Maccabi Tel Aviv begins their quest for European glory on Thursday night when they welcome in Partizan Belgrade in what will no doubt be a barnburner of a season opening matchup. Yellow-and-blue head coach Oded Katash will start his second campaign on the bench and will face his former coach and legend Zeljko Obradovic on the other sideline as the excitement reaches a crescendo at Yad Eliyahu.
However, Maccabi will be without Wade Baldwin who suffered a back injury that kept him out of the Winner Cup preseason final earlier in the week. That will no doubt be a huge loss to deal with should the injury keep the star guard out multiple weeks as his timetable to return is still in question.
Just before the season gets underway, let’s take a closer look at the 18 teams that will try and vie for the continental crown.
Maccabi Tel Aviv – The yellow-and-blue retooled over the summer in order to fine tune a roster that finished in 5th place last season and took Monaco to a 5th game in the quarterfinals as they just missed out on their first Final Four since 2014. With a solid core of Lorenzo Brown, Wade Baldwin, Bonzie Colson, Roman Sorkin and John Dibartolomeo all returning for Oded Katash’s squad a number of new faces were brought to help complement the club. Tamir Blatt returns home from ALBA Berlin and will be a critical newcomer to the side while sharpshooter James Webb also joined the club. Antonius Cleveland who won the league’s Slam Dunk contest comes over from Hapoel Eilat while big man Jasiel Rivero will also feature at Yad Eliyahu. Maccabi certainly hopes that the new troops will impact the team exactly as they expect the to do which would hopefully send them to Berlin in May and play in the Euroleague’s championship weekend for the first time in a decade.
Real Madrid – The defending champions under Chus Mateo didn’t do much to their roster as why would they have to after such a good season last year, but they still did make waves when when they brought back Facundo Campazzo after the guard had played with Red Star Belgrade following his time in the NBA with the Nuggets and Mavericks. Campazzo will join a roster that includes Dzanan Musa, Vincent Poirier, Mario Hezonja and Gabriel Deck to go along with wily veterans Sergio Rodriguez, Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez.
Monaco – The Principality’s team will look to take the next step after having punched their ticket to the Final Four last season. With most of the team coming back, Sasa Obradovic’s squad may have added the biggest name of the summer in former NBA All-Star Kemba Walker. The guard will make his first foray in Europe with the likes of Mike James, Jordan Loyd, John Brown, Alpha Diallo and Donatas Motiejunas anchoring the roster which also welcomes in Petr Cornelie from Real Madrid and Mam Jaiteh from Bologna.
Olympiacos – Last year’s second place team will once again be a threat to take home the big prize under head coach Georgios Bartzokas. While Kostas Sloukas shocked the Greek basketball world by moving to crosstown rivals Panathinaikos and Sasha Vezenkov left for the NBA, the team remains pretty much intact to try and take another run at European glory. Thomas Walkup who now has Greek citizenship, Isaiah Canaan, Kostas Papanikolau and Shaq McKissic are all back while Nikola Milutinov returns after a number of years outside of Athens, Ignas Brazdeikis comes over from Zalgiris and Luke Sikma moves to Greece from Alba Berlin.
Barcelona – Whatever one may remember about Barca from the past might as well wipe those memories out as a new look team under the direction of Roger Grimau will be trying to get over the hurdle that Saras Jasikevičius was unable to. The new bench boss will have a pair of former NBA players in Jabari Parker and Willy Hernangomez available as they will look to mesh with the likes of Tomas Satoransky, Rokas Jokubaitis, Nicolas Laprovittola, Nikola Kalinic and Alex Abrines while youngsters Joel Parra and James Nnaji will look to make an impact as well.
Partizan Belgrade – Legendary coach Zeljko Obradovic looked to take the next step with his club and made quite a splash by bringing in big man Frank Kaminsky from the Houston Rockets as well as Matuesz Ponitka from Panathinaikos. Together with Aleksa Avramovic who will look to make a big comeback this season along with Kevin Punter, Zach LeDay and PJ Dozier who moves to Europe from the NBA as well, Partizan will try and make waves in the continental competition.
Panathinaikos – The Athens based squad made wholesale changes across the board in order to compete once again for the top spot in the Euroleague. First off, former Anadolu EFES and 2X Champ and 2021 Coach of the Year Ergin Ataman was brought in to build a winner and with the signings that were made there is no doubt PAO will once again be a massive threat at the top of the standings. Juancho Hernangomez arrives from the Raptors, Mathias Lessort moves into the paint, Kostas Sloukas stunningly comes over from Olympiacos, Luca Vildoza joined from Red Star, while Konstantinos Mitoglou is back after a lengthy suspension, Ioannis Papapetrou returns from Partizan and Jerian Grant will play for his second Euroleague team after having ferried for Milano a couple of seasons ago.
Fenerbahce – Any team with Dimitris Itoudis at its helm is always in play to win the continental competition and that is yet the case once again. While Raul Neto signed from the NBA and won’t be available after suffering an injury at the World Cup, the Istanbul based team is loaded with firepower. Former Maccabi Tel Aviv guards Scottie Wilbekin and Tyler Dorsey are in the back court while Israeli star Yam Madar moves into the lineup from Partizan. Add in newcomer Georgios Papaginannis from Panathinaikos as well as Sertac Sanli from Barcelona and Johnathan Motley who begins his second season and one can easily see why Fenerbahce could finish at the top when the dust settles.
Middle of the Pack
Anadolu EFES – With head coach Ergin Ataman heading to Athens, Erdem Can will get his first shot as a Euroleague bench boss after having spent any years under the tutelage as an assistant of Zlejko Obradovic at Fenerbahce. This past season the Turkish bench boss was the head coach at Turk and will no doubt look to get the most out of a roster that includes the likes of Shane Larkin, Will Clyburn, Elijah Bryant as well as newcomers Darius Thompson who starred last season at Baskonia and Justus Hollatz who surprised many with a terrific World Cup.
Milano – Ettore Messina will take another stab at the Euroleague title as a majority of last season’s roster returning to the fashion capital of the world. But in addition to the likes of veteran big man Kyle Hines, Shavon Sheilds, Billy Baron, Nicolo Melli and Kevin Pangos, forward Nikola Mirotic joins the club from Barcelona, Alex Poythress comes in from Maccabi and guard Maodo Lo arrives from ALBA Berlin.
Bayern Munich – The German club mad a huge splash this summer by hiring former Real Madrid bench boss Pablo Laso who not only brings massive Euroleague success and experience but also a lot of know how with the ability to bring in some pretty good players to boot. Serge Ibaka moves from the Milwaukee Bucks to Munich while Carsen Edwards, Leandro Bolmaro and Sylvain Francisco all come on board to help Bayern make some noise this coming season.
Red Star – Dusko Ivanovic made a number of nice signings this summer as aging superstar Milos Teodosic returns back to his home country while Mike Tobey, Rokas Giedraitis, Joel Bolomboy, Adam Hanga and Shabazz Napier all come on board for the Belgrade based club. With Luka Mitrovic and Nemanja Nedovic returning Crvena Zvezda will always be dangerous.
Bologna – Just as head coach Sergio Scariolo was about to begin his third season at the helm, management decided to show the Italian the door and replace him with Luca Banchi and up and coming Lassi Tuovi as his assistant. While veterans Toko Shengelia, Daniel Hackett and Jordan Mickey are back in the saddle they are joined by Achille Polonara and Bryant Dunston who arrive from EFES along with Jaleen Smith from ALBA.
Baskonia – Joan Penarroya was almost on his way out of the club, but ended up remaining in his position together with one of last year’s top stars Markus Howard as well as Vanja Marinkovic, however, that may not be enough to surprise some and reach the postseason.
Valencia – Head coach Alex Mumbru begins his second season in charge of the Spanish squad as Chris Jones, Jared Harper and Victor Claver all return as veteran center Brandon Davies joins the team.
Zalgiris – Kazys Maksvytis returns to lead the Lithuanian squad after a successful season that saw the club challenge for a playoff spot. Many players are back including Keenan Evans, Rolands Smits and Lukas Lekavicius as Naz Mitrou-Long joins the team.
ALBA Berlin – Israel Gonzalez saw his club make some wholesale changes for the upcoming campaign as Sterling Brown arrives from the Los Angeles Lakers and Matt Thomas comes in from Panathinaikos. One player to watch is youngster Gabriele Procida who will have plenty of chances to impress.
Villeurbanne – TJ Parker returns for yet another season with the French club as budding Israeli star Noam Yaacov will have an opportunity to show his wares in Lyon. While Nanco De Colo is back along with Charles Kahudi and David Lighty, Paris Lee arrives as does Frank Jackson from the Utah Jazz.