Olympiacos is still aiming high after signing a new coach in David Blatt, who added a 7DAYS EuroCup title with Darussafaka Istanbul to his impressive roll of honors last season. Blatt, a EuroLeague winner with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2014, is the club's biggest addition due to his experience and outstanding reputation, but the Reds also brought in a nice mix of up-and-coming and experienced players. Axel Toupane and Janis Timma strengthen Olympiacos's perimeter. The club also acquired versatile forward Sasha Vezenkov, rebounding ace Zach LeDay and combo guard Nigel Williams-Goss. All of them have joined a strong core of players led by Vassilis Spanoulis and Georgios Printezis, which has made European basketball history this decade.
Coach Blatt has a lot of perimeter options, even though the main one will be former MVP Spanoulis. One of the best leaders in European basketball history, Spanoulis is a phenomenal clutch player, whose uses his penetration skills, ability to hit the jumper off the dribble and great court sense to attack opponents. The 36-year-old has not showed signs of slowing down; he averaged 14.0 points and 5.6 assists last season. Williams-Goss is a fast and aggressive guard who will complement Spanoulis very well due to his great shooting range and passing. He shined as a rookie with Partizan NIS Belgrade last season, where he made 50% of his three-point shots and dished 6.7 assists in nine EuroCup games. Janis Strelnieks offers deep shooting range and a high basketball IQ. A good defender, Strelnieks is an experienced team-first player. Axel Toupane, who reached the Final Four with Zalgiris Kaunas last season, uses his premier athleticism to impact the game at both ends of the floor. Now in his eighth season with Olympiacos, Vangelis Mantzaris's on-the-ball defense and outside shooting have played key roles in the team's success and made him a fan favorite. Vassilis Toliopoulos and Nikos Arsenopoulos will fight for playing time, knowing Coach Blatt often gives minutes to young talents.
Olympiacos is deep at small forward with two very reliable players in Timma and Kostas Papanikolaou plus two others, Vezenkov and Toupane, who can offer help at that spot. Timma can score in many ways, whether using his physicality inside, his speed and athleticism to get by bigger defenders or with his deep shooting range. With a year of EuroLeague experience under his belt, Timma may be poised for a breakout. Papanikolaou is a team leader due to his fiery spirit, character and feel for the game. He has the speed and size combination that makes him dangerous on the perimeter and in the paint and is an outstanding defender. Vezenkov, who is best known for his finely-tuned shooting, will likely see most of his playing time at power forward. He can create his own shot and is also effective in the paint due to his deadly turnaround jumper. Printezis is a one-of-a-kind player; he is ambidextrous and can hit his trademark floater with either hand. He runs the floor better than most player his size and his experience and commitment to Olympiacos is legendary. Nikola Milutinov seems to get better every season. The big center knows how to use his body to score down low with polished moves and a soft touch to hit mid-range jumpers. He was the ninth-best rebounder (5.7 rpg.) in the EuroLeague last season, too. LeDay and Georgios Bogris will help under the baskets. LeDay is an outstanding rebounder, a physical player who works for the team and Bogris is a fighter with good post moves. Dimitrios Agravanis offers intensity and outside shooting off the bench.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Olympiacos has worked well with the core of players that has been together for the better part of the last decade, so all five newcomers must give the Reds the extra boost it needs to return to the Final Four. Taking that into account, Williams-Goss comes off a very strong rookie season with Partizan and can give Olympiacos an extra spark, especially on offense. Williams-Goss needs the ball to create for others and is a reliable three-point and free-throw shooter. He is also a crafty defender who reads the passing lanes well to get steals and has a special chance to learn from one of the best combo guard European basketball has ever seen: Spanoulis. Blatt has a reputation for developing young American talent and at age 24, Williams-Goss is in the right place and the right time to take a giant step in his career.
Olympiacos has played in four Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Games and won a pair of titles since 2012, but missed the last Final Four and its last title of any kind came in 2016. Olympiacos has invested in physical, talented players, who not only make the team better but perfectly fit Coach Blatt's style. It will all start with defense and once Olympiacos has the ball, it will try to find the fastest, most-efficient way to score. Blatt has always been great at designing game plans and reliable plays in end-of-game situations. His winning mentality is perfect for a club like Olympiacos, which will be hungrier than most not only to make it to Vitoria-Gasteiz in May 2019, but to lift the trophy at the end of the season.