The 2020-21 season will bring a new-look Fenerbahce and the changes start at the top. Coach Igor Kokoskov will debut on the EuroLeague sidelines and it won't be an easy task to step into the shoes of the winningest coach in European basketball history, Zeljko Obradovic, who led the club to five consecutive Final Four appearances and the 2017 championship. Joining Kokoskov are seven new faces. Three of them – Jarell Eddie, Dyshawn Pierre and Johnny Hamilton – will be making their EuroLeague premieres, too. Lorenzo Brown comes off a splendid first EuroLeague season and Edgaras Ulanovas, Danilo Barthel and Kenan Sipahi bring multiple years of experience at the top level.
Brown made life tough on Fenerbahce in two games last season with Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade. His combination of ball-handling, court-vision and on-the-ball defense should make him a perfect fit alongside former MVP and Ford Trophy winner Nando De Colo, who was Fenerbahce's top scorer last season. Ali Muhammed and Leo Westermann provide excellent experience off the bench. Entering his sixth season with the club, Muhammed can heat up in a hurry and use his outstanding shooting to change games. Westermann is a tall playmaker who creates matchup problems and has a knack for coming up big in the fourth quarter. No player is more associated with the club than shooting guard Melih Mahmutoglu, who is entering his eighth season with Fenerbahce. He comes off his best season from an individual standpoint in which he was a part-time starter and made 50.8% of his three-pointers. Sipahi returns to Fenerbahce after five years away, including last season in Spain where he took a step forward. Swingman Eddie's main job is to open up the floor with his three-point shooting and he is as good as it gets in that role.
Fenerbahce is blessed with a few tough and rugged players at the small forward position. Pierre is both an outstanding three-point shooter and rebounder, who will create many mismatch problems for opposing teams in his first EuroLeague season. Ulanovas has left his native Lithuania for the first time. He loves to operate out of the low post, where his strength and technical skills allow him to score, pass out to open player or otherwise disrupt defenses. Still a teenager, Tarik Biberovic begins his third season with the club and hopes to become a regular part of the rotations this year. Jan Vesely was the 2018-19 EuroLeague MVP and remains a dynamic player whose value exceeds his numbers. Vesely's length and athleticism are always in the minds of other teams at both ends and his explosive dunks can be extreme momentum changers. His ability to play alongside natural '4’s and '5’s gives Coach Kokoskov a lot of versatility in fielding lineups. Barthel joined the club over the summer after four seasons with FC Bayern Munich, where he emerged as a multi-talented stretch '4'. A product of the Fenerbahce youth system, Berkay Candan returned to the club last season and played a bigger role in the Turkish League. Fenerbahce's big men will be happy not to have to face Hamilton anymore after he dominated the paint in both the EuroCup and the EuroLeague last season with Darussafaka Istanbul. Following that showing in his European debut, Hamilton will try to take another step forward in the EuroLeague. Ahmet Duverioglu has been a part-time starter the past few seasons and should continue to be a prominent all-around performer at center.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Lorenzo Brown has played a significant role for teams on three continents and brings that experience with him to Istanbul. He will need it all to be the player that takes Fenerbahce back to the top. Brown is a vastly talented player and clutch-time performer, which he proved with Crvena Zvezda last season, his first in the EuroLeague. However, his role this season is different. Brown steps into the shoes of All-EuroLeague point guard Kostas Sloukas and must lead the team while getting the most out of his two former EuroLeague MVP teammates, De Colo and Vesely. Brown has all the tools around him to succeed with a bevy of lethal three-point shooters, a few low-post behemoths and fantastic pick-and-roll partners. He won't have one role; as the point guard, he must keep everyone else involved, take advantage when the opportunity is there for him to score and disrupt the opposition with his aggressive defense. If it all comes together, Brown could be the key player as Fenerbahce looks to go deep again.
It's a new era at Fenerbahce, which had reached five straight Final Fours and won the 2017 championship under Coach Zeljko Obradovic. His replacement, Coach Kokosov, is also a coach with a fantastic resume and the new-look Fenerbahce squad is loaded with elite talent. Part of the task at hand will be making sure a roster with so many big-time players functions well together and everyone accepts his role and playing time. If all goes smoothly, Fenerbahce will have one of the deepest and most dangerous teams in the league and a date with another Final Four and a chance to contend for the title could be in the cards.