Olympiacos BC: The rebuilding process continues

Photo: Euroleague

The departure of center Khem Birch, who is expected to join the Orlando Magic, as well as the acquisition of Jamel McLean, who will be the Canadian player’s replacement, shows there will be more changes to the squad’s roster ahead of the new season.

Although they reached Euroleague’s Championship Game for the fifth time in the last eight years, the “Reds” ended the season in a disappointing way, as they lost the domestic title to Panathinaikos Superfoods in Game 5 (2-3).

Therefore, almost half of the active roster’s players were let go, with only co-captain, Giorgos Printezis, and Vangelis Mantzaris signing new contracts with the squad, whereas Birch, Daniel Hackett, Matt Lojeski, Patric Young, Giannis Athinaiou, Erick Green and Dominic Waters left the team.

On the other hand, Brose Bamberg’s guard, Janis Strelnieks, Baskonia’s power forward, Kim Tillie, and Tenerife’s center, Giorgos Bogris, joined the three-time Euroleague champions in order to strengthen their back-court and front-line, respectively.

Photo: Euroleague

In addition, two more players (a point guard and a combo guard) are expected to sign with the club, while center Nikola Milutinov’s future still is in doubt, since the San Antonio Spurs want to sign him, with the deadline expiring on July 20.

That said, what exactly coach Giannis Sfairopoulos has in mind regarding the team’s playing style?

It seems that the Greek coach wants to make some changes to his tactics in order to help his squad become more aggressive, especially offensively.

Although he will certainly focus on once again making his players be excellent defensively (as the “Reds” had the league’s best defensive line last season), Sfairopoulos’ main target will be to rapidly enhance the club’s performance in 5-on-5 and pick’n’roll situations.

Last year, most players (like Kostas Papanikolaou, Lotzeski, Green, Ioannis Papapetrou) were very productive in transition and (in) fast breaks. Concurrently, this was their main offensive plan, as all the players were able to adapt very well to that playing style.

However, every time the “Reds” couldn’t effectively run the floor and Spanoulis was on the bench or out of shape, Olympiacos’ tactics were very predictable. Consequently, they depended on either a decent three-point percentage or Printezis’ great post-up game in order to score points.

That said, Sfairopoulos now wants to create a series of plays that will enable his players to execute very well in 5-on-5 situations as well as have quick and good ball movement.

And that’s why the club acquired Strelnieks, Tillie and Bogris (who has significantly improved many aspects of his game, during his presence in Spain), who are very effective in pick’n’roll situations, while the Latvian guard and the French power forward shoot the ball very well from beyond the arc, too.

Photo: Euroleague

What remains to be seen now is whether the squad will acquire two high-quality players that will further strengthen its back-court line.

Sfairopoulos wants to sign two players that will offer instant scoring as well as dish out assists, while they will also have Euroleague experience and great motivation to help the team reach its goals.

The Greek coach made the decision to make many changes to the active roster, following the disappointing loss to Panathinaikos at “Peace and Friendship Stadium”, which cost his squad the Greek championship.

Moreover, some players played so badly in each of the five games that Sfairopoulos had no other choice, but to let them go, as he believed they couldn’t make the difference on both ends of the floor.

That said, the three-time Euroleague champions have their sights set on acquiring an impressive point guard, however there are not many top-class options available in Europe.

With Aaron Jackson, Erick McCollum and Stefan Jovic rejected Olympiacos’ offers,  Jayson Granger seems to be the ideal player that can cover Hackett’s gap.

But, it’s still uncertain whether the Greeks will offer him a contract or not, as Sfairopoulos now focuses on signing one of the players that have taken part in this year’s NBA Summer League.

Certainly, though, this decision is considered a high-risk one, given that the player will play at the top level for the first time in his career and may have difficulties in adapting to a completely different playing style.

So, the “Reds” coach and executives should be very careful and acquire a guard that will help them be more dangerous offensively as well as solid defensively.

Overall, Olympiacos will probably adopt a different playing style to the one they had last year, yet the acquisition of the two guards (the second one will act as the supporting cast) as well as the roles’ distribution within the team will determine whether the Greeks will start another Euroleague season as the favourites to go all the way to the end.