The Finals of the Greek Basket League once again showed that the two Greek giants have to make many changes to their respective rosters, if they are to become the favourites to win the Euroleague title.
Panathinaikos beat Olympiacos in Game 5 on Sunday and won the series to become champions for 37th time in their history. The whole team dedicated this trophy to the legendary president, Pavlos Giannakopoulos, who passed away a week ago, at the age of 89.
Although Olympiacos had control of the game in the first half and were in front by four at halftime (31-35), the “Greens” turned things around and outscored their opponents 53-35 in the second half to earn the 84-70 victory and claim the title.
This was the second straight championship for Panathinaikos, whereas the “Reds” failed to win a title in all competitions (Greek Championship, Greek Cup, Euroleague) for a second straight season.
Both clubs knew that winning the Greek Championship was only a matter of prestige, as they both have guaranteed Euroleague contracts, while there is no remarkable revenue, in case they become champions.
The biggest disappointment in the series was that both teams played at low standards and all their drawbacks were exposed. Consequently, they proved they should work very hard during the offseason to rebuild their rosters and create top class teams if they are to fight for the Euroleague title next season.
The “Greens” showed they depend a lot on Nick Calathes’ performance. If their leader plays at very high standards, then Panathinaikos can beat any opponent, based on their run’n’gun playing style.
If the Greek guard fails to do so, then their offence becomes very predictable and plan B only includes many isolation plays and three-pointers, while there is no quick ball movement. Such a case was Panathinaikos’ performance in Games 1 and 4.
At the same time, their free-throw percentage was terrible, but it didn’t cost them the title eventually. However, coach Pascual has to work more on this aspect of the game, as free throws were the team’s biggest issue throughout the season.
Although the six-time Euroleague champions ended the season in a successful way, they have many problems to deal with in the offseason.
Their priority is to see Nick Calathes sign a new three-year contract with the club and retain his place as the undisputed leader.
Chris Singleton and Mike James will reportedly leave the squad and join other Euroleague clubs, while it’s still questionable whether Matt Lojeski, Lukas Lekavicius, Adreian Payne, Nikos Pappas, Ian Vougioukas and K.C Rivers will remain in the team.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Konstantinos Mitoglou and James Gist are under contract, so they have secured their place in the roster, while Kenny Gabriel is expected to leave the squad.
Coach Pascual will seek for two or three top class players that will make the difference in the backcourt and frontline, respectively, while they will be able to play alongside Calathes, making the team’s playing style more versatile.
The “Greens” have reportedly offered a multi-year contract to Olympiacos small forward, Ioannis Papapetrou, yet there has been no official agreement.
As we said, though, the club’s priority is to renew Calathes’ contract, because if the experienced guard leaves the squad, then coach Pascual will have to completely change his plans and build the roster in an entirely different way.
On the other hand, Olympiacos have to make tough decisions ahead of the new season.
The team couldn’t win a title in the past two seasons, so they now need to re-evaluate the situation and make the necessary changes that will enable them to return to the top of Europe.
Coach Giannis Sfairopoulos is expected to leave the club, as his contract expired, with Joan Plaza, Andrea Trinchieri and Velimir Perasovic reportedly being the main candidates to replace him.
The Greek coach did a decent job during his four-year presence in the club’s bench, however he couldn’t create a versatile playing style that would take advantage of the players’ strengths.
At the same time, he depended a lot on Vassilis Spanoulis’ pick’n’roll and shooting ability, although it was obvious the opponents could easily adapt to this play and prevent the “Reds” captain from making the difference.
The three-time Euroleague champions had to deal with injuries and chemistry issues throughout the season, which didn’t let them be at their very best in every game.
Almost every member of the roster missed, at least, one game, due to injury, while it became obvious that many of the newcomers didn’t fit to the tactics of coach Sfairopoulos.
Hollis Thompson, Brian Roberts and Jamel McLean had many ups and downs and couldn’t make the difference on both ends of the floor.
The same goes for Janis Strelnieks and Nikola Milutinov, although the Serbian center was sidelined three times during the season, due to injury.
Thompson has already left the club since May and only Strelnieks will certainly be a member of the roster next season. Roberts and McLean are expected to be let go, while Milutinov’s future is questionable, as he may join the San Antonio Spurs.
Olympiacos’ priority is to renew the contracts of Spanoulis and Kostas Papanikolaou, which expired, and the same goes for Ioannis Papapetrou, although Panathinaikos have offered him a multi-year contract.
Last but not least, co-captain Giorgos Printezis, Vaggelis Mantzaris and Dimitris Agravanis, who missed most of the season due to injury, are under contract with the club and will remain in the team.
The new head coach will need to formulate a new plan regarding the team’s playing style, yet it’s crucial for the squad to acquire players that can fit to the coach’s tactics.
The bottom line is that both Panathinaikos and Olympiacos should make many changes to their active rosters and sign players that can adapt to a more versatile playing style, which will be equally effective in both 5-on-5 situations and in transition.
Otherwise, I can’t see how the two Greek giants will have the opportunity to become equal title contenders in the Euroleague and remain competitive throughout the season.