Dzanan Musa (on the left) and Mario Hezonja are great friends, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they don’t share the locker room next season. Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Dzanan Musa (on the left) and Mario Hezonja are great friends, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they don’t share the locker room next season. Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Real Madrid and their inevitable rebuild

Basketball OlyBet 24.04.2024

It is highly likely that Real Madrid will undergo a major roster overhaul this coming summer.

This week, Vincent Poirier, Real’s center, spoke to the French basketball website Basket Europe about his possible contract extension and brought up a topic that hasn’t received much attention in European basketball media: Real is in for changes this summer.

By now, it’s clear that the 39-year-old Rudy Fernandez is hanging up his sneakers after the season, and according to Poirier, thoughts along the same lines are seriously crossing the mind of the soon-to-be 38-year-old Sergio Rodriguez. Not much younger are also the 36-year-olds Sergio Llull and Fabien Causeur, the former turning a year older in November and the latter in June. Moreover, there have been talks in Spain that Causeur will most likely leave the club in the summer.

According to Poirier, Real has nine players whose contracts expire at the end of this season. In addition to those mentioned earlier and the Frenchman himself, one of the significant figures in this situation is Mario Hezonja. The Spanish outlet Marca reported in February that although Real wants to keep the Croatian, he has rejected several contract offers because he’s dissatisfied with the offered salary and his role within the team.

Hezonja’s close friend and another forward, Dzanan Musa, signed a 2+1 contract in the summer of 2022, with the Bosnian not obliged to fulfill the last part if he returns to the NBA. Allegedly, both Hezonja and Musa are considering a move to North America, but they also have plenty of suitors in Europe, with the Croatian strongly linked to Panathinaikos Athens and his buddy to Partizan Belgrade.

The contract of the legendary giant Walter Tavares is also coming to an end. Real has been trying to reach an agreement with the African for over a year, but the center has not put pen to paper, and last summer, it was rumored that the 32-year-old Tavares wants to return to the NBA. If he doesn’t have a valid contract this summer, crossing the pond could be much easier and cheaper for a potential suitor.

As for Poirier, it seems he doesn’t want to leave Real. In the interview with Basket Europe, the center said that since he has a young son, he wants stability, Madrid is a nice city, the club’s infrastructure is excellent, and he wants to win titles. Poirier might as well have said, “Please, please, please offer me a new contract!”

A stark contrast compared to last year

Last summer, Real made only a few moves in the player market. Anthony Randolph, Nigel Williams-Goss, and Adam Hanga left the club, and Facundo Campazzo was acquired, who had served in the Spanish ranks for years before he went to the NBA and signed with Crvena Zvezda Belgrade after that chapter ended.

Although this summer will see changes for Real, it cannot be said that they will undergo a complete overhaul. Campazzo stays, and among notable players, Gabriel Deck and Guerschon Yabusele have a contract. But if it turns out that Rodriguez retires and Tavares, Hezonja, and Musa depart…

Tavares, Hezonja, and Musa are key players for the team. Rodriguez may not be in his prime, but, for example, in last season’s EuroLeague playoffs, he played fantastically, and the Spanish veteran will probably be in good form this season as well.

In other words: Real isn’t facing the potential loss of role players like Williams-Goss, Hanga, and Randolph. They’re facing the potential loss of a significant portion of the team’s core.

Let’s assume the darkest scenario for Real comes true, and they don’t have Rodriguez, Tavares, Hezonja, and Musa next season. Finding two replacements wouldn’t be much of a problem.

Nunez as a replacement for Rodriguez

For years, Juan Nunez, who is just 19, has been talked about as possibly the most talented point guard in Europe. His career trajectory is different from the usual, as he left Real in 2022 to get more playing time at a high level. While Spain’s big talents generally stay at home, Nunez moved to Ulm in Germany.

When talking about Nunez, one cannot ignore his high basketball IQ. Watching Ulm or Spain’s national team games, one wouldn’t realize he’s just 19 because his game is so mature. Of course, there are childish mistakes here and there, but even players ten years older than him make them.

Offensively, Nunez is most dangerous in the pick-and-roll game. On one hand, he’s an excellent passer who loves feeding his teammates, on the other hand, he’s a decent shooter who isn’t afraid to drive to the basket and can finish well thanks to his strong frame and great skills.

Defensively, Nunez benefits from his size for a point guard, which helps him cover various positions when switching on defense, pick up plenty of steals, and force opponents’ guards into tough shots.

Considering Real’s rotation and Nunez’s quality, he could easily play around 15 minutes as a backup point guard to Campazzo in the EuroLeague.

Sirvydis as a replacement for Musa

The 203 cm tall small forward managed to shine at Lietkabelis Panevezys in the EuroCup this season. In 16 games, Sirvydis averaged 18.9 points, which was the league’s best. Particularly impressive was the Lithuanian’s shooting accuracy: his two-point percentage was 61.4 and three-pointers 42.3. Moreover, he is an above-average free-throw shooter, also averaging 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.

For a tall player, Sirvydis has excellent ball handling skills and is a great one-on-one player. However, he has had issues with turnovers, as he averaged 3.2 in the EuroCup, which was the league’s third-worst.

Sirvydis suits Real well because he’s a very similar player to Musa.

Who to replace Hezonja and Tavares with?

If Real wants to replace Tavares one-for-one, they virtually have no options because how do you replace a 221 cm tall center who is fantastic defensively and whose mere presence on the court massively affects opponents?

True, Tavares isn’t the only such player at the top level in Europe. Olympiacos has Moustapha Fall, but he’s tied to the Greek club until the summer of 2027. If Tavares leaves, it’s highly likely that he’ll be replaced by a different type of center.

In any case, it’s clear that Real needs a new big man. Poirier could easily stay and even play the starting center role, but currently, Chus Mateo’s third choice among his players is Eli Ndiaye, who is only 19 and more of a power forward.

Replacing Hezonja is easier for Real than Tavares because although he’s a very good player, he’s not fundamentally unique in his profile. The player who has spent five seasons in the NBA is an excellent shooter and a good rebounder.

For example, if Real faces Hezonja’s departure, they could aim for Semi Ojeleye. He’s slightly shorter, but an extremely physical player, and his statistics in shooting and rebounding are similar to the Croatian’s.

Furthermore, if ALBA Berlin gets a EuroLeague A license, there’s a high chance that Ojeleye’s current team Valencia won’t continue in the top tier of European basketball next season, but the American is worthy of a place in the EuroLeague.


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