In a season of many firsts, one of the things that stayed the course in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague was the name atop the assists chart. For the fourth consecutive season, no EuroLeague player has set up his teammates more often than Nick Calathes.
The FC Barcelona point guard, who has had a meteoric rise up the all-time assists rankings since returning to the competition in 2015, dished 266 assists in his 41 appearances during the just-finished campaign. Calathes ended the season just ahead of Zenit St Petersburg’s Kevin Pangos who had 260 assists for the season.
Calathes also became only the second man in competition history to reach 1,500 assists for his career. He achieved that milestone in Game 1 of the EuroLeague Playoffs, in a clash against Zenit and Pangos. The only player with 1,500 career assists before Calathes had been Vassilis Spanoulis, who reached that number in the 2019-20 season.
The Barcelona playmaker achieved that milestone at a much younger age and with significantly fewer games than his former teammate Spanoulis did. Calathes needed 246 EuroLeague games to reach 1,500, compared to the 320 games Spanoulis played before reaching the same number. Calathes was 32 years and 73 days old on the night of his 1,500th assist, more than 5 years younger than Spanoulis when he hit that number.
Calathes wasn’t the only EuroLeague star to record a significant assist milestone this season. In Round 15, three-time champion Kostas Sloukas delivered the 1,000th assist of his career, becoming the eighth player to ever do so.
Looking ahead, Sergio Rodriguez is only 91 assists shy of reaching 1,500 for his career. Considering that he has dished at least 100 assists in each of his last eight EuroLeague seasons, Seeing Rodriguez cross that threshold seems like a reasonable bet. No active player is within 200 of the 1,000-assist milestone.
Calathes’s rise up the all-time assists chart is a result of the past four years, which saw Calathes produce four of the top five single-season assist totals. His 266 helpers this season are only behind the record-setting 286 he dished during the 2018-19 campaign. Calathes also has the fourth and fifth-best seasons with 255 and 249 assists, in 2019-20 and 2017-18, respectively.
That run led to Calathes finishing this past season with 1,526 career assists to his name and significantly closing the gap behind Spanoulis, who leads the all-time charts with 1,607 assists. Spanoulis took over the all-time lead during the 2017-18 season and has carried a substantial lead ever since. But Calathes has now come within 81 assists of the record.
If Calathes can maintain his current pace, we could easily be witnessing him not only surpassing Spanoulis for the all-time lead next season, but becoming the first player to reach 2,000 assists sometime during the 2022-23 campaign.