Maccabi Tel Aviv began their Euroleague campaign last night in Athens against Panathinaikos and will look to get back to the top of the European basketball world for the first time since 2014 when they last won the continental competition. Let’s take a look at all of the teams that will chase European glory this coming season.
Maccabi Tel Aviv: Head Coach Neven Spahija has brought in some new blood to supplement the roster this season. NBA veterans Tarik Black and Johnny O’Bryant make their first foray overseas while EuroCup champion, Scottie Wilbekin, Angelo Caloiaro and Kendrick Ray join Michael Roll, Jeremy Pargo, Alex Tyus, Jake Cohen, defensive player of the year DeAndre Kane and captain John Dibartolomeo. Rounding out the roster are three promising Israelis, Yovel Zoosman and Deni Avdija who were on this summer’s Under-20 European Championship team as well as Nimrod Levi who had a breakout year at Ashdod.
Real Madrid: The defending champions will be without Luka Doncic who moved to the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA, but Pablo Laso still has a team chocked full of stars. Sergio Llull who was injured most of last season is back at full throttle while veterans Rudy Fernandez, Gustavo Ayon, Anthony Randolph, Facundo Campazzo and Jaycee Carroll will be relied upon to make up for last season’s MVP.
Fenerbahce: The Istanbul based team won it all two years ago but will now have to retool it’s roster after losing Brad Wanamaker and James Nunnally to the NBA. Zeljko Obradovic has brought in Tyler Ennis and will also have super shooter Kostas Sloukas, Jan Vesely, Luigi Datome and Nicolo Melli at his disposal which will means that Fener will again be a force in Euroleague play.
Olympiakos: Israeli-American David Blatt takes over the reins at the Piraeus based team as he moves from Turkey to Greece to again look to take home the coveted prize. All-time Greek great Vassilis Spanoulis as well as Georgios Printezis and former Gilboa/Galil forward Zach LeDay will be key players for the finer NBA Coach. Don’t be surprised to see Blatt’s squad in the Final Four which will be played at Baskonia in May 2019.
Panathinaikos: Xavi Pascual has retooled the Greens of Athens bringing in a number of new players including Deshaun Thomas who was with Maccabi last season as well as Keith Langford one of the most prolific scorers in European basketball who plied his trade with Rishon Le’Zion last season. Add to that returning veterans Nick Calathes and Thanasis Antetokoumpo and up and coming star Konstantinos Mitologou and PAO has a roster to be reckoned with.
Zalgiris: Sarunas Jaskevicius was not only a great player but has also become a great coach. The benchmark for success has been set after taking the Lithuanian side to the Final Four last season. Edgaras Ulanovas and Paulius Jankunas will have a heavy load to carry as star guard Kevin Pangos and Axel Toupane left for greener pastures. However, never bet against “Saras” he always knows how to motivate his troops like no other coach.
CSKA Moscow: Head Coach Dimitris Itoudis is back after a disappointing end to last season, falling in the Euroleague semifinals to eventual champion Real Madrid. However, with Nando de Colo, Sergio Rodriguez, Will Clyburn and Kyle Hines, CSKA will always be a threat to take it all.
The middle of the pack:
Barcelona: Svetislav Pesic has some new faces on his roster including Kevin Pangos and big man Chris Singleton. Add to the mix Adam Hanga and Thomas Heurtel and Barcelona may sneak into the top 8.
Baskonia: Wily veteran coach Pedro Martinez did a superb job after coming into Baskonia early on last season and will want to build on his success as Tornike “Toko” Shengelia, sharpshooter Matt Janning and Jayson Granger will lead the squad.
Khimki Moscow: Georgios Bartzokas has a star in one Alexey Shved and when you have someone who starred in the NBA and for the Russian National Team to go to battle with, you’ll always be in the running. Hands down, Shved is the top scorer in Euroleague play.
Milano: Former Hapoel Jerusalem coach Simone Pianigiani begins his second year on the sidelines for the Italian outfit. Newcomers Mike James, Jeff Brooks and Nemanja Nedovic join holdovers Curtis Jerrells, Mindaugus Kuzminskas and Arturas Gudaitas as Pianigiani looks to make it to the Playoff Round of the competition.
Bayern Munich: Mostly known for their football club, Bayern looks to make a dent with their large fan base in the basketball realm. Dejan Radonjic will rely on Derrick Williams, Devin Booker and Danilo Barthel to supply the goods for the German team.
Anadolou Efes: Veteran Turkish boss Ergin Ataman has built an interesting squad which sees NBA veteran Shane Larkin returning to Europe to join a backcourt with Rodrigue Beaubois while Bryant Dunston and James Anderson will also provide the power and scoring.
Buducnost Podgorica: Aleksandar Dzikic’s team entered the Euroleague thanks to winning the Adriatic League with a victory over Red Star Belgrade. French guard Edwin Jackson will be the leader of the pack for the Montenegrin based club.
Darüşşafaka: Yet another team from Istanbul makes its way into the top continental league thanks to winning the EuroCup tournament. With Scottie Wilbekin leaving for Maccabi, Ray McCallum was brought in to fill the void for Coach Ahmet Caki.
Gran Canaria: Thanks to their semifinal appearance in the Spanish league, the island side makes its debut in the competition. Salva Maldonado will have an interesting job to say the least as DJ Strawberry, the son of former major baseball player Darryl Strawberry will try his best to keep Gran Canaria competitive.
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel Sports Adventures for tourists and residents http://sportsrabbi.com/
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