Instead of looking toward a transition season after the retirement of icon Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens has reloaded its roster at almost every position. All-EuroLeague First Team center former champ Ioannis Bourousis now mans the middle, working with his partner from last season, non-stop guard Mike James. Another former EuroLeague champ, shooter K.C. Rivers, and a reigning one, forward Demetris Nichols, are also on board for the Greens. And bit man Chris Singleton, who brought his team to last season's Final Four, rounds out a roster upgrade aimed at sending the Greens to the playoffs - or further - for a seventh consecutive season.
The Greens have a natural leader in point guard Nick Calathes, who has won both the EuroLeague and EuroCup and been the latter's MVP. His new running mate, James, will add speed and aggressiveness to complement a solid trio of experienced wingers in Rivers, Nikos Pappas and James Feldeine. The born shooters among them are Rivers and Feldeine, but none of the others can be ignored: they are merely more dangerous on the dribble. Youngsters Eleftherios Bochoridis, Michalis Lountzis, Georgios Kalaitzakis and swingman Vassilis Charalampopoulos, especially, will all get their opportunities to show they are the future for Panathinaikos.
A pair of long-serving and accomplished fan favorites, always-electric James Gist and veteran shooter Antonis Fotsis, are surrounded now by a deep group of frontcourt partners. Bourousis is the marquee edition after exploding as the competition's best rebounder and fifth-best scorer last season. He'll get plenty of help from Singleton, who showed he can take over games in his EuroLeague debut, and from Nichols, who had big moments the last couple of seasons for champion CSKA Moscow. Last but not least, dirty-work forward Pat Calathes has returned to join his younger brother Nick after they had also spent the 2011-12 season together for the Greens.
PLAYER TO WATCH
After posting the best numbers of his EuroLeague career last season, Bourousis is the only true center on Panathinaikos and therefore the player around whom much will revolve. Fortunately for the Greens, he can do it all on offense: score, pass with the best at his position, step out for three-pointers and bury his many free throws at a high rate. On defense, he is merely ranked second among EuroLeague players this century in both rebounds and blocks: enough said. No EuroLeague player has more consecutive seasons in the competition than his 14, but Bourousis is still just 32 and showed beyond all doubt last season that his skills and experience are at their peak. Winning a EuroLeague title two years ago with Real Madrid inspired Bourousis and he got Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz unexpectedly close to that goal last season. Now, he and Panathinaikos seek to get back to the mountaintop together.
Head coach Argiris Pedoulakis – who led the Greens between 2012 and 2014, as well – returns to the club with a lot of weapons and experience at his disposal. A largely veteran roster with balance between shooters, scorers, defenders and rebounders should make for flexible lineups that let the Greens counterpunch against other teams' strengths. The schedule is a relentless parade of top opponents, whether home or away, but Panathinaikos has done exactly what the doctor would order for such a challenge: load up on experienced, winning players with a variety of talents. That depth could prove the key to sending the Greens back to their accustomed heights.