Vassilis SPANOULIS / Wade BALDWIN / Will CHERRY
Brandon PAUL / Kevin PUNTER
Kostas PAPANIKOLAOU / Mindaugas KUZMINSKAS
Georgios PRINTEZIS / Sasha VEZENKOV
Nikola MILUTINOV / Augustine RUBIT / Ethan HAPP
Coach – Kemzura Kestutis
Last season we watched the weakest EL season of Olympiakos in the last 10 years. The injuries are some kind of justification, but Olympiakos seemed really hopeless at times. The Spanoulis – Printezis base along with Milutinov, who has established himself as one of the best classic fives in EL, has not given up this time either. Paul and Punter were brought in to be shooters, but they are just that, not assistants. Kuzminskas will try to revive his career alongside the once great Papanikolaou.
The position of playmaker is the biggest problem since Billy is no longer in that class, and Baldwin’s professional career has not been exactly a success so far. In our humble opinion, Will Cherry has never been an EL caliber. Rubit is a great, combative and powerful moving high player, and similar to Happ with just a little less finesse. Olympiakos has been synonymous with F4 until recently, but for starters it would be good if they somehow managed to get into the Playoffs as this is not guaranteed in this kind of competition. Let’s not forget that this year they will not have the “luxury” of playing in the Greek Championship. Quite a bit of a season for OLY all in all, so let’s see if they are once again capable of the surprise effect that they have given us in previous years.
PANATHINAIKOS OPAP ATHENS
Nick CALATHES / Tyrese RICE
Jimmer FREDETTE / Nikos PAPPAS / Rion BROWN
Wesley JOHNSON / Ioannis PAPAPETROU
DeShaun THOMAS / Ben BENTIL
Georgios PAPAGIANNIS / Jacob WILEY / Ian VOUGIOUKAS
Coach – Argyris Pedoulakis
PAO has been making interesting moves lately, so after a brief hiring of Rick Pitino, who had a team not good enough for anything other than a routine outburst at the playoffs. They decided to return to Pedoulakis and put together a pretty strong team on paper. This should no longer be a team that depends heavily on Calathes, because as good as he is, he’s not so good at putting the team at the top. Very good Fredette, great athletes Johnson, Bentil and Wiley will add attractiveness to the team that really missed it. We’ll see Rice again in EL, where he belongs, but will he settle for a supporting role?
There is a lot of offensive potential here, however, PAO always produced results with defense. There is excellent defensive potency here too, especially on center and power forward position. This is a very interesting squad that could get involved in the fight for F4, because only Real, Barca and Fener on paper are objectively stronger, while CSKA, Efes and others will have to prove it on the floor. Role-sharing will be important. But PO should be achievable, as the first goal.
Facundo CAMPAZZO / Nicolas LAPROVITTOLA
Sergio LLULL / Jaycee CARROLL / Fabien CAUSEUR
Jeff TAYLOR / Rudy FERNANDEZ
Anthony RANDOLPH / Gabriel DECK / Felipe REYES
Walter TAVARES / Jordan MICKEY
Coach – Pablo Laso
The only team we’re sure will be in Koln in May is Real. Not only are they extremely strong, but they are together for a long time as a team, and as such are packed with championship material. They brought reinforcements to positions that were weak, Mickey is a more attractive and younger option than the not very attractive Ayon, and a back up combo is an ideal position for Laprovittola. Campazzo has imposed himself as a boss, and Llull seems to be playing a more prominent role in these years. It will depend somewhat on Randolph’s form, but Deck proved to be a pretty decent option at the quarterback position, long worn by Reyes and a few years ago by Nocioni.
Tavares has been used in the right way and instills in teammates that every shot to the basket will be even more difficult. The rest of the players are specials, perfect for their roles. There is no philosophizing here, Real is the main favorite this season as well, and if they were to play 3 games, only Barca and Fener could get ready for them. Like this, there’s always a chance for a bad day on F4.
Sam VAN ROSSOM / Quino COLOM
Jordan LOYD / Vanja MARINKOVIC
Joan SASTRE / Alberto ABALDE / Fernando SAN EMETERIO
Maurice NDOUR / Brock MOTUM / Louis LABEYRIE
Bojan DUBLJEVIC / Mike TOBEY
Coach – Jaume Ponsarna
We have already learned that there are no secrets in the EuroCup for Valencia and that EL is the right measure for them. However, here are just one of the teams that will be in the fight for the playoffs and they are not among the favorites in that race despite the deep roster. Frontcourt should be competent at this level as well, but the backline is performing poorly against most of the competition.
Valencia has players of similar quality in most positions, so there will be problems with how to divide the roles. La Fonteta is a hot pitch, however, they will also have to defeat direct rivals on the side to satisfy their appetites, as this is not an EL-only club that works to correct the difference. They are among the mediocre, but they are very attractive as a team and iyuyetno nice. The ability to score three points in a series will be quite important.
Lukas LEKAVICIUS / Alex PEREZ / Rokas JOKUBAITIS
Marius GRIGONIS / Thomas WALKUP
Edgaras ULANOVAS / Arturas MILAKNIS
Nigel HAYES / Paulius JANKUNAS
Zach LEDAY / Jock LANDALE / Martinas GEBEN
Coach – Sarunas Jasikevicius
When we thought that going to the F4 in the 2017/18 season was just an exception, Saras and the team left all the favorites behind them, with a fantastic finish to last season’s league, and fiercely resisted Fener in the playoffs. That is why we must not write them off even now, although the team does not scare away rivals on paper.
Lekavicius and Grigonis are homegrown options with plenty of experience, and we’ll see what Perez, a recent Banvita playmaker, can do in this competition.
At the end of the day, the names change, but Zalgiris always has a plan for how to play, and it consists of looking for a missmatch. A solid defense that has no received hair after a 1-on-1 game, and a lot of pikenrol. Although the quality is only the third EL level, they are always potential dark horses that I would type as a pleasant surprise.
ZENIT ST PETERSBURG
Andrew ALBICY / Alex RENFROE
James HOLLINS / Dmitry KHVOSTOV / Evgeny VORONOV
Mateusz PONITKA / Tim ABROMAITIS
Will THOMAS / Andrey ZUBKOV / Vladislav TRUSHKIN
Gustavo AYON / Colton IVERSON
Coach – Joan Plaza
Zenit is an outsider that many don’t see in playoff combinations, but there are plenty of seasoned players out there who won’t let the system crash. After all, Joan Plaza is a big name in European basketball as well. The top five is very solid, but the bench is one of the thinner ones in EL. Position 2 is modestly covered and dependent on at this level unproven Hollins. The big question is who will be the lead scorer here, probably Thomas or Ayon, however, they are not big numbers players or have such habits. This is a team that could go a long way in the EC, but EL is a different world.