After making history last season by reaching the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs for the first time, Khimki Moscow Region made several important additions to the roster. That’s especially true in the backcourt, where Khimki brought in point guard Dee Bost, shooting guard Tony Crocker and swingman Casey Prather. Coach Georgios Bartzokas will also have at his disposal a pair of big men to bolster the team's front line: the athletic Jordan Mickey and stretch four Petr Gubanov.
Reigning EuroLeague Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner Alexey Shved will again be the central point of Khimki’s offense. However, the man who netted 21.8 points per game and nailed 107 three-pointers last season, but also averaged 5.2 assists, will have more of a supporting cast around him in the backcourt. Bost arrives as a change-of-pace point guard and will share running Khimki’s offense with Shved and veteran playmaker Stefan Markovic. Shooting guard Crocker has been scoring in double figures throughout his career and brings quality to the perimeter, which already features fellow shooting guard and defensive ace Charles Jenkins. Sharpshooter Egor Vialtsev elevated his game in the second part of last season and now will be joined on the wings by Prather, whose athleticism and outside shooting should bring another dimension to Khimki’s offense. Vyacheslav Zaytsev, another long-distance shooter, will hope to see an increase in minutes in his role off the bench.
Khimki’s front line starts with the pair of big men who were Khimki’s starters inside last season, Malcolm Thomas and Anthony Gill. The duo carried the load in the paint last season, was efficient from close range as both scored on better than 60% of their two-point attempts and were stellar on the offensive glass, as well. However, Khimki was the team that allowed the most offensive rebounds last season and the addition of Mickey should help in that department. Mickey not only has a reputation as a rebounding ace, but also a premier shot blocker. Team captain Sergey Monia is back for his eighth season with the club and is a key glue guy, while stretch-fours Gubanov and Andrey Zubkov bring depth to the frontcourt.
PLAYER TO WATCH:
One cannot wait to see what Gill will do for an encore. Last season, in his rookie EuroLeague campaign, Gill’s star shined brightly. Playing mostly at the four position, the big man was Khimki’s second best scorer with 11.8 points. He shot the ball better than 63% from two-point range and with 47.8% accuracy from behind the arc while pulling down 4.5 rebounds per contest. He also managed to earn MVP honors for his performance in Game 3 of the playoffs. Now, having familiarity with the club and knowing his teammates, his coaches and also his opponents, Gill will be one of the players to watch as he shows what he has in store for his second EuroLeague season.
Khimki finally reached the EuroLeague playoffs last season and the bar is set just as high for Coach Bartzokas and his men. In their second season together, with the players and coaches familiar with each other, Khimki will surely be gunning not only to return to the playoffs, but also to top its 16-14 regular season record from last season. Of course, having a scorer of Shved’s caliber automatically makes Khimki a dangerous team and a playoff contender, which was proved last season. However, Shved now seems to be surrounded by even more offensive firepower, which could turn Khimki into a more-balanced scoring team, and accordingly, even more dangerous.