Experts Round Table: Final Four

May 15, 2019 by Euroleague.net Print

Welcome to the Experts Round Table – Final Four edition, where we ask a variety of the most knowledgeable Turkish Airlines EuroLeague followers across the continent their opinions on the teams set to challenge for EuroLeague glory this weekend in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. The panel includes Luca Chiabotti, the former basketball expert-in-residence at La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy; Rafa Muntion, Baskonia play-by-play announcer on Radio Vitoria; Johnny Rogers, a two-time EuroLeague champion and Final Four Ambassador; Aris Barkas, Chief Editor at Eurohoops; and Frank Lawlor, Editorial Director for Euroleague Basketball. Check out their opinions on three key questions!

Kostas Sloukas - Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul


If Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul becomes champion, what player from that team do you think will be the Final Four MVP? Why?

Luca Chiabotti

"It is too easy to say Ali Muhammed or Kostas Sloukas, but I think that in order to be a EuroLeague champion again, Coach Zeljko Obradovic needs the best version of Jan Vesely this season. It is an old story; Gigi Datome and Joffrey Lauvergne got injured and that will have a weight on Fenerbahce, but Vesely could be the only player that his opponents can't stop not only in the semifinals but also in the championship game. I also expect Marko Guduric to step up."

Rafa Muntion

"Kostas Sloukas. Everything I said about Micic can be said about Sloukas in Fenerbahce. He is a very smart player who knows what to do in every moment. He takes responsibilities in clutch moments. An extension of Coach Obradovic on the court."

Aris Barkas

"Fenerbahce has to battle injuries and potentially is without four key players. So, it is all about the two guards who are left standing. Kostas Sloukas, the team's floor general, and Ali Muhammed, one of the main offensive options on the team, have really good chances to get the job done and win the MVP award. To be exact, I can't see any other way for Fenerbahce to win the title with so many missing players unless Sloukas and Muhammed play at an MVP level in Vitoria."

Johnny Rogers

"If Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul becomes champion, I think that Kostas Sloukas will be named Final Four MVP. With so many of his teammates injured, look for Kostas to assume much more responsibilities on the offensive end of the floor. His team will need every ounce of his fighting spirit to win the Euroleague title."

Frank Lawlor

"I think that Fenerbahce's opponents are going to be focused, as much as possible, on limiting opportunities for guards Kostas Sloukas and Ali Muhammed. You can bet that Zeljko Obradovic will be prepared for that and have his other players ready to take advantage of any defensive overplaying in the backcourt. Two players with the potential to bust out are Nicolo Melli and Marko Guduric, but my choice would be Melli for his inside-outside versatility and his record scoring performance in last season's championship game. Melli played more minutes than any Fenerbahce player this season and could see even more in a championship game. Should Fenerbahce win it all, don't be surprised if he is the most valuable contributor."

Nicolo Melli - Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul

Shane Larkin - Anadolu Efes Istanbul


If Anadolu Efes Istanbul becomes champion, what player from that team do you think will be the Final Four MVP? Why?

Luca Chiabotti

"Shane Larkin. Efes is not the favorite team in the Final Four and in order to beat opponents like Fenerbahce, it needs something special, the offensive spark in the clutch moments of a player like Larkin. He played a fantastic playoff series against Barcelona, hitting 50% of his three-point shots. After a slow start, he finished the regular season as one of the best scorers in the league. Of course, Coach Ergin Ataman needs Moerman and Micic to play at a high level, but Larkin can make the difference."

Rafa Muntion

"Vasilije Micic. He is the most all-around point guard in European basketball right now. He is a leader on the court who can pass the ball, drive to the basket and usually has a physical advantage against his defender. He has also shot from three-point range with good percentages – a basic player for his team."

Aris Barkas

"Anadolu Efes is having a great season and there's more than one potential breakout star on the roster. The natural choice for a potential MVP should be either Vasilije Micic or Shane Larkin for obvious reasons. They have the ball in their hands, are the guys who make decisions and make things happen and are two of the main reasons why their team is in the Final Four. However, with that in mind, if the Basketball Gods want to be fair, Adrien Moerman should emerge. He's had an amazing season and unfortunately for him, other forwards have also been amazing. Still, it is strange that a guy who had a 22-11 game against Barcelona in the regular season in one of the most important duels for his team on the way to the Final Four is not getting the credit that he deserves. I would like him to win the MVP award, but I think that either Larkin or Micic have the best chances for this award."

Johnny Rogers

"If Anadolu Efes is the champion, I think that Shane Larkin will be named the Final Four MVP. After getting off to a slow start this season, he has steadily been on the rise even before those spectacular performances during the playoffs against FC Barcelona. He is capable of scoring from deep and has the speed to turn the corner and get to the rim seemingly at will. Opposing teams will certainly game plan against him in an attempt to take the ball out of his hands."

Frank Lawlor

"Final Four basketball requires a mixture of toughness and versatility that is embodied on Anadolu Efes Istanbul by power forward Adrien Moerman. He is also representative of his team's newcomer status to the event. In his sixth EuroLeague season with his sixth different team, Moerman knows well that this opportunity is not one to expect again, but one to seize the moment it happens. Moerman has an uncanny ability to influence a game from many angles: dominating on the boards, shooting three-pointers, defending threes. But what leads me to put him here is he is often the strongest force on the floor the ends of games. If that's the championship game and Efes wins it, Moerman might well be the difference."

Vasilije Micic - Anadolu Efes Istanbul

Dimitris Itoudis with Will Clyburn - CSKA Moscow


If CSKA Moscow becomes champion, what player from that team do you think will be the Final Four MVP? Why?

Luca Chiabotti

"I like to think that on a team full of big stars like Sergio Rodriguez and Nando De Colo, the MVP could be Cory Higgins. He has everything his team needs at a Final Four: defense, experience, mental strength, team-first mentality and a great ability to change the game on offense off the bench. He is a complete player and can adjust to any situation on the court. "

Rafa Muntion

"Even though, in my opinion, Cory Higgins can be the most talented player in CSKA and Nando De Colo has the biggest impact on the game, I believe that Will Clyburn can be the MVP. He has great numbers and is able to rebound, drive, hit the outside shots... He is the complete package. He needs a bigger presence in his team's game and more importance, but that is very difficult on a team full of stars, especially in its backcourt."

Aris Barkas

"CSKA had an up and down season but at this point, it is safe to assume that Nando De Colo will take over. He is the de facto leader of the team and has delivered in the past. On the other hand, I have to mention Cory Higgins, one of the best players in the league, who is still in De Colo's shadow. However, if you look at the season, you can really argue that they had a very similar impact on CSKA Moscow's game and even that Higgins was more clutch when needed. If Higgins can do it again at the biggest stage, it will be an amazing feat and one of the best Final Four stories in recent years."

Johnny Rogers

"If CSKA Moscow becomes champion, I think that Sergio Rodriguez will be named the Final Four MVP. He is a difference maker whenever he is on top of his game. He is capable of creating scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates thanks to his high level of shooting, passing and ballhandling skills. His experience of already winning a EuroLeague title in addition to performing well in so many other high-pressure situations could prove to be invaluable during this Final Four, which is being held in his home country."

Frank Lawlor

"In his first Final Four game ever last year, Will Clyburn had 16 points and 7 rebounds but lost to Real Madrid in the semifinals. He has spoken since about wanting to play mistake-free basketball in his next chance at the EuroLeague title. This season, Clyburn has averaged 15.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in six games against the other three Final Four teams. Swinging between the small and power forward positions, he has been a consistently difficult mismatch for all teams this season and a spectacular presence on the court in many games. If he's more focused than ever this weekend, Clyburn is fully capable of walking off the court Sunday as the Final Four MVP."

Cory Higgins - CSKA Moscow

Walter Tavares - Real Madrid


If Real Madrid becomes champion, what player from that team do you think will be the Final Four MVP? Why?

Luca Chiabotti

"On a team with five or more potential MVPs every night, I will choose Walter Tavares. Do you think this is crazy? Well, he has averaged just 7 points in less than 20 minutes on court, but I think that if Tavares will play well, Real cannot lose the title. In the Final Four, defense can make the difference more than it does in the rest of the season, so the EuroLeague's Best Defender can be a big factor, especially if he will be productive also on offense."

Rafa Muntion

"Walter Tavares. There is no player like him at this year's Final Four. He takes all of his opponents out of the paint and is impossible to stop down low. He is truly a defensive wall. Tavares needs Facu Campazzo to connect with him. If he does, Tavares will be the MVP."

Aris Barkas

"Real Madrid has a great roster and it is probably the only team at this Final Four which can have the 10th player in the rotation emerge as the go-to guy on any given night. Still, my money is on Facundo Campazzo. He proved in the series against Panathinaikos that he is ready to lead Madrid, is having a career-best season and can be the first among equals if Los Blancos go all the way."

Johnny Rogers

"If Real Madrid becomes champion, I think that Walter Tavares has an outside chance to be named the Final Four MVP. His simple rebounding and scoring stats never really accurately depict the full impact that he makes in the paint on both ends. He is capable of completely dominating the action during stretches of games."

Frank Lawlor

"If you are looking for a less-than-obvious MVP – and the Final Four has had some over the years – look no further than the defending champs. Anthony Randolph would be a good choice, even though he tends to start halves, but not finish them. Anyone who doubts that Sergio Llull, if healthy, could take over the Final Four is foolish. But one player who has been there for Madrid again and again this season, who has big-game pedigree, and who lives for these moments is Rudy Fernandez. In a reserve role, Fernandez this season has had his best numbers since winning the title in 2015. If Madrid makes it to Sunday, Fernandez is the precise type of player who can rise to the top as a scorer, defender and passer, and if he does all three, could prove the weekend's best player for a repeat champion."

Facundo Campazzo - Real Madrid