The great forward Toni Kukoc, a three-time former EuroLeague and NBA champion, once said: “A basket makes one person happy, but an assist makes two people happy.” Assists are a unique statistical category, the only one that depends on another teammate to finish the job. Very often, however, players dishing dimes are the ones doing the main work to set up a successful score.
Olympiacos Piraeus playing legend Vassilis Spanoulis is the only player in EuroLeague history with more than 1,500 career assists. Exactly 1,251 of those came during the last decade. No player came close to spending more minutes on the floor than Spanoulis, with 6,723, and no guard played more games during the last decade than his 247 appearances. Averaging better than 5.0 assists with such an unprecedented volume of minutes and games helped Spanoulis come out on top of the decade rankings for total number of assists.
Panathinaikos OPAP point guard Nick Calathes never had 10 assists in a single game before Round 2 in 2015, when he delivered 11 in a win over Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir. It was the first of 40 such games for Calathes by the end of the decade. No other player in EuroLeague this century has done it more than 19 times. Such performances helped skyrocket Calathes’s average to 5.9 assists over 192 appearances.
Stefan Jovic became the first player in competition history with 19 assists in a single game when he led Crvena Zvezda Belgrade to a 79-90 road win over FC Bayern Munich on November 12, 2015. Jovic later moved to Bayern and currently plays for Khimki Moscow Region, but no player before the end of 2019 managed to match his achievement. Facundo Campazzo of Real Madrid, who had a 17-assist performance in the final month of the last decade, proceeded to tie Jovic’s single-game record early in the new one.
The top two single-season averages in the past decade belong to Calathes. The Panathinaikos playmaker is the only player ever to average 8.0 or more assists in a single season. He did it for the first time in the 2017-18 season, with an average of 8.0, just beating the existing mark of 7.9 by Thomas Heurtel. The next season, Calathes bettered that number significantly with a record 8.7 assists on average, dishing 286 over 33 games. In each of those seasons, Calathes also posted a single-season record with 13 games in which he reached double-digit assists. At the start of the new decade, Calathes has been on pace to improve his single-season assists record, having averaged 9.1 per contest in the cancelled 2019-20 season.