Reigning 7DAYS EuroCup champion Unicaja Malaga has added plenty of depth and veteran presence to the squad for its return to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Of the six new faces, four of them have significant EuroLeague experience. Unicaja got bigger and stronger close to the baskets with a pair of big men in James Augustine and former EuroLeague champ Giorgi Shermadini. On the perimeter, the team added more options with sharpshooter Sasu Salin and do-it-all forward Dragan Milosavljevic could be one of the team's most important pieces. Unicaja's new playmaker Ray McCallum is a EuroLeague newcomer as is young guard Mo Solouade, who re-joined the team after spending last season on loan.
Unicaja looks like a team that will have plenty of scoring options in the backcourt and will be as dangerous from long distance as any team in the competition. McCallum will share point guard duties with last season's EuroCup Finals MVP, homegrown point guard Alberto Diaz, and combo-guard Nemanja Nedovic. The ability of two of these three players to be together on the floor at any time will give Coach Joan Plaza many options and create even better looks for snipers like Salin or Adam Waczynski or wingers like Daniel Diez or Milosavljevic. Already a dangerous three-point shooting team, Unicaja got even more dangerous with Salin. His career 26.1% three-point shooting average in the EuroLeague will fool you, as the shooting guard is one of the more dangerous marksmen on the continent and hit 47.4% of his three-point attempts in the last EuroCup campaign. The character of Milosavljevic, a glue guy who always puts team first, and the development of Diez and Waczynski could make this group a handful for many opponents.
Unicaja retained the majority of its frontcourt from last season, which should help this unit jell quickly, and even the two new pieces, James Augustine and Giorgi Shermadini, have plenty of experience to fit in and do so quickly. Even though center Dejan Musli was an All-EuroCup selection last season, Unicaja got him company inside with Augustine and Shermadini, who have proven track records of success both in main roles and off the bench. This trio of centers will have help in the paint from big forward Jeff Brooks and Carlos Suarez, who are active on the glass, but also possess the ability to spread the floor with their three-point shooting, which will also be of great importance for Unicaja. Meanwhile, young big man Viny Okouo will look to build on his experience from last season.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Young point guard Alberto Diaz had his coming out party last April, when he capped Unicaja’s memorable EuroCup run by earning EuroCup Finals MVP honors. Now, Diaz returns to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague where he already has one full campaign under his belt, and even though he did not yet leave a big mark, that experience is invaluable for what he expects, and what could be expected of him, this season. Still only 23 years of age, Diaz is certainly one of the top young point guards in the game, one who certainly got a great boost of confidence last season. With the obvious commitment that the club made by inking him to a multi-year deal this summer, the stage is set for Diaz to make another jump and become a big factor on weekly basis for Unicaja among the very elite of European basketball.
A feature for 15 seasons on EuroLeague floors, Unicaja wasted no time in finding its way back to the competition. Unicaja has always been a tough opponent, especially on its home floor, and this Coach Joan Plaza squad will be no different this season. The team definitely has the pieces to play tough defense, but enough versatility, playmaking and size to keep up on offense, too. With important core players from last season back in uniform, Unicaja will look to carry over the momentum that would certainly make this another fun and memorable season for all of its fans.