Experts Round Table: Round 1

Oct 12, 2017 by Euroleague.net Print

Welcome to the Experts Round Table, where we ask a variety of the most knowledgeable Turkish Airlines EuroLeague followers across the continent their opinions on the topics of the day. This week's panel includes: Luca Chiabotti, the long-time expert-in-residence at La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy; Semih Tuna, from Eurohoops.net Turkey; Antonis Kalkavouras of Gazzetta.gr in Greece; Joe Arlauckas, former EuroLeague champion and Euroleague TV commentator; and Frank Lawlor, Editorial Director at Euroleague Basketball. Check out their opinions on top signing, favorite title team and newcomer to watch here at the start of the 2017-18 season!



1. Who was the best off-season player signing?

Luca Chiabotti, La Gazzetta dello Sport

It's too easy to say Sergio Rodriguez, the 2014 MVP and maybe be the best player to help CSKA after the loss of Milos Teodosic. But I believe that the key move in the EuroLeague was Brad Wanamaker going to Fenerbahce. The EuroLeague champions faced a mission impossible to find a new Bogdan Bogdanovic. Wanamaker has improved his game year after year, challenge after challenge, and now could be the perfect timing for him to join the higher level with the top coach in Europe. It won't be easy, but Wannamaker has everything to become a top European player.

Semih Tuna, Eurohoops

Even one year without him was enough to miss Sergio "El Chacho" Rodriguez. The best possible player to replace Milos Teodosic has joined CSKA in a crucial move for the machine-like organization to keep thriving. Besides playing alongside a combo guard like Nando de Colo, who doesn’t need the ball to be productive, Rodriguez will maximize the explosive attributes of Will Clyburn. Considering his amazing knowledge of the game, Rodriguez's scoring skills seem lost in the background sometimes, but he can count by threes when his shooting is in rhythm. Another maestro is back to take Teodosic’s place!

Antonis Kalkavouras, Gazzetta.gr

I am between three players from the two Greek teams: Matt Lojeski, who was let go from Olympiacos and signed by Panathinaikos; Marcus Denmon, who is a rookie in the EuroLeague and seems that he could play a major role with the Greens; and Janis Strelnieks, who came from a mid-level EuroLeague team, Brose Bamberg, and looks ready for a breakout season with the Reds. I will choose Strelnieks, because the Latvian combo-guard has the experience and also will get the playing time he needs to show that he can really contribute at the highest level.

Joe Arlauckas, EuroLeague Ambassador

All eyes will be on Moscow as the season starts, because that's where Sergio Rodriguez is and as we all know, he's a whole lot of fun to watch. A former MVP of the EuroLeauge and gifted basketball magician who knows how to win titles is teaming up with the CSKA juggernaut. How can you not be excited to see this? What I am hearing, too, is that El Chacho's motivation level is off the charts. At 31 years old, he's in his prime, and I think he's a perfect fit for CSKA. That makes for a prime-time combination between club and player. Watch out!

Frank Lawlor, Euroleague.net

It will be fascinating for true basketball lovers to see Nicolo Melli playing for Zeljko Obradovic at Fenerbahce. Melli is unique in many ways as a big man who does that job but also plays like an extra guard. He doesn't run the fastest, jump the highest or shoot the sharpest. He just does all of them well, plus he has a true knack of always being in the right place at the right time. Melli fills in a lot of blanks for any team, but with the best coach in the business using him, imagine the possibilities!

 



2. Which team is the favorite, right now, to win the title?

Luca Chiabotti, La Gazzetta dello Sport

After big changes in many rosters, I think that the ranking season won't be so different compared to the last one. I believe that Fenerbahce is the favorite team to win the Euroleague, despite the loss of two of the best players in the league. Coach Obradovic's system, the hard work put in last seasons, the return of key players with winning attitude, and new faces like Wanamaker, Melli, Guler and Thompson are good reasons to believe that. Maybe not to start the season, but for sure at the end, Fener will be at the top.

Semih Tuna, Eurohoops

Fenerbahce, despite the fact that they've lost players like Ekpe Udoh and Bogdan Bogdanovic, both of whom played the crucial roles in the team's EuroLeague title. With five new additions, almost all of whom can contribute significantly, the team has a deeper rotation. Competition for court time will be stronger, which will make the team better. The No.1 coach in Europe, Zeljko Obradovic, has an everlasting passion for winning. Each season is a new challenge. With their huge roster, which can adapt to any system of modern basketball, the reigning champs are the favorites for the title.

Antonis Kalkavouras, Gazzeta.gr

It is very early to consider a team as a clear favorite to win it all, but given the fact that CSKA Moscow will not have to face any serious injury, I think that the Russian team has the quality, the depth and the upside to dominate this season. Even though they lost the offensive maestro Milos Teodosic, a key factor of their success in the recent years, the additions of Sergio Rodriguez and Will Clyburn guarantee a smooth transition to the new season and could keep the Russians one step ahead of their opponents.

Joe Arlauckas, EuroLeague Ambassador

CSKA Moscow. When a superstar like Sergio Rodriguez is so pumped up to be with your team AND he is the kind of player that makes teammates better, that lifts everyone up. And I don't need to tell you that CSKA doesn't need to be lifted much higher than it goes already, every spring. Plus they added Will Clyburn, Othello Hunter and Leo Westerman. The leaders are there in Nando De Colo, Kyle Hines and Victor Khryapa. They never miss a Final Four, so you know they won't be satisfied without taking the trophy. They've got all the ingredients and motivation necessary. Right now, I think they can make it to the podium.

Frank Lawlor, Euroleague.net

My rule is always that the champs remain the champs until someone knocks them off. At the same time, it’s rare to repeat as EuroLeague champion, just once every 10 years, on average, in the Final Four era. The only team to have done so this decade is Olympiacos Piraeus. The runners-up in two of the last three seasons know that their system works when everyone believes in it. They have leaders without question, young guns, new talent and stability up and down the bench. If the Reds can stay healthy, I like their chances this season.

 



3. What new player could most surprise EuroLeague fans?

Luca Chiabotti, La Gazzetta dello Sport

It's too hard to imagine how new players coming from the NBA – or better, from the benches of the NBA – can react to having major roles in the EuroLeague. It's too early to judge, so I choose Jordan Theodore, the new point guard in Milan. He's a Euroleague rookie, but was probably one of the best Americans in Europe last season, outside the main competition, yes, but in the tough Turkish national league. He has shown big improvement year after year. It will be interesting to see if he is ready for the big stage.

Semih Tuna, Eurohoops

Ricky Ledo of Efes. He passed through a great preparation period and now can test his abilities on a team that plays at a fast pace, one of the fastest in Europe. He is not only one of the best players at creating solutions for himself, but is also a versatile one, capable of filling each column of the stats. He was the top scorer in the Turkish League last year, and it seems like he will be able to demonstrate that he can be the one in the EuroLeague, too.

Antonis Kalkavouras, Gazzetta.gr

I have to pick between Jordan Theodore (Milan), Errick McCollum (Efes) and Janis Timma (Baskonia), with Anthony Gill (Khimki) as an outsider. I am leaning towards the American point guard of the Turkish club, who can score in multiple ways. Even though he is a rookie in EuroLeague, has the experience to lead his team in scoring and to evolve as one of the best scorers of the new season.

Joe Arlauckas, EuroLeague Ambassador

I'm with Luca Chiabotti on Jordan Theodore. I've only seen a little bit of him, but that was enough to know that I want to see more. He's a take-charge, won't-quit point guard who will challenge literally anybody -- and usually get the best of them. He played against four EuroLeague teams in the Turkish League last year, so even though he's a rookie, he knows what he's getting into, and his enthusiasm will do the rest. I love his first step, his hesitation dribble and his many ways to get the job done. I'm rooting for the little man!

Frank Lawlor, Euroleague.net

The new Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz forward Janis Timma has prepared well for his first steps in the EuroLeague, becoming a double-digit scorer as a teen pro in Latvia, and not dropping below that through seven seasons, including that last two in the EuroCup. His best was last season with Zenit St. Petersburg, where he scored big, shot great, rebounded and passed well. Now 25, with a strong EuroBasket behind him, Timma is in the right place to flourish, as have many top talents before him at Baskonia.