The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague regular season enters its final three weeks of action with a lot to be decided - which four teams will have the home-court advantage in the playoffs and which other five squads will join CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid and Olympiacos Piraeus in the playoffs. All three qualified teams lost last week, showing how competitive the new regular season has become. Madrid could not beat Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens in the Greek capital, Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul upset Olympiacos on the road and Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz prevailed against CSKA, adding to a great sports rivalry between both teams. The race to reach the playoffs is as tight as ever. Anadolu Efes Istanbul used a great second half to down Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv 92-87, Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul defeated FC Barcelona Lassa 67-56 and Zalgiris Kaunas got a good-as-gold road win in Kazan, 80-82. Add that Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and Fenerbahce Istanbul recorded respective road wins and you have the complete picture.
And finally, for the first time in a big while, I had a good week in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge. My team Meet the Boss had an all-around solid performance and finished the week 508th overall with 185.8 points. That allowed me to climb over a thousand spots in the overall standings to rank 8,843rd. All I need to do is to keep my momentum going. Trades worked really well, including Round 25 MVP Paulius Jankunas of Zalgiris, and I got solid contributions all around. Nothing to complain about! I just hope to keep it going and do even better in Round 27. By the way, since this is a back-to-back week, I will add all possible trades between Rounds 27 and 28 at the end of this blog entry, just as I did in the past.
So, how do I improve this team? Three trades are allowed in each round until the end of the regular season, when unlimited trading will take place throughout the playoffs. I am going to sell Shane Larkin of Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz just because it is never easy to play in Bamberg. Larkin had a good game - 15 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists - against Brose Bamberg in Vitoria but truth be told, I want a different point guard and Sergio Llull of Real Madrid is a must for me right now. I am also selling Georgios Printezis of Olympiacos Piraeus because his team plays on the road against Crvena Zvezda, where only a few players have great PIRs. Needless to say, Printezis will be back soon. Finally, I am selling Derrick Brown because I expect that game between Anadolu Efes and Zalgiris Kaunas to be very intense, with a lot of rebounds.
OK, that means I have to sign one point guard and two big men. Let's start with the point guard - Bobby Dixon of Fenerbahce. Maccabi struggled against Jayson Granger and Thomas Heurtel last week, and that opened my eyes to sign Dixon, who is seeing a lot of playing time without Kostas Sloukas. The fact that Bogdan Bogdanovic will not be around has opened the possibility of having three Fenerbahce players. Usually, I am not up for it but I will make an exception this time by buying Ekpe Udoh, too. Udoh is pure fantasy gold due to his effectiveness on offense, rebounds and blocked shots. You cannot really go wrong with Udoh, and I expect Dixon and Luigi Datome to do well on offense, just like they did against Bamberg. Last but not least, I am replacing Brown with his teammate Bryant Dunston just because I think the game fits him better. I expect a defensive, intense game in which Dunston should help his team in many, many ways.
I may be wrong, so let's find out. This is my Round 27 lineup...
Sergio Llull - The one and only! We have a Spanish Clasico coming up, so Llull will try to do his best in front of his fans.
Bobby Dixon - No Sloukas, no Bogdanovic? No problem for Fener, as Dixon proved against Bamberg with a career-best effort.
SHOOTING GUARDS AND SMALL FORWARDS
Sylven Landesberg - Comes off a very good game. Landesberg is stepping up for injured Andrew Goudelock, scoring a lot.
Nando De Colo - Another solid game for Monsieur De Colo, one of the top candidates to fight for the MVP title, again.
Luigi Datome - Played really well in Bamberg, especially when Bogdanovic went down. Expecting more or the game against Maccabi.
Chris Singleton - Another great move last week. Singleton is reaching his best level in the most important games.
POWER FORWARDS AND CENTERS
Ekpe Udoh - King Ekpe is back to reclaim his throne as the best Fantasy Challenge big man this season. Really, really solid.
Bryant Dunston - I just think it is a better fit than Derrick Brown for this game against Zalgiris. We will see!
Paulius Jankunas - Round 26 MVP, for the first time in his career! Will he keep it going? I really hope so!
Diamon Simpson - Will stay in my team until he is not underpriced. The easiest way to earn credits right now - signing him.
Watch out! The next deadline is on TUESDAY, March 21 at 18:45 CET. And the next one, on THURSDAY, March 23 at 18:30 CET! Make sure you trade before those deadlines, as the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge continues, all season long until the end of the playoffs! Good luck!