October 5th marks the start date of the EuroLeague, the strongest basketball club competition in Europe. The season ahead promises to be highly balanced and exciting once again, so in order to prepare for all the action, OlyBet.TV takes a look at the upcoming season and makes some predictions.
Are there any significant changes to the rules?
Similarly to the world’s strongest basketball league, the NBA, the EuroLeague also has its own Play-In Tournament now. The best six teams of the regular season are guaranteed a place in the playoffs, but the last two spots will be determined among the teams that finish the regular season as 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th.
The seventh seed of the regular season will meet the eighth seed in the Play-In Tournament, and the winner of the two will face the second seed of the regular season in the playoffs. However, it is not impossible for the loser to still reach the quarterfinals, as this team will meet the winner of the ninth and tenth-seed duel. The winner of that game will meet the regular season leader in the playoffs.
Who will win the EuroLeague?
There is close competition for the top spot, but the number one favorites are the defending champions, Real Madrid, who will face the season with an essentially unchanged lineup. A few role players have left, while Facundo Campazzo was brought in as the main playmaker and the only addition. He is an Argentine who first joined Real back in 2014 and has won two EuroLeague titles with them.
There is a lot of quality and depth at the Spanish royal club. If Campazzo is not at the top of his game, legendary veteran Sergio Rodríguez, who was fantastic in last season’s playoffs, can take over and conduct the attacks. Under the basket is the dominant center, Walter Tavares, who flirted with the NBA in the summer. Meanwhile, the second fiddle for the center position is Vincent Poirier – a Frenchman who would be a solid star player in many EuroLeague clubs.
There’s also plenty of choice at the remaining positions: Gabriel Deck, Guerschon Yabusele, Džanan Musa, Mario Hezonja, Fabien Causeur, Rudy Fernández, and Sergio Llull are all big men in EuroLeague terms who can swing the game for Real.
Yes, there are still deep teams, but the consistency and quality of Real are something that no one can beat. Fortunately, the winner is not decided on paper but on the basketball court.
How is Baskonia doing?
During the summer, some essential pieces left the club, represented by the Estonian national team members Maik-Kalev Kotsar and Sander Raieste. Up until the beginning of the season, Baskonia’s performances on the court have been really up and down. At times, they’ve been awful, at times – great.
It is clear that in the previous season, Baskonia managed to excel in the EuroLeague, but even that was not enough to reach the quarterfinals. Given that several of the clubs that finished behind them have improved a lot after a disappointing season, in all fairness – it’s hard to see them finishing in the top eight this year. However, no one should write off Baskonia because their attack packs the firepower that can carry them far. It is also important to note that compared to last season, they should be more physical and much better in defense.
Baskonia could aim for a place in the Play-In Tournament. A place among the top eight would be self-surpassing but not an earthquake-like shock.
Will NBA men make it in Europe?
During the summer, the EuroLeague clubs acquired more than ten players from the NBA, among them stars as well. For example, the four-time NBA All-Star Kemba Walker and Serge Ibaka, who was among the top defensive players for many years across the ocean, joined Monaco and Bayern Munich, respectively.
There are many question marks regarding many players who came from the NBA and whether or not they can set the tone in the EuroLeague. But there are also those for whom it seems quite obvious. The best example is probably the Spanish brothers Willy and Juancho Hernangómez, who now wear the jerseys of Barcelona and Athens Panathinaikos, respectively.
Willy Hernangómez is one of the best centers in Europe, who also shone in national team basketball when he was chosen as the most valuable player of the European Championship (which ended with Spain’s victory) last year. His brother has also been outstanding in the team at times, and since he is mainly a player without the ball, his adaptation to the EuroLeague could be easier than it could turn out, for example, for Walker or Frank Jackson, the defender who joined ASVEL from Villeurbanne.
Will the sleeping giant finally rise?
Six-time EuroLeague champion Athens Panathinaikos last reached the quarterfinals in 2019. The Greek giant played among the top four 11 years ago.
For the new season, however, they’ve splurged like there’s no tomorrow and ultimately managed to assemble a very famous team. Kostas Sloukas, Luca Vildoza, Juancho Hernangómez, and Mathias Lessort are names that need no introduction to European basketball fans. As well as the head coach Ergin Ataman, who, according to himself, is a three-time (two-time in the history books) EuroLeague champion.
On the last day of September, Panathinaikos got to see for themselves that names on paper don’t necessarily mean much when they lost 51:75 to their arch-rival Olympiacos in the final of the Greek Super Cup. During the first half, Ataman’s wards scored only 11 points and at one point, the score was 32:4!
However, in terms of the EuroLeague, one terrible game means nothing. Panathinaikos seems to have all the puzzle pieces to return to the top of Europe, however, putting together a 1000-piece puzzle is much more difficult in practice than in theory.
Perhaps we will get a clearer picture of Panathinaikos’ abilities already this Friday when they play Olympiacos in the opening round of the EuroLeague. A definite defeat would set off alarm bells, but a close match, even if it ended in defeat, would show that the incident with Olympiacos’ was more of a random blunder.