The fans of all four teams headed to Vitoria-Gasteiz think that their team can bring home the trophy -- and they're right! Its unpredictability is what makes the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four so dramatic. Here are five reasons to believe in Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
1. Veteran group
Only two players – Bryant Dunston and Vasilije Micic – have previous Final Four experience, but Efes is full of seasoned Euroleague veterans who have carried this team the entire season. Seven of the eight players with the most minutes played this season have more than 100 appearances in the competition under their belt, starting with Tibor Pleiss who has played 186 games in his eight seasons in the competition. Team captain Dogus Balabay (155 appearances) also has eight seasons, and Krunoslav Simon is in his seventh. Efes players might have not been to the Final Four, but have been part of many big games.
2. Beware of Shane
No player arrives to the Final Four as hot as Shane Larkin. The Efes guard led the EuroLeague Playoffs with 19.8 points per game in the series against FC Barcelona in which he also set a EuroLeague Playoffs record with 18 three-pointers. He did so while shooting 50% from behind the arc. After a quieter first part of the regular season, Larkin has scored in double figures in 13 of his last 14 games and has averaged 17.0 points per game over that span. He is also the only player at this Final Four who has scored 30 points in a game this season and has actually done so twice in the past two months. If Larkin stays hot, Efes will be very dangerous in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
3. Pick your poison
Efes ranked second in the league in two-point shooting at 58.73%, which is the sixth-best two-point accuracy this century. Efes also ranks second this season with its 40.59% three-point shooting. What makes that high accuracy number incredible is the fact that Efes has made a EuroLeague record 360 three-point shots so far this season. Seven different Efes players have shot better than 40% from downtown this season and the team arrives at the Final Four very confident in that department, having knocked down 63 triples during the playoffs, shattering the previous EuroLeague Playoffs record of 48.
4. Free throw kings
Of the teams at the Final Four, Efes has shot the fewest free throws (500 attempts) by a wide margin, but has led the league in shooting from the foul line, making 81.8% of them. Free throw shooting has often helped swing Final Four games in the past and could easily turn into a deciding factor in close finishes we often witness at the Final Four. And for Efes, it does not come just from one player. Of the 11 Efes players who attempted at least 1 free throw this season, 10 of them have made them with 80% accuracy or better. When it comes to Efes, that overall shooting confidence seems to become contagious.
5. Hungry for titles
CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, guided by their current coaches and led by many of their current players, have each won one EuroLeague title in the past three seasons. Not only has Efes never won a EuroLeague title, but none of the Efes players have had the experience of lifting the most coveted trophy in European basketball and only Duston has played in the championship game. These players are hungry to play on basketball’s biggest stage and they are hungry to win. Every team is, of course, but Efes just might be a little hungrier than the rest.