It’s been an up-and-down season for Jabari Parker, but he’s found a great groove over the last couple of weeks. Source: Angel Martinez/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
It’s been an up-and-down season for Jabari Parker, but he’s found a great groove over the last couple of weeks. Source: Angel Martinez/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

EuroLeague Preview: What to Expect and Who to Watch?

Basketball OlyBet 16.01.2024

Round 22 of the EuroLeague brings us nine thrilling matchups. To gain a better understanding of what to expect from these games and who to watch, sit back, relax, and delve into our preview of the round!

Anadolu Efes Istanbul vs. Barcelona (18 January, 19:30 EET)

Efes is on the up and up. In Round 21, they convincingly defeated Bologna Virtus, and although they have lost four of the last five games, the largest margin of defeat is only seven points.

The optimism is fueled by the fact that, broadly speaking, Efes is at full strength. The only absentee is forward Will Clyburn, but his return shouldn’t be far off. The American is one of the best players in the EuroLeague when he is healthy and would undoubtedly make Efes stronger.

If point guard Shane Larkin continues as the undisputed leader of Efes, the American has received essential support from a compatriot. In the last four rounds, Elijah Bryant has averaged 14.8 points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out three assists.

Barcelona is currently on the longest winning streak in the EuroLeague, winning all four games in the last two weeks. They managed to tilt all closely contested matches in their favor, and the previously shaky position of head coach Roger Grimau has stabilized.

In the ranks of the Catalan giant, former NBA player Jabari Parker is playing his best basketball of the season. The forward, in his first season in Europe, has scored an average of 16.5 points in the last four games, shooting an impressive 59% from beyond the arc.

Crvena Zvezda Belgrade vs. Baskonia (18 January, 20:00 EET)

Injuries are plaguing Zvezda’s backcourt. First, one of Europe’s biggest talents, Nikola Topić, fell out of the lineup. In Round 21 against Milan, Nemanja Nedović suffered an injury and is expected to return to the court in mid-February.

However, Zvezda hasn’t been idle, as they brought in Javontae Smart for the backcourt. The American, with 18 games of NBA experience, has played more in the G-League, where his stats were impressive. However, the 193 cm tall guard has not played in Europe before, and one should not expect too much from him, at least not initially.

Zvezda’s forward Rokas Giedraitis is in excellent form, scoring an average of 16.8 points and shooting 57% from the field in the last four rounds. In addition, the Lithuanian has grabbed six rebounds per game and will face his former team on Thursday, so motivation is not lacking!

Baskonia received bad news over the weekend when Chris Chiozza did not finish the domestic league game against Manresa due to a knee injury. While Chiozza is not Baskonia’s primary playmaker, he provides necessary rest minutes for Codi Miller-McIntyre, and at times, Baskonia’s offense has flowed better with Chiozza.

For Baskonia, center Maik-Kalev Kotsar has stood out in the last two games. Last week, the big man averaged 27 minutes and 30 seconds on the EuroLeague court, scoring 9.5 points, grabbing 8.5 rebounds, and making 2.5 steals.

Source: Aitor Arrizabalaga/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

ALBA Berlin vs. Bayern Munich (18 January, 21:00 EET)

ALBA continues with just four victories, but to their credit, it must be said that the players of the Berlin club fight hard and mostly stay competitive in the games. It is worth noting that three of their victories have come on their home court.

Bayern continues the fight for a spot in the play-in, being three wins away, but the situation is not hopeless. The season of Pablo Laso’s team has been marked by numerous close losses, but now the circumstances dictate the need to start winning.

The Munich club has some strengths that could be the key to success against ALBA. For instance, they are the league’s best team in rebounding, while ALBA allows 35 rebounds per game, a stat worse than only four other teams.

The dominance in rebounding brought results for Bayern in the first matchup between the two clubs, where they won 80:68 at home. The hosts won the rebound battle 49:17 and grabbed an impressive 20 offensive rebounds.

Additionally, Bayern is quite strong defensively, while ALBA ranks last in offensive rating in the EuroLeague.

Olympiacos vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv (18 January, 21:15 EET)

Maccabi’s performance is so inconsistent that it’s difficult to predict anything about them except that guards Wade Baldwin and Lorenzo Brown take a lot of shots. For instance, if one night they lose to Fenerbahce by 35 points, the next night they win against Virtus by 17.

Last season’s finalist Olympiacos is still grappling with a stuttering performance, having suffered two consecutive losses. While losing to Barcelona in a close match is understandable, struggling against Baskonia and conceding a deserved victory to the Spanish club raises concerns.

Maccabi has three major weaknesses: defense, where they collapse collectively and individually at certain times, stability, and individual efforts taking precedence over team offense.

For example, in the last four rounds, Brown has a shooting percentage of 41% from the field and commits three turnovers per game, while Baldwin’s corresponding numbers are 42% and 2.3. Considering that Olympiacos has strong defenders in the backcourt with Thomas Walkup and Isaiah Canaan, another challenging night awaits Maccabi’s stars.

However, Maccabi has shown at times, such as in Round 20 against Virtus, that they can play very good defense. This is crucial against Olympiacos, as they are not an exceptionally strong offensive team.

Virtus Bologna vs. ASVEL Villeurbanne (18 January, 21:30 EET)

With two consecutive losses dropping Virtus from the second to the third spot in the table, the summary of their last week can be described in one word: fatigue. Against both Efes and Maccabi, the Italian club seemed drained of energy, and winning was not an option.

A prime example is Virtus’ leader, Tornike Šengelia. While the Georgian player is having a strong season overall, in the two games last week, he averaged only six points, 2.5 assists, and two rebounds per game. His season averages stand at an impressive 15 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists.

It is, therefore, intriguing to see with what mindset and energy Virtus will face ASVEL. The club, which already has its third head coach of the season and is struggling with only four victories alongside ALBA at the bottom of the table.

Another shuffle at the helm seemed to work initially when ASVEL defeated Zvezda 100:91 in Round 20. However, a complete crash followed as they lost at home to ALBA by a significant margin, 63:88.

Truth be told, Virtus should have an advantage over ASVEL in every aspect, but if they fail to find freshness, the French club has the opportunity to surprise the Italians.

Source: Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Žalgiris Kaunas vs. Fenerbahce Istanbul (19 January, 20:00 EET)

Under the guidance of coach Andrea Trinchieri, who took over from Kazys Maksvytis, Žalgiris has won two out of four games. Last week, they secured a notable victory on the road against Valencia, defeating them 84:79 with a great solo effort from Keenan Evans.

Similar to several other clubs, Žalgiris is active in the market. Austin Hollins, who joined on a temporary contract on December 11, has left, and the team is now looking for a combo guard — a player capable of acting both as a point guard and a shooting guard. Unfortunately for Žalgiris, this is a type of player that many teams are eager to have in their ranks.

Fenerbahce, under the former Žalgiris head coach Šarunas Jasikevičius, has lost only one game in the EuroLeague during his tenure, indicating excellent form. The injury to forward Nigel Hayes-Davis may have put a dent in their momentum, but fortunately, they have a quality replacement in Dyshawn Pierre.

Interestingly, Žalgiris, which was strong at home last season, is now one of the weaker home teams. Out of nine games, they have won only three, while Fenerbahce has secured two consecutive away victories.

And why would the trends change on Friday? Under Trinchieri’s guidance, Žalgiris finds itself at the bottom of the statistical tables in both offense and rebounding, and defensively they are below average.

Monaco vs. Real Madrid (19 January, 21:00 EET)

This is indeed playing the same old record, but if Monaco remains so unstable, especially defensively, as they have been in the last two weeks, they won’t stand a chance to compete for the title. Mike James is undoubtedly a formidable player, but even he can’t shoulder the team and carry them to victory in every game.

Élie Okobo, who had a falling out with center Donatas Motiejunas and was temporarily removed from the team, should still be absent against Real, and although Jordan Loyd is available, his form is understandably poor as he recently came back from an injury break. All of this means that James’ burden and importance become even greater.

Panathinaikos Athens demonstrated in Round 21 how to effectively take James out of the game. Jerian Grant did an excellent job neutralizing him, and the team collectively performed well too. Panathinaikos’ big man stepped out after a screen, forcing James to pass and limiting his usual aggressiveness.

To enjoy success against the reigning EuroLeague champions, Monaco must play excellent defense from the very first second and maintain good energy throughout the entire game. Exactly as they did against Barcelona, whom they managed to defeat in the principality.

While Real has won a remarkable 19 out of 21 games, they are not having an overly easy time either. They no longer roll over opponents, and there are injury issues. For example, in the weekend’s domestic league loss to Murcia, centers Walter Tavares and Vincent Poirier, in-form scorer Džanan Musa, Sergio Llull, and Rudy Fernandez were all absent. At least, the forward Gabriel Deck returned, but against Monaco, having one center out of two is crucial!

Source: Christina Pahnke/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Panathinaikos Athens vs. Partizan Belgrade (19 January, 21:15 EET)

As Grant said after defeating Monaco, Panathinaikos has a good rhythm, and this is evident both on the court and in the standings. With four victories in the last five games, they have climbed to fourth place.

Although there was an opinion during the preseason that Panathinaikos would be a very strong offensive team, the reality is that they are one of the top dogs in defense. Panathinaikos has several individually good defenders, and their ability to switch on defense and cover gaps deserves praise. And they are not bad on offense either!

If Grant locked down both Larkin and James last week, on Friday, he sets his sights on Kevin Punter. The American, who can be unstoppable on a good day, has had an inconsistent season.

From Partizan’s perspective, a few things are crucial: center Bruno Caboclo must avoid getting into foul trouble and needs to cope with Mathias Lessort defensively. Lessort, a former Partizan center, had an almost perfect game against Monaco with an efficiency rating of 42.

They also need a much more significant contribution from power forward Zach LeDay. In the last four games, he has been on the court a lot but has only made 27% of his shots, averaging five points and four rebounds per game. This is far from sufficient!

Valencia vs. Milan (19 January, 21:30 EET)

The cliché says that true European basketball is when the score ends 59:58, and defense rules. This might happen on Friday night, as Valencia and Milan are among the best defensive teams, allowing their opponents to score 77 and 76.4 points, respectively. Only Olympiacos (74.8), whose Round 14 battle against Valencia ended with the Spanish club’s 63:56 advantage, has a better defensive record.

Although Valencia, under the guidance of Álex Mumbrú, is fighting for a playoff spot, their season is marked by numerous narrow losses. For example, in the last two weeks, they lost three out of four games, with the largest margin being ten points against Real, but that game went into overtime. With 13 rounds left before the end of the regular season, they must start winning, even if it means an ugly game!

Valencia’s point guard position raises significant questions. While Kevin Pangos is still finding form, Stefan Jović plays a crucial role in their smooth offense, but the experienced Serbian spends only 16 minutes on the court per game. Yes, Chris Jones is a very good player, but this season we have too often seen Valencia’s offense getting stuck with him, especially in crunch time.

Milan’s performances are very inconsistent, but against Valencia, several key players could make a return. Such as guards Maodo Lo and Billy Baron and forward Shavon Shields, who is the team’s second star alongside Nikola Mirotić.

By the way, Rodney McGruder should make his debut against Valencia. The 32-year-old American point guard, who has played in 327 NBA games, did not have eye-catching stats in North America, and to be honest, it’s challenging to see him significantly energizing Milan’s game right away.


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