The last time a Parisian club played in the EuroLeague was in the 1997/98 season, when the French capital was represented by PSG Racing. Source: Imago Images
The last time a Parisian club played in the EuroLeague was in the 1997/98 season, when the French capital was represented by PSG Racing. Source: Imago Images

Meet the best basketball team not playing in the EuroLeague

Basketball OlyBet 12.04.2024

21 wins out of 22 games – Paris Basketball has had an astonishing season in the EuroCup and although it doesn’t guarantee the title, the triumph of the French club is very likely.

Paris is facing another French club, Bourg, in the EuroCup finals and won the opening game 77-64. On the evening of April 12, the capital club’s title could become a reality if they manage to outperform their opponents on the road.

Paris’s EuroCup season’s only setback so far was the November battle against Besiktas Istanbul in the regular season, which they lost 63-68. However, the defeat was no disgrace, as the Turkish club eventually made it to the top four, where they were defeated by Bourg.

Winning the EuroCup would catapult Paris into the prestigious EuroLeague, marking a remarkable ascent for a club formed just in July 2018. But their success isn’t merely a result of financial backing. Here are some compelling reasons why Paris stands out as a successful and remarkable club.

Players adore the coach

Sometimes, a player and coach develop such a good rapport that when the coach leaves, he wants to take the player with him. Last summer, the European basketball market witnessed something very rare when Paris head coach Tuomas Iisalo took seven players from his previous club to the French capital. That’s half the squad!

Following Iisalo, who had worked in Germany for a long time and was crowned a Champions League winner with Bonn in 2023, were this season’s EuroCup’s most valuable player T. J. Shorts, guard Sebastian Herrera, forwards Collin Malcolm, Tyson Ward, and Mikael Jantunen, and big men Michael Kessens and Leon Kratzer.

At the beginning of the season, Shorts explained in an interview with Eurohoops that Iisalo makes his players better both on and off the court. “You see how much he puts in, and it’s almost like you want to pay him back for what he has invested in you. From myself, last year I felt I was playing my best basketball, so it was almost a no-brainer in terms of continuity. He has been putting into me the belief, the self-development, and all the stuff that goes into basketball, being comfortable in the situation to know when I come into a new place, new league, new country, I can still be myself: the person he recruited and developed up until this point.”

Paris’s project is interesting also because the team is quite young. While in the EuroLeague, we’re used to clubs being led by players around 30 years old or older, Iisalo’s team has only two players over 30: Bandja Sy and Kessens, who don’t play a leading role.

Interestingly, nearly half of the players who have played for Paris in the EuroCup are 26 years old. There are younger ones too, as the starting forward Jantunen is 23, and the second highest scorer after Shorts, guard Nadir Hifi, is only 21.

Iisalo has laid an extremely strong foundation in Paris because a large part of the team knows what he wants and helped other players get used to the demands of the 41-year-old Finn at the beginning of the season. If they were to rise to the EuroLeague, there wouldn’t probably be a complete overhaul of the team, as Shorts, Hifi, Malcolm, Ward, and Jantunen would still play a significant role.

An offense that takes your breath away

In their 22 EuroCup games so far, Paris has averaged 97.4 points. Their offensive rating – how many points the club scores per 100 possessions – is a whopping 127.9, which surpasses both the EuroLeague (120) and the NBA’s best (123.1).

Paris has been like a machine this season, and three other elements from the statistics are worth highlighting: they have shot 62.5% on two-pointers, grabbed 11.7 offensive rebounds per game, and dished out an average of 19.9 assists.

Although Paris’s offense has rightfully received a lot of attention, Iisalo doesn’t see it as the foundation of their success. That would be the defense. “Defense is the one thing that separates great teams from good ones,” he told the EuroCup website.

Truth be told, Iisalo, along with his assistant coaches, has built a well-oiled machine in Paris that works smoothly both on offense, defense, and in rebounding. If the Finn gets a few more million euros in the budget and a summer to work extensively with the players, we might see a team in the new EuroLeague season capable of giving everyone a headache.

By the way, in the French championship, Paris is second with six rounds left before the end of the regular season, trailing Monaco by four wins with one less played game. Paris is closely followed by another EuroLeague club, ASVEL Villeurbanne, and Bourg, who both have one win less than Paris.

Paris has played four games against EuroLeague clubs Monaco and ASVEL this season, winning two and losing two. In other words, they would’ve probably already been able to at least somewhat compete in the EuroLeague this season.

Valuable agent zero

Although teamwork is certainly one of the keys to Paris’s success, Shorts individual performances cannot be overlooked. The American, who represents North Macedonia on the international stage, has averaged 17.8 points and 7.4 assists per game in the EuroCup, with just 1.7 turnovers.

Standing at only 175 cm tall, Shorts had already risen to become one of the most remarkable players in the lower European club competitions last season in Bonn. He could have joined a EuroLeague club last summer but chose to continue with Iisalo.

Growing up idolizing NBA star Chris Paul, Shorts’ rise is all the more gratifying considering that there was never any interest in him. “No college wanted me, no club wanted me at the beginning of my professional career. Those things will always stay with me,” he said. By the way, the number 0 on Shorts’s jersey represents the number of college offers he received, which still gives him plenty of motivation.

Wants to be more than just a basketball club

Paris plays its home games at the Porte de La Chapelle Arena, also known as Paris Arena II. The indoor arena can accommodate up to 8000 spectators for sporting events, but in the EuroCup, an average of a couple of thousand people has attended their battles. However, the first finals game against Bourg brought in a full house.

Despite modest attendance numbers, Paris is making a lot of effort to popularize both basketball and the club itself. For example, in the summer of 2019, NBA stars James Harden and Donovan Mitchell wore their merchandise. Paris’s CEO Mathias Priez has told the French media how their products are sold in New York, and they aim to create a brand bigger than the basketball club itself.

A few seasons ago, Paris grabbed attention when they hired Sheck Wes to play in the second-tier league in France. He’s not a basketball player but a rapper, best known for his hit song “Mo Bamba” which is about the NBA center of the same name.

Standing at 188 cm tall, Wes played in three second-tier league games for Paris, where the club didn’t lose once, and the rapper scored four points, grabbed two rebounds, and had one assist to his name.

Paris’ connection with the States extends beyond players. The club was founded by David Kahn and Eric Schwartz, with Kahn having worked in various roles in the NBA for years.

When creating a club in one of Europe’s biggest cities, the Americans’ goal wasn’t merely to win the EuroCup. They aimed for the EuroLeague, and with Iisalo and Shorts leading the way, they are just one win away from achieving their mission.


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