EuroLeague 2020/21 season preview – Part 1

EuroLeague Final Four Cologne
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

EuroLeague Basketball returns to action after almost seven months, with the new season tipping off this week (October 1, 2).

18 teams start the season with one goal in mind, to reach the Final Four, which is set to take place in Cologne, Germany in late May (28-30).

In two parts, TalkBasket.net provides an analysis of what we are expecting to see from each club in the competition.

Here is Part 1. Enjoy!

Olympiacos

With six new signings and the return of coach Georgios Bartzokas, Olympiacos Piraeus is ready for another Euroleague season. With its Greek core renewing, the club from Piraeus added four new players from the United States.

Octavius Ellis and Shquielle McKissic are staying for another season since they proved they can help the club achieve its goals and play the type of basketball coach Bartzokas wants.

Captain Vassilis Spanoulis and co-captain George Printezis are here for another season to show the young ones what Olympiacos is all about.

The return of Kostas Sloukas is definitely a signing that will strengthen Olympiacos with the addition of one of the best guards in Europe and the Euroleague. Coach Bartzokas is giving Sloukas the “keys” and the permission to lead Olympiacos back to the top of European basketball.

Aaron Harrison, Sloukas, Hassan Martin, Charles Jenkins, Livio Jean-Charles and Giannoulis Larentzakis are the players Olympiacos welcomed to the “Red and White” family.

On the other hand, Olympiacos said goodbye to Serbian big man Nikola Milutinov, Brandon Paul, Taylor Rochestie, Wade Baldwin, Augustine Rubit, Dwight Buycks, Willie Reed and Will Cherry.

Coach Bartzokas loves to play defense. That’s something we have seen in all of the clubs he has previously coached. For that reason, we expect Olympiacos to prove why they have been one of the best defensive teams in the Euroleague.

Defense will be the key element of their game, but, at the same time, when Olympiacos will have the opportunity, the players will run the court and score in fast break.

What we expect? We expect a team that will be in the playoffs and that will improve game by game. A prediction? Olympiacos will complete the regular season on the sixth place and continue in the playoffs.

Panathinaikos

With just six players from last season’s roster, new management and coach Vovoras becoming the head coach, Panathinaikos OPAP is setting new goals for the upcoming Euroleague season.

The departure of Nick Calathes and president Dimitris Giannakopoulos were definitely the highlights of Panathinaikos’ offseason. With a reduced budget, two Panathinaikos’ legends, Dimitris Diamantidis and Fragiskos Alvertis, taking up the management of the club and eleven new signings, the Greek squad will try and present a competitive roster this season.

Ioannis Papapetrou is the new captain of the team with Dinos Mitoglou, Ben Bentil, Ian Vouyoukas and George Papagiannis staying for another season with the “Greens”.

The signing of Serbian shooting guard, Nemanja Nedovic, is definitely one of coach Vovoras big deals, who has signed a great offensive player that can lead the team in scoring. The addition of Howard Sant-Roos from CSKA Moscow is also another signing that can take Panathinaikos’ game to the next level.

Lefteris Bochoridis, Zach Auguste, Pierre Jackson, Marcus Foster, Giorgos Kalaitzakis, Aaron White, Nikos Diplaros, Nemanja Nedovic, Howard Sant-Roos, Leonidas Kaselakis and Nikos Persidis are the eleven newcomers who will try to help Panathinaikos achieve its goals.

We all know that Panathinaikos is trying to create something new and rebuild the team. It’s not the club we were used to seeing winning the six Euroleague titles. It needs time and dedication to prove that they can succeed and get big wins.

Panathinaikos will face some difficulties on its way to the playoffs. It will be a challenging season for the club and it is likey they will not make it to the playoffs. Time will tell and one think is for sure; Panathinaikos has several reasons to fight this season and prove that all those changes have been proved beneficial for them.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid has always had a reputation for keeping a core of players, who have been playing together for years, untouched. With only two signings made, this is definitely what coach Pablo Laso is doing for another Euroleague season.

The experienced coach will stay for another year on the bench of Real Madrid completing his 10th season with “Los Blancos” (he joined the club in 2011).

Combining the experienced players with the younger ones, Real Madrid has one goal, to reach another Euroleague Final Four. Two players, Felipe Reyes and Sergio Llull, have been playing for Real Madrid for a decade. Those two, along with Rudy Fernandez, are the names someone has in mind when thinking of Real Madrid.

Real Madrid has not made a lot of changes since they have signed just two new players, Carlos Alocen and Alberto Albande. Jordan Mickey and Salah Mejri are the two players that have left Real Madrid since last season.

The case of Facundo Campazzo is still a question mark. The player has shown his interest to play in the NBA, with several teams targeting the Argentinian. For now, Campazzo should be considered a player of Real Madrid and he will play under the guidance of Pablo Laso.

The high basketball IQ of Real Madrid’s backcourt is definitely one of the key characteristics for another season. Most of Real Madrid’s guards can provide leadership, create the perfect conditions for their teammates to score and help the team offensively whenever it is needed.

Real Madrid is always prepared to succeed and reach their goals. It is difficult to picture this season’s playoffs without Real Madrid and, for that reason, coach Laso and his players will get into the playoffs for another season and fight until the end for another Euroleague Championship.

CSKA Moscow

The still-reigning Euroleague champions, CSKA Moscow, is always a team that is aiming high. Coach Itoudis is staying for another year in Moscow to lead the team to another Euroleague trophy. Focusing on quality over quantity, CSKA has not changed much since last season, which was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

American scoring machine, Mike James, who shined last season with 21.1 points per game, remains in the Russian capital, with Daniel Hackett and Janis Strelnieks adding some more experience to the backcourt.

CSKA might have announced only two new signings, but the quality that those two signings add to the frontcourt will definitely be an extra weapon for coach Itoudis. Nikola Milutinov and Tornike Shengelia are the two newcomers, who join the club to strengthen its frontcourt and help the team secure a place in the playoffs.

CSKA is considered a well-balanced team with experienced players in both its frontcourt and backcourt. In both cases, there are experienced players, such as Daniel Hackett in the backcourt and Tornike Shengelia in the frontcourt, that can lead the team and make their and their teammates’ life easier on the court.

Defense will be a key element for CSKA this season. How they play defense on the opponent and how they will respond to the tough defense other teams will play on them.

CSKA has made eight straight Final Four appearances and wants to continue that way. Coach Itoudis has led the team to six consecutive Final Fours and this season may not be any different. CSKA is one of the clubs that the fans always want to see in all Euroleague’s Final Fours.

They might not have made many new signings, but CSKA decided to focus on quality rather quantity this season and play some good, quality basketball that will take them to the Final Four and compete for another Euroleague trophy.

Anadolu Efes

During the 2019/2020 season, Anadolu Efes was the first team that qualified for the Top 8 in the Euroleague. So, maybe, that is the reason the coaching staff decided not to change a lot in the existing roster. Only two players left the team – Mustafa Kurtuldum and Omer Ilyasoglu – while the new face is young Erten Gazi.

Due to the fact that the core players are here again and ready to play, we can expect a lot of points in their matches. They play fast and team-oriented basketball. Almost all the players know each other very well, so the chemistry should be their strength and desire to continue where they left last time.

The key player is Shane Larkin and everyone should pay attention to him paired with Bryant Dunston, creating an amazing duo offensively. Also, Vasilije Micić is always ready to put his physique to good use when he spots a gap in defense.

Last season, this roster was one of the main candidates for the title and this year won’t be different. All of them want to prove that dedication and excellent system in the past few years can give great results. And that can lead them to the trophy this season.

Crvena Zvezda

Crvena Zvezda is maybe the only team that almost completely changed their roster, starting from the head coaching position. Saša Obradović signed his contract with Crvena Zvezda this summer and he will be the most important reinforcement of the squad, because someone has to show all the newcomers the place in the team.

Besides him, the players that came in were Corey Walden, Jordan Loyd, Emanuel Terry, Langston Hall, Duop Reath, Aleksa Radanov, Nikola Popović, Marko Simonović, Aleksa Uskoković, Pavle Mišić, and Ognjen Kuzmić.

It will be interesting to see the ideas for the team of coach Saša Obradović. He will be the main character in this new squad, but captain Branko Lazić will also show everyone how to fight for the team.

Corey Walden is an interesting player to watch too. Last season, he was good both in defense and offense in Partizan and it will now be interesting to see how he will adapt to coach Obradović’s tactics. The youngsters in Crvena Zvezda can bring energy and lack of fear against many famous names because they just want to prove they belong to the top level.

This team will definitely have lots of ups and downs. But, Saša Obradović is an ambitious coach and he will try to help the team sneak into Top 8. We will see if he will succeed or not.

Valencia

Valencia is the club that is trying to create a family atmosphere among the team, and it is working. They have ambitious goals, but, at first glance, they look like they are playing without pressure.

Newcomers will definitely adapt to their system. The coaching staff decided to keep the key players and inked Nikola Kalinić, Derrick Williams, Klemen Prepelić, Martin Hermannsson, and Jaime Pradilla. The club parted ways with Jordan Loyd, Brock Motum, Aaron Doornekamp, and Alberto Abalde.

Bojan Dubljević is the heart of the team and together with Sam Van Rossom, the great shooter with deep range and excellent defense, will help the others adapt to the family.

There is a black sheep in every family. And in this, the title will belong to Nikola Kalinić, who came to be an all-around threat to the opponents. He will bring a little bit of arrogance to the team by stopping star forwards in defense or taking the major shots in the offense. Together with his ex-teammate from Fenerbahce, Derrick Williams, is a big addition to Valencia.

For this team, the hardest part will be to reach the Top 8, because it will be their main goal if they want to stay in the Euroleague. Once they finish the regular season as the sixth or seventh squad, we can expect a lot of surprises from them in the playoffs.

Barcelona

Last season, Svetislav Pešić was the head coach of the team, but he was replaced by Šarunas Jasikevičijus, who decided to bring Nick Calathes from Panathinaikos, while Ante Tomić, Pau Ribas, Malcolm Delaney, and Kevin Pangos left the club. El Hadji Badio came in from the second team of Barcelona.

A power forward with unlimited shooting range and great character, Nikola Mirotić returns as the team’s leader. He will again make the difference with his determination, basketball IQ, talent and feel for the game. And, now, he has two ambitious editions.

First, Calathes is the player who will make all his teammates better by putting the ball in the right place at the right moment. And second, the coach is eager to become one of the few people who won the EuroLeague both as a player and as a coach.

The team will definitely make it to the playoffs and, if no one wants to shine more than the whole squad, they will probably finish the regular season as one of the first four teams, also earning the home-court advantage in the postseason.

ALBA Berlin

ALBA Berlin saw many newcomers join the team, headlined by Maodo Lo of Bayern Munich and ACB champion with Baskonia Jayson Granger.

On the other hand, several players left the squad, including Landry Nnoko (Crvena Zvezda), Makai Mason (Manresa), Tyle Cavanaugh (Tenerife), Kenneth Ogbe (Brose Bamberg), Martin Hermannsson (Valencia), Rokas Giedratis (Baskonia), Stefan Peno (Rasta Vechta) and Tamir Blatt (Hapoel Jerusalem).

ALBA Berlin will enter the Euroleague season with the hope of playing the great brand of basketball we saw last season. That means nice pick’n’roll action along with moving the ball fluently in offense and scoring a whole lot of points.

Head coach Aito Reneses has been the star of ALBA’s huge success the last few seasons, bringing the Berliners in a great position as an organization.

The strong backcourt of Peyton Siva, Lo, Granger and Marcus Ericksson is going to be fun to watch alongside a group of “long” forwards, such as Luis Olinde and Simmone Fontecchio.

ALBA Berlin will win games even against “bigger” opponents, but they are not expected to be anywhere close to the top-eight teams of the competition. However, Reneses’ team will at least be entertaining to watch. Especially, if they start cashing out threes early in a game.

*Jasmina Tatovic, Valia Pilianidi, Alexandros Tsakos and Yiannis Bouranis contributed to this article.

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