Fenerbahce have made some strong moves in this off-season in a bid to not only win back the Turkish Basketball League crown but to also scoop the Euroleague jackpot next May in Berlin. And with the team being assembled by coach Zeljko Obradovic thus far, it’s a safe bet that when the Final Four rolls around, the royal blue seats inside the Mercedes Benz Arena will see a section filled with yellow and navy.
But instead of travelling to the German capital and hypothetically witness your heroes lose their two games, like they valiantly watched two months ago in Madrid, if Obradovic gets his players on the right page early and they advance to the Final Four, with the squad of proven Euroleague winners that they have, then Fenerbahce can be considered potential favourites.
Here are three big reasons why they can win the Euroleague this season:
A TEAM OF PROVEN WINNERS THAT STARTS FROM THE BENCH
Zeljko Obradovic is the Euroleague’s most acclaimed playcaller and one of the world’s most respected coaches. An eight-time Euroleague winner with four different clubs, as well as a two-time Coach of the Year, not to mention a collection of domestic trophies and medals that would need its own mansion, let alone a room – the Serbian tactician’s record and achievements makes him basketball’s answer to Sir Alex Ferguson.
One of Obradovic’s key skills during his coaching career has been his ever growing reputation, and knowing which players would fit his system. This season, he has signed up two highly skilled players coming out of the NBA in Pero Antic and Gigi Datome. Both should find their way into the starting five and both can put up solid stats; Antic can give you 8-10 points plus a physical presence inside, while Datome has a lethal baseline jumper along with deceptively quick footwork at both ends.
You also have to consider the players that are retained … Bogdan Bogdanovic will look to have a bit more freedom around the perimeter with the same being said for Jan Vesely, as Antic’s defensive capabilities will give the Czech high-flyer a bit more room to focus on being even more of an offensive threat. Obradovic will want Vesely to be a menace on D, but he has more options.
A potential starting five of: Vesely, Antic [maybe Nikola Kalinic, if signed], Datome, Bogdanovic and possibly Pinar Karisyaka’s Bobby Dixon [Ali Mohammed] with Emir Preldzic, Ricky Hickman and maybe Nikos Zisis off the bench would be formidable.
THEY TASTED THE FINAL FOUR, NOW THEY WANT MORE
In 2010, Partizan Belgrade surprised the majority of Euroleague fans by reaching the Final Four in Paris with few thinking that maybe this could be a re-emergence of a one-time European powerhouse.
Of course, we were wrong, but just on a Euroleague level.
Fenerbahce though are a Euroleague A-Licence team and are part of a sporting brand. The club name is part of a Turkish culture with the sporting club boasting teams in football, handball, volleyball, athletics and table tennis amongst others. So once a member of a sporting department performs well, the owners look to invest in it.
Buying these big names is a statement of intent from Fenerbahce. They want Euroleague success, as well returning to the top of the mountain, domestically.
It also helps to have a major Turkish food product in ‘Ulker’ that distributes its produce to over 110 countries, worldwide as a title sponsor.
A POINT TO PROVE
Pero Antic and Gigi Datome might have signed two and three-year deals respectively but when these two step out onto the hardwood in October for their first Euroleague game of the season at home to Bayern Munich, the two ousted NBA players will look to show the teams playing stateside exactly what they missed out on.
Antic found his way into the Atlanta Hawks rotation in his two seasons there and averaged decent numbers, finding himself in the starting five as well.
Stats via Wikipedia (confirmed as accurate by NBA PR, 14/07/2015)
While Datome’s career had former NBA and Ukraine coach Mike Fratello’s seal of approval but never really took off as he spent two unhappy seasons with the Detroit Pistons before moving to Boston.
“I think Datome is going to be an excellent player, he’s a combination of a four, but he’s a three,” Fratello said during Eurobasket 2013, before Datome landed in Detroit.
“He can dribble the ball, he can make the pass, and he can shoot from the three-point line. I think he’s very team-orientated, so I have a great deal of respect and admiration for him. I like how he plays.”
Question is: Will Fenerbahce be a Turkish delight, or a disaster?