Much has changed in Vitoria Gasteiz over the summer as Baskonia fully reloaded its roster and added players at every spot. First and foremost, a Baskonia legend is set to start his coaching career with two-time All-EuroLeague guard Pablo Prigioni taking the reins. Baskonia added two reliable point guards in Marcelinho Huertas and Jayson Granger, a scoring ace in Jordan McRae and an up-and-coming small forward ready to make noise immediately, Janis Timma. Baskonia also bolstered its frontcourt with Vincent Poirier, signed Patricio Garino and brought back two more players who were on loan, Luca Vildoza and Daniel Bordignon. With so many new faces, Coach Prigioni has a lot of work ahead of him to build his team's chemistry.
Prigioni was an elite point guard and carefully chose a pair of playmakers who will complement each other well. Huertas returns to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague ready to do what he does best. A pass-first playmaker, Huertas is also a reliable shooter, even in crunch time, and is back to impress Baskonia fans with his no-look passes and flashy style. Granger is a physical point guard who seems to get better every year. Strong and athletic, Granger is a defensive wall for opponents, but can score in many ways through his one-on-one skills. McRae arrives to the EuroLeague to make a difference on offense, though a shoulder injury will delay his debut. Garino and Vildoza provide intensity, energy and Baskonia's trademark character. Garino is an intriguing forward willing to do a little bit of everything to help his team win. Rodrigue Beaubois offers instant offense and on-the-ball defense.
Timma is a major addition for Baskonia and a great scorer at the small forward position. He has a quick first step but can also hit the outside shot. Timma will also help on the boards and give Baskonia energy at all times. Bordignon will fight for playing time at both wing spots. Under the baskets, Toko Shengelia and Johannes Voigtmann will be Baskonia's main references. Right at the prime of his career, Shengelia is a natural-born mismatch at the power forward spot due to his superb ball-handling, shooting range and ever-improving post skills. Voigtmann was one of the most positive surprises in the EuroLeague last season. The stretch big man is effective from all shooting ranges and also a very good rebounder and competitor who never gives up. Poirier adds size and rebounding skills, while Ilimane Diop is a rock on defense, a great shot blocker with outstanding timing. Prigioni can be sure his team can play with high intensity at all times.
PLAYER TO WATCH
After flying under the radar for many years, Timma could emerge as a EuroLeague star right away. At age 25, Timma has already built a great reputation in the 7DAYS EuroCup, where he has averaged 13.8 points over 38 career games with VEF Riga and Zenit St. Petersburg. Moreover, he did so with great shooting percentages (62.8% 2FG, 38.1% 3FG). Timma is one of the more-physical small forwards in Europe, but is also tremendously quick. He can drive to the basket to make the most out of his athleticism and also come off screens to look for advantages. He comes off a breakout season with Zenit (16.2 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 2.9 apg. in EuroCup action) and is set to surprise a lot of EuroLeague fans this year. As a plus, he will finally play with his great friend Granger after several summers working out together.
Baskonia made it to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four two years ago and reached the playoffs last year, but missed the chance to have home-court advantage after a series of late losses. Adjusting to the new format was an issue for every team, but Baskonia seems to have learned the lesson and has added strong, physical and athletic players at every position. Shengelia, Timma, McRae and Voigtmann are about to enter the primes of their careers and Baskonia relies on its two experienced point guards - plus a retired point guard as its new head coach - to keep the team competitive. Its initial goal must be returning to the playoffs, and if it makes it, to see where it stands at the end of another very competitive regular season.