 seconds with Ivanović.
If we consider all meetings since the sixth round, Howard’s scoring average is 21 points. The fact that the North American’s number of assists has dropped to one, and turnovers to 1.8, is proof of the fact that he no longer has to deal with game management.
If the usage rate of 28.9% was high, in Ivanović’s fourth spell at Baskonia, Howard has raised this figure to a mysterious 38.1%. From the sixth round onwards, Baskonia’s ace is by far the best in the EuroLeague, followed by Athens Panathinaikos defender Kendrick Nunn (32.8%) and Barcelona center Willy Hernangomez (30.4%).
Even more threes
With Ivanović, Howard’s two-point shooting percentage has dropped by 10.7%, but it’s not a disaster. Especially since he has dropped 44% of his threes and is essentially taking ten long shots per game.
By the way, over the 16 rounds so far, Howard has averaged 9.2 three-pointers, which is more than anyone can show for in the EuroLeague. He is ahead of Olimpia Milano’s Shavon Shields (7) and Istanbul Anadolu Efes’ leader Shane Larkin (6.9).
And if you factor in rounds 6-16 and put statistical anomalies aside, Howard is one of the most accurate, although not the best, among players who shoot a lot of threes. For example, Shields (7.8 long shots, shooting percentage 45.3%), Olympiacos Isaiah Canaan (6, 51.5%) and Bologna Virtus Marco Belinelli (5.8, 48.4%) are ahead of him.
How Howard scored 35 points in one game this season:
Regarding Howard’s three-pointers, it is interesting to note that he has a particularly deadly hand from the corners of the court: five of seven have gone in from the left, three of four from the right. By far, he has shot the most threes from the right 45-degree angle, with a shooting percentage of 45.2, which is top-notch.
Perhaps the following statistic might be of interest as well: while only one of Howard’s 27 two-pointers this season has come from an assist, 33 of his 48 three-pointers have required a pass from a teammate. So Howard isn’t just a lone ranger, he needs good coverage and timely passes from his teammates to do his job well. And that’s what he gets now!
Let’s look at Howard’s offensive and defensive ratings under Ivanovic too. In the latter, the ex-NBA man has made a tiny leap forward as he has improved by 0.5 to 118.2. But as stated at the beginning, defense is not important at all when evaluating Howard.
His attack rating has increased from the previous 99.9 to 122.1. And what is most important at the end of the day: when Howard is on the court, Baskonia is no longer in the red, but on the plus side by 3.9 points.
Howard’s top skills are also proven by the fact that in the last 11 rounds, no one exceeded his average point yield of 21. Only two guys come close (Monaco Mike James 20.2 and Larkin 19.8), but James plays nine more minutes than Howard, Larkin 11 more minutes. Perhaps the average playing time is the best number to illustrate the amazing efficiency of the Baskonia star.
What does the future hold?
At the beginning of October, Baskonia announced that Howard, who moved from North America to Europe last summer, signed a new contract that will expire in the summer of 2026. With this contract, the man most likely became the highest-paid baller in the Spanish club, because according to Spain’s national daily sport newspaper Marca, the salary increase was large.
Perhaps the most important change was in the clauses. If with the previous contract, Howard could buy himself out of the contract only if an NBA club wanted to hire him, the new contract also includes a EuroLeague clause. In other words: if, say, Real Madrid wants Howard, they have to pay the agreed amount, and Baskonia has no legal leverage to keep the player.
While Howard’s buyout clause has not been disclosed, it is clearly a large sum. Perhaps it could be around one million euros, because considering Howard’s last season and the potential of the fact that he is 24-years old, he is a much more valuable player than Ignas Brazdeikis,
who left Kaunas Žalgiris for Olympiacos before the start of the season and for whom the Greeks paid 500,000 euros.
Of course, it cannot be ruled out that Howard will return to the NBA soon. Although he was not selected in the 2020 draft, the baller from the state of New Jersey played 77 games in the shirt of the Denver Nuggets without much brilliance.
Howard scored 20 points against the Detroit Pistons:
Good offensive players are getting more and more expensive in the NBA, and given how important three-pointers have become, Howard could easily fit into the dream league. Granted, there’s no doubt that he’ll be constantly targeted by opponents on defense, and that’s played a role in the shattered NBA dreams of several EuroLeague stars, with Real point guards Facundo Campazzo and Sergio Rodriguez being the most prominent examples.
However, from Howard’s point of view, staying in Europe is not a nightmare. Even in the Old World, it is possible to earn millions playing basketball, and it is much easier for a player like him to be successful both individually and as a team. It is hard to imagine that Howard would become the main man of some top team in the NBA, but there is no question about it in the EuroLeague.
Baskonia’s forward Chima Moneke has said that Howard will be the best basket shooter in the EuroLeague in the future. Olympiacos and Panathinaikos legend Vassilis Spanoulis (4455) is currently on that throne, closely followed by Nando De Colo (4383) and James (4239) among active players.
In the season and a half so far, Howard has scored 768 points in the EuroLeague. If the format of the series were to remain the same and Howard brought in 15 points per game, he would need a little more than eight seasons to reach 5,000 points. With De Colo’s career nearing its end and James being 33 years old, 5,000 points could be enough for Howard to become the leading scorer in the EuroLeague.