Five Contenders For MVP

VTB-League.com is previewing the top contenders for each of the league's individual honors (see Defensive Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year). Today we look in on the race for the biggest individual award: Most Valuable Player.

Despite being a team sport, basketball is difficult to imagine without superstar individual talent. Almost every club can boast one or two outstanding star players, but it's difficult to find someone who can carry a team night after night and take over when the game is on the line.

VTB-League.com profiles five players (listed alphabetically) that are the top contenders for the league's biggest award, the MVP.

Nando De Colo, CSKA guard

Stats: 25 games (21.3 minutes), 17.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.3 steals and an 18.6 efficiency rating.

Warriors superstar Stephen Curry shut the critics up for good this season, proving he's a mega-talent and that last season's MVP award was no fluke. Nando De Colo's VTB United League MVP award in 2015 may not have sparked any controversy, but he has plenty in common with Curry. After a terrific campaign last season, the Frenchman has been even better in 2015-16 and led CSKA to a league-record winning streak and the top seed in the postseason.

De Colo is just as focused, productive, cold-blooded and ruthless as ever, while his backcourt pairing with Milos Teodosic (much like the Curry and Thompson duo in the NBA) is considered Europe's best. Led by De Colo, the Army Men enter the season's home stretch at full strength, hoping that their regular-season heroics won't go unnoticed.

Keith Langford,
UNICS guard

Stats: 27 games (31.2 minutes), 21.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals and a 19.4 efficiency rating

Keith Langford didn't surprise anyone this season and that's a good thing. The star guard has always been a headache for opposing coaches and nightmare matchup on defense, leading the league in scoring during the regular season. But it's safe to say this year stands out from an already illustrious career. During four seasons in the VTB United League, Langford had never averaged more than 15.8 points per game (2014-15) or a 14.9 efficiency rating (2009-100. He shattered both during the 2015-16 campaign, averaging 21.5 points and a 19.5 efficiency rating. One of his most impressive performances came in March vs. Khimki, when he dropped a record 23 points in the 1st quarter, finishing with 38, 4th-best in league history. The American sniper gives defense-minded Kazan a steady source of offense, leading the club to a 2nd-place finish in a very competitive VTB United League. 

Anthony Randolph,
Lokomotiv-Kuban forward

Stats: 18 games (22.5 minutes), 17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks and a 17.1 efficiency rating

Anthony Randolph missed the start of the season with an injury, unable to return until late December. The club struggled in his absence, going 5-5 in its first 10 games. But with Randolph's return, Lokomotiv quickly rebounded and has only lost twice since. The American big man's versatility and athleticism makes him one of the most difficult players to defend in Europe. The team leader in efficiency rating, he may also be the league's most exciting player, throwing down thundering dunks and rising up for crowd-pleasing blocks. After almost two seasons in Russia, he's completely dominant on both ends of the floor, giving Loko a solid foundation throughout the 2015-16 campaign.

Ryan Toolson
, Zenit guard

Stats: 25 games (27.0 minutes), 17.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.0 steals and a 17.0 efficiency rating

Toolson sticks out among this bunch. He's the only MVP candidate that doesn't play for one of the league's Big Four (CSKA, UNICS, Lokomotiv-Kuban, Khimki), representing more modest Zenit St. Petersburg, where he's the team's unquestioned leader. The Blue-White-Sky Blues have overcome several significant losses this season, forced to adapt on the court, but one thing has remained constant: Zenit boasts one of the league's most dangerous scorers. At the same time, Toolson can distribute the ball, ranking just outside the league's top-20 in assists. Despite numerous injuries and setbacks, Zenit remains in 4th place with a chance to finish 3rd. Much of the credit goes to Toolson. 

Alexey Shved, Khimki guard

Stats: 28 games (24.4 minutes), 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.3 steals and a 16.7 efficiency rating

His return to Russia from the NBA made him the highest-paid and most-discussed player in the league... After a bit of adaptation, he's also inserted himself into the conversation for most valuable player. The Russian is a leader on Khimki's star-studded roster, eclipsing Tyrese Rice to become the focal point of the Yellow-Blue attack. He was most dominant during the winter, putting on a show vs. Lokomotiv-Kuban (32 points, 12 assists and a big '3' down the stretch) to earn the December MVP. Khimki continues to rely on the Russian guard from game-to-game and will need him to be at his best to advance deep into the postseason.