Valencia Basket will have a new look this season with the additions of several experienced players who will try to lead the team to the next level in what will be its second consecutive Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season, a first in the club's history. Valencia made strong moves in the off-season market by landing high-flying power forward Derrick Williams, former EuroLeague champion Nikola Kalinic, combo guard Martin Hermannsson, sharpshooter Klemen Prepelic and up-and-coming talent Jaime Pradilla. Like last season, head coach Jaume Ponsarnau will have a deep roster with 14 available players.
Valencia is quite deep at the point guard position with four premier ball-handlers. Sam Van Rossom is expected to be the team's starting point guard. A great shooter with deep range, Van Rossom is a strong defender and one of the most experienced playmakers in Europe. Guillem Vives is a strong defensive player with great character and determination, who rarely makes mistakes; he's committed just 54 turnovers in 46 career EuroLeague games. Hermannsson will see playing time at both guards spots. Initially a shooting guard, injuries forced him into a lot of playing time at the '1' position with ALBA Berlin last season and he responded by averaging 10.9 points and 4.8 assists per game. Quino Colom, a World Cup champion with Spain, ranked sixth overall in assists per 40 minutes last season (9.1). A pass-first playmaker with great creativity and off-the-charts basketball IQ, Colom will have to fight for playing time. Prepelic and Marinkovic will provide the fireworks from downtown. Prepelic was the third-best scorer in the EuroCup last season (17.0 ppg.) and Marinkovic is expected to take a step forward after a full year with the team.
Williams and Kalinic are major additions as experienced players who can make a difference. Versatile, athletic and experienced, Kalinic arrives to be an all-around threat, whether stopping star forwards on defense or taking big shots on offense. The 28-year-old Kalinic has reached the EuroLeague championship game three times and lifted the trophy with Fenerbahce Istanbul in 2017. Williams will thrill Valencia fans with his high-flying dunks and outstanding energy. In his third year in the competition, Williams has the experience and explosiveness to play a leading role on this team. Fernando San Emeterio and Joan Sastre will also see playing time at the small forward spot. Sastre is a top-class defender with heart and determination who wants to leave his injury problems in the past. The experienced San Emeterio brings great penetration skills and shooting range. Franchise player Bojan Dubljevic shines with his smooth post moves, three-point shooting and commitment to the team. Center Mike Tobey comes off a great first EuroLeague season and should be even more effective this season. Louis Labeyrie returns to offer defense, outside shooting and intensity, while Pradilla will fight for playing time to keep growing as a player. He can score in many ways and is eager to prove it.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Williams has the opportunity to prove he can lead a team to new heights. The No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Williams came to Europe after seven seasons in that competition - with a brief stop in China with Tianjin Gold Lions. Despite a sensational first season in the EuroLeague with FC Bayern Munich, the team missed the playoffs. Indeed, Bayern was one win away from that goal, ranking 11th overall with a 14-16 record. Last season, Williams joined Fenerbahce, an elite team with an established core of players who worked well for years. Despite an underwhelming start, Fenerbahce was well on its way to reach the playoffs when the competition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Williams improved his shooting percentages (60.5% 2FG, 37.3% 3FG) and was one of the keys in Fenerbahce's comeback. Valencia needs to reach the playoffs - and rank higher than ALBA Berlin - to stay in the competition and Williams has never been that far in the EuroLeague. He will be more motivated than anyone to show what he is capable of doing in the biggest games of the season.
Valencia has made an effort to be a playoff contender and that has to be its initial goal. Having a better start to the season would help, as Valencia lost its first five games in the 2018-19 campaign and even though it was able to come back, being strong from the very beginning of the season would surely help the team get closer to its goal. It will have to make the most out of its many strengths; Valencia will be one of the deepest teams in the competition and Coach Ponsarnau will make sure to get everyone involved during the season to keep all his players fresh and in rhythm. The main frontcourt players - Dubljevic, Kalinic, Williams - are at the prime of their respective careers and ready to have a special season. Valencia is its best moment as a club and ready to keep growing.