Can Fenerbahce qualify to the Final Four once again?

Euroleague
Euroleague

The painful loss to Olympiacos at Piece and Friendship stadium on Thursday night (95-70) showed that coach Zeljko Obradovic needs to change the team’s tactics in order to make the club the number one favourite to win the title.

With a 14-7 record, the Turks are now tied with the “Reds” in the standings (second place), with the Greek team having the upper hand, as they have prevailed twice over the defending champions this season.

So, the battle for the home-court advantage will become more intense, since only nine games have left until the end of the regular season.

However, this is only one of the issues that coach Obradovic needs to deal with, following the loss to Olympiacos in Piraeus.

Fenerbahce made one of their worst performances in the season and saw their five-game winning streak come to end, as only Bobby Dixon did his best to turn things around, ending the game with 24 points, on 6 of 11 from the three-point range.

Yet, his teammates played very badly on both ends of the floor and now have to work very hard to avoid suffering more painful defeats in the following games.

That said, what problems should coach Obradovic solve to ensure his team will start being consistent, both defensively and offensively?

The departure of Ekpe Udoh and Bogdan Bogdanovic

During the summer, Ekpe Udoh and Bogdan Bogdanovic decided to leave Fenerbahce and move to the NBA, joining the Utah Jazz and the Sacramento Kings, respectively.

The aforementioned players were two of the leaders last season and their performance was one of the keys that helped the squad win the Euroleague title for the first time in their history.

So, their departure meant the team had to cover their gap in the most effective way, however things haven’t been great so far.

With center Jason Thompson and forward Marko Guduric coming as their replacements, it was uncertain whether the void would be covered appropriately, so coach Obradovic decided to sign Brad Wanamaker and Sinan Guler, making the roster deeper and more talented.

However, it seems to me that the absence of Bogdanovic and Udoh is still obvious, as both players were game changers on both ends of the floor, with both Thompson and Guduric not being consistent so far.

More players need to step up

With the regular season coming closer to its end, coach Obradovic needs to make his players enhance their performance and help the team play at higher standards.

Until now, only six players have managed to be at their very best in almost every game, being the team’s leaders on both ends of the floor.

More specifically, Luigi Datome (9.5 ppg, 48.7% in two-pointers, 45.2% in three-pointers), Nicolo Melli (8.6 ppg, five rebounds, 55.3% in two-pointers, 35.8% in three-pointers), Kostas Sloukas (9.1 ppg, 44.7% in two-pointers, 31.5% in three-pointers, 5.2 assists), Jan Vesely (13.2 ppg, 59.6% in two-pointers, five rebounds), Wanamaker (13 ppg, 44.8% in two-pointers, 38.7 in three-pointers, four assists) and James Nunnally (10.4 ppg, 58.3% in two-pointers, 54.5% in three-pointers) all have a central role in the squad’s tactics.

The latter’s serious injury a month ago affected the team’s chemistry, as Nunnally was playing very well, especially offensively.

At the same time, Guduric (6.3 ppg, 66.7% in two-pointers, 35.6% in three-pointers), Thompson (5.6 ppg, 54.3% in two-pointers, 4.3 rebounds per game), Guler (2.3 ppg, 11.1% in two-pointers, 55.6% in three-pointers) and Melih Mahmutoglou (2.1 ppg, 40% in two-pointers, 30% in three-pointers) need to better adapt to the team’s tactics, while coach Obradovic has to deal with the injuries that key players have suffered so far.

More specifically, Nikola Kalinic (1.3 ppg, 33.3% in three-pointers) and Dixon (6.1 ppg, 31.6% in two-pointers, 50% in three-pointers) are still trying to find their place in the rotation, having missed many games, due to injuries.

Decent shooting percentage and great defensive performance, yet ineffectiveness in rebounds

Judging by the statistics, the defending champions shoot the ball very well and dish many assists as well, but they have problems in the defensive rebounds.

More specifically, Fenerbahce are fifth in the index rating (92.24), eighth in points (79.71) and fifth in the assists (18.9), whereas they are 12th in total rebounds (32.71) and 11th in the defensive ones (22.28).

Even though they have the second best defensive line in the Euroleague (conceding 73.5 points per game) and effectively protect their rim (3.19 blocks per game), they don’t make many steals (6.1 ppg), so they need to play more aggressively in their back-court line.

At the same time, they have one of the highest shooting percentages in the league (50.9%, third place), while their two-point (52.48%, eighth place) and three-point (41.09%, third place) percentage is equally high, which enables them to score easy points and make their opponents’ effort to stop them more difficult.

Last but not least, the defending champions are one of the best teams in the assist/turnover ratio (second place, 164.05%, 397 assists for 242 turnovers), but they should make fewer turnovers in every game (11.5, 11th place), if they want to go all the way to the end.

The difficult schedule

With five games at home and four on the road, Fenerbahce need to be very competitive so as to retain their place within the top four until the end.

Although the matches against Bamberg (home), Armani (home), Malaga (home) and Crvena Zvezda (away) are considered easy ones for the Turks, coach Obradovic and his players should be very careful to avoid any major upsets that may cost them the home-court advantage.

Concurrently, they will play against Real Madrid, Khimki and Zalgiris Kaunas on the road, while they will host CSKA Moscow and Maccabi Tel-Aviv, in a series of very difficult games that will determine whether they will end the regular season in a successful way.

Overall, Fenerbahce are still within the top four and one of the favourites to claim the home-court advantage in the playoffs and qualify to the Final Four, yet they should become more consistent in the next few games and ensure all the players are at their very best, with a series of very difficult games approaching.