The defending champions celebrated hard after winning the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague for the first time last season. After that, management took stock of the roster and added even more talent than before. Fenerbahce’s summer saw it bring in two All-EuroLeague performers in point guard Brad Wanamaker and forward Nicolo Melli. Jason Thompson arrives to bolster the champs in the paint, while Marko Guduric, who finished third in the voting for the EuroLeague Rising Star trophy last season, brings youth and scoring to the wings. Veteran playmaker Sinan Guler promises to be another versatile weapon in Coach Zeljko Obradovic’s backcourt.
Fenerbahce will have many options for ball-handlers with two players who were starting point guards in the EuroLeague last season, Brad Wanamaker and Sinan Guler, joining the returning point guard duo, Bobby Dixon and Kostas Sloukas. Each of the four brings something slightly different to the floor. Dixon led the EuroLeague in three-pointers made last season. Wanamaker showed he is a master of all trades; he can penetrate well, shoot effectively from downtown, set up teammates and is among the league’s best in steals, too. Three-time champion Sloukas, who is often most saluted for his leadership, set career highs in scoring and assists last season and is first entering the prime of his career. And Guler, a force at both ends of the floor, is likewise coming off a career-best season. With so much talent at the position, it is safe to expect Fenerbahce to play with two point guards on the floor at times. After a strong EuroLeague debut, swingman James Nunnally could have an even bigger role as a go-to scorer. Marko Guduric gives Fenerbahce another young scorer whose game may rise to the next level alongside teammates of Fenerbahce’s caliber. Three-point marksman Melih Mahmutoglu is another ace that Coach Obradovic can pull from his hand when needed.
An All-EuroLeague selection two seasons ago, Luigi Datome is not only one of the elite shooters in the competition, but he is also among the team leaders. The uber-athletic Jan Vesely is a force to be reckoned with at both ends of the floor. Just as important as his production is the momentum-shifting influence his thunderous dunks or high-flying blocked shots have on crowds and games. Newcomer Jason Thompson could be the perfect complement to Vesely in the paint. Nicolo Melli’s clever play at power forward will enable him to score from the low post or to find open teammates to pass to. Nikola Kalinic’s best two games last season came at the Final Four; his versatility and tenaciousness make Fenerbahce better whenever he takes the floor. Mobile center Ahmet Duverioglu adds depth in the paint and he, like Baris Hersek, will likely see more playing time in domestic competition than in the EuroLeague. The role of young forward Egehan Arna could also grow in his age 20 season.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Nikola Kalinic has been a part-time starter over his two seasons with Fenerbahce, but he’s been a full-time impact maker. Kalinic, who won’t turn 26 until November, is a coach’s dream because of his toughness, never-ending hustle and great basketball IQ combined with sweet outside shooting. He can guard multiple positions and – as his shooting number at last season’s Final Four attest to – will punish any team that leaves him open on offense. Kalinic may not be the most-gifted scorer on the squad, but he always finds ways to make the team better. As he enters his fourth EuroLeague campaign - and third with Fenerbahce, Kalinic, who has already become a crowd favorite in Istanbul, is on the verge of attaining star status as well.
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul starts the season with one of the strongest rosters in the EuroLeague. The champs bring back 10 players from last season and added to that a pair of current All-EuroLeague players. The squad’s depth and talent level will make it a tough team to beat. Coach Obradovic will have his work cut out for him in building chemistry with the five newcomers added to the team and the players will need to learn how difficult it can be to take the floor as defending champion. But after three consecutive Final Four appearances, all signs point to another deep run in the competition.