Hello again! Welcome to Round 20 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague regular season! I can't believe two-thirds of our beloved first stage is almost gone. How did time go by so fast? Anyway, Rounds 18 and 19 brought a lot of excitement and four teams – CSKA Moscow, Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul, Khimki Moscow Region and AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan – managed to win both games last week. CSKA and Fenerbahce are now first and second, respectively, while Khimki used this fantastic week – downing Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade on the road and Olympiacos Piraeus by 28 points at home – to be put itself deep into playoffs position. It has a three–game gap over Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz and Unicaja Malaga, each with an 8–11 record. Milan left the bottom of the standings and things are looking good for the Italian powerhouse, with an exciting home game against Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv coming up. Remember that playoffs series back in 2014? That was classic! Most important, there are only 11 games left in the regular season. It is do-or-die game for most teams out there, to keep their playoffs chances alive and fight for the home court advantage in the next stage.
I had a very, very good week in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge. I scored 195.3 points in Round 18 and aced all trades in Round 19, avoiding players which would have sunk me and putting in others who had solid performances. I also chose Baskonia star Toko Shengelia as my team captain and he was the third-best player in the game in Round 19. Not only am I back in the top 500, I climbed to the 388th spot in the standings. I hope to keep my momentum going but before that, as always, here are my five suggestions for Round 20 – not top players, but those who can surprise and make you beat your friends.
1.– TONEY DOUGLAS, ANADOLU EFES ISTANBUL. He had a PIR of 36 against Fenerbahce – enough said. He will carry that number for four more weeks, making his value go up non–stop. Right now, he is worth one million on Fantasy. Such great performance should give him confidence against an up-tempo team like Real Madrid.
2.– JORDAN THEODORE, AX ARMANI EXCHANGE MILAN. Sometimes, some players need an adjustment to compete well in the EuroLeague. Theodore comes off a huge week, averaging 15 points and 9.5 assists for a PIR of 25.5. Milan had great expectations for him and Theodore has started to deliver. Keep an eye on him.
3.– RUDY FERNANDEZ, REAL MADRID. He is in a great moment right now, arguably his best in months. Fernandez is shooting 45.3% from downtown this season and, as always, is active in many ways: rebounds, steals, assists. With Fabien Causeur not 100%, he may see extended playing time, too.
4.– DEANDRE KANE, MACCABI FOX TEL AVIV. Kane comes off his best game – 14 points, 20 PIR in 29 minutes – against Zvezda. He was limited to five points in Israeli League action but had a PIR of 12. His stock seems to be go up, and Kane was a super player (16.8 ppg., 6.1 rpg.) in the 7DAYS EuroCup last season.
5.– SAM VAN ROSSOM, VALENCIA BASKET. Not based on stats, but on matchups. Right now, Van Rossom is Valencia's only pure point guard. Valencia plays at home against Khimki Moscow Region, a team he has faced many times in his career and against former Valencia playmaker Stefan Markovic. I expect Van Rossom to shine.
On to my team, Gancedato. Like I said, I rank 388th overall with 3,138 points. Here is some advice for all top teams out there. Most of the best teams in the competition will have what I call the All–Fantasy first team: Luka Doncic of Real Madrid, Nando De Colo of CSKA Moscow, Nick Calathes of Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, Alexey Shved of Khimki Moscow Region and Shengelia. In order to go up some spots, you need to either have these five players, or risk selling one (or more) of them because you expect him (or them) to underperform. Another way to get an advantage is predicting that one of them will have a monster game and name him captain. As far as I am concerned, I am not competing for prizes. I am here to give good advice and to show you how to have a competitive team. So there is no need for me to take risks, even when I did, things more or less worked for me, selling Doncic in a week he had a game way below his average. That is the kind of stuff that can make you rank higher.
In that spirit, I am trading Taylor Rochestie of Zvezda to bring back Shved. I want my All–Fantasy team back in my lineup, and this is why I am getting him back. I am also selling Paulius Jankunas of Zalgiris because, in the past, he had several so–so game against Panathinaikos in Athens. I am replacing him for one of the players he will go against, Chris Singleton of Panathinaikos. He seems like a good fit against Zalgiris, or at least I think so. Finally, I am trading Bryant Dunston of Anadolu Efes Istanbul and bringing in Jan Vesely of Fenerbahce. Again, his physical, over-the-rim game seems a good fit against Ante Tomic and Pierre Oriola of Barcelona. Plus they had a weekend off in Turkey for the all-tar game, so he will be well rested.
So this is how my team looks like before Round 20:
Luka Doncic, Real Madrid (PG).– Easy choice. He did not play in the Spanish League this weekend but should be ready to face Efes and have a good game.
Nando De Colo, CSKA Moscow (SG).– He had a PIR of 35 against Brose Bamberg last season. I trust him so much that I am naming him team captain in Round 20.
Will Clyburn, CSKA Moscow (SF).– Right now, he is the most solid small forward in the game. He will be on my team until someone else steps up.
Toko Shengelia, Baskonia Vitoria (PF).– Ah, Toko, what a great captain you were, man. He now faces a tough test against physical Unicaja Malaga.
Jan Vesely, Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul (C).– Back on track and ready to make the difference against Barcelona. I need him to rebound the ball better, though.
Alexey Shved, Khimki Moscow Region (G).– Khimki plays against Valencia and no other team in the EuroLeague knows them better... but Shved is on fire.
Chris Singleton, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (F).– Just based on matchups. Too quick for Kavaliauskas and Jankunas, too strong for Davies. Just guessing.
Nick Calathes, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (U).– You have to keep Calathes in your team. A PIR of 12 or better in the last 10 games, averaging 22.1!
Bench: Vassilis Toliopoulos, Olympiacos Piraeus (G), Egehan Arna (F) and Melih Mahmutoglou (U), Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul, and Jake Cohen, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (C).
That's all the analysis for this week. Good luck, everybody! Enjoy a big round in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and choose your EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge teams wisely!