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Euroleague 2020/21 Season Preview – Does Maccabi have enough firepower to win it all?

Dov Halickman Photography

The 2020/21 Euroleague season is upon us as 18 teams will vie for continental glory beginning on Thursday. The league returns after being on hiatus since the outbreak of the coronavirus in March as they will attempt to complete the 34 game regular season as playoffs across 10 different countries over the next eight months with the Final Four slated to be played in Cologne, Germany.

Just before tip off, between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Alba Berlin let’s take a look at the teams that make up this year’s competition starting with the contenders.

Maccabi Tel Aviv was in the midst of one of their best continental season’s in quite some time and punched their ticket to the playoffs before the coronavirus halted the league and the yellow-and-blue’s campaign in their tracks and Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad will have a couple of new faces in the lineup. After Deni Avdija headed to the United States in preparation for the NBA Draft as center Ante Zizic comes the other way from the Cleveland Cavaliers to join Maccabi and team up in the paint with veteran big man Othello Hunter. In addition to Zizic, former Maccabi forward Dragan Bender who had been playing in the NBA also returned to Europe on a short term 3-month deal with the yellow-and-blue bolstering the front line even more. All-star guard Scottie Wilbekin will be back as will Tyler Dorsey, Elijah Bryant, Yovel Zoosman, Angelo Caloiaro, Sandy Cohen, John Dibartolomeo and Omri Casspi. New recruits include guard Chris Jones and Oz Blayzer who comes over from Rishon Le’Zion. There may still be some more changes as it’s still possible that Quincy Acy and Amare Stoudemire will return to Israel.

Anadolu EFES will be back and better than ever under coach Ergin Ataman. Shane Larkin who has arguably been the best player in Europe over the past couple of seasons is back for the Turkish based club while Bryant Dunston, Krunoslav Simon Vasilije Micic and Rodrigue Beaubois return to try and take another run at glory.

Barcelona may have made the biggest splash in the offseason by adding not only Nick Calathes in the back count but by also bringing in a new coach in one Saras Jasikevicius. Nikola Mirotic, Victor Claver Brandon Davies, Cory Higgins and Adam Hanga are all back as Barca will look to make a lot of noise come May.

CSKA Moscow will be in the mix once again as Coach Dimitris Itoudis tries to defend the title he won back in 2019. Mike James will once again power the offense alongside Will Clyburn and newcomers Tornike Shegelia and Nikola Milutinov.

Milano and Coach Ettore Messina also made some wholesale changes to the squad with the addition of big man Kyle Hines, Luigi Datome, Malcolm Delaney, Kevin Punter and Zach Leday. They’ll join Sergio Rodriguez, Michael Roll and Jeff Brooks as the Italian side will look to improve on a disappointing campaign last year.

Real Madrid is once again a threat to take the title with oodles of talent at coach Pablo Laso’s fingertips. Facundo Campazzo returns for the time being but may be off to the NBA within a few months, however the Argentinian will once again control the tempo for as long as he remains with the club. Anthony Randolph, Sergio Llull, Jaycee Carroll, Fabien Caseur, Felipe Reyes and Rudy Fernandez all return while Nicolas Laprovittola may earn a bigger role should Campazzo indeed depart for North America.

Teams to watch:

Alba Berlin under coach Aito Garcia Reneses will once again have captain Niels GIffey back along with Peyton Siva, Luke Sikma and up and coming talent Jonas Mattisseck as Jayson Granger and Maodo Lo join the team.
Bayern Munich and coach Andrea Trinchieri looked to bring in some new blood as Malcolm Thomas, Nick Weiler-Babb, Jalen Reynolds and Wade Baldwin join TJ Bray Vladimir Lucic and Nihad Dedovic.

Baskonia who won the ACB League title this past June under Dusko Ivanovic will try to recreate their domestic success with Luka Vildoza, Pierria Henry and Zoran Dragic along with newcomers Rokas Giedraitis and Tony Jekiri.

Fenerbahce has a new coach in Igor Kokoskov who will count on veterans Nando de Colo and Jan Vesely to handle the on court play after losing numerous players during the offseason.

Khimki will once again rely on all star Alexey Shved to supply the scoring while Rimas Kurtinaitis’s squad will also have shooters Janis Timma and Sergey Monia at his disposal.

Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas brought in Kostas Sloukas from Fenerbahce to bolster the team which features Kostas Papanikolaou, Georgios Printezis and veteran Vassilis Spanoulis. A player to watch will be Aleksej Pokusevski who may be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft in November.

Panathinaikos will have Gerogios Vovoras at the helm of the Athens based squad which saw quite a few new faces sign with the club. Marcus Foster who starred last year with Hapoel Holon, Pierre Jackson, Nemanja Nedovic, Zach Auguste and Howard Sant-Roos all join the team in what was a total overhaul to the roster.

Valencia and coach Jaume Ponsarnau added a number of players to upgrade the squad as Nikola Kalinic, Derrick Williams and Martin Hermannsson join the likes of Bojan Dubljevic and Mike Tobey as they look to improve on their surprise campaign last season.

Pretenders

ASVEL will have TJ Parker, the brother of team owner and former NBA star Tony Parker in charge of the French squad which will feature former Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Norris Cole and budding youngster Matthew Strazel.

Red Star has a new coach in Sasa Obradovic and will look to surprise some with his Belgrade based squad as NBA Champion Jordan Loyd joins the club along with Langston Hall and Corey Walden.

Zalgiris has a new man in charge and it’s Martin Schiller who will have Thomas Walkup, Nigel Hayes and Steve Vasturia along with locals Lukas Lekavicius and Paulius Jankunas.

Zenit St. Petersburg coach Xavi Pascual will have guard Kevin Pangos running the show along with KC Rivers, Billy Baron and Arturas Gudaitis to rely on as the Russian squad will look to improve on last year’s showing.

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