ALBA Berlin’s biggest move of the off-season was not the addition of a new player but rather the re-signing of head coach Aito Garcia Reneses. The 73-year-old Spanish play-caller decided to return to the German capital for another year, a move that calmed the nerves of everyone within the club. He returns after ending ALBA’s German League title drought, which had dated back to 2008. The club was also busy in re-forming its team. ALBA added two important backcourt pieces in veteran Jayson Granger and Berlin native Maodo Lo. ALBA also signed Simone Fontecchio and Louis Olinde at the forward spots and helped fill a major hole in the blocks with the addition of Ben Lammers.
ALBA may have lost Martin Hermannsson, but the team brings back one of the most dynamic guards in the competition with Peyton Siva. Despite his outstanding play, Siva has had a history of injuries and ALBA did a good job in building depth as it brought in Granger, who has played 148 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games, though he is returning from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the first game of 2019-20 for TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. The 27-year-old Lo has already amassed 113 EuroLeague games in four seasons with Brose Bamberg and more recently FC Bayern Munich. A rotation player last season, the 20-year old Jonas Mattisseck will be looking to take another step. ALBA was one of the best three-point shooting teams last season, hitting 39.6% from long-range - good for third in the EuroLeague - and that should not change much this season as Marcus Eriksson and Niels Giffey are still there manning the wings. Shooting guard Fontecchio can hit from downtown at a dangerous clip as well. Teenager Malte Delow, who played in six EuroLeague games last season, adds depth as he gains experience.
Luke Sikma is back as one of the most versatile players in the league. Sikma is an inside and outside force who can shoot and pass like a guard and bang and rebound like a big man. Versatile forward Louis Olinde has similar traits thanks to a reliable outside shot and strong rebounding instincts. A product of the club's youth academy, Tim Schneider is a reliable force off the bench who has played significant minutes in each of the past three seasons. Lorenz Brenneke is only 20 and after making two brief EuroLeague appearances last season, he will look to work his way up the ladder. The frontcourt received a big boost from a rim protection point of view with the signing of Lammers, who led the Spanish League in blocks in 2018-19 and was second in rejections in 2019-20 playing for RETAbet Bilbao Basket. Johannes Thiemann will be needed to step up in his third season with the club and big Kresimir Nikic will try to take a step forward to match his giant potential.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Last season Luke Sikma played a major role as ALBA Berlin captured the German League and Cup double and the 2018-19 EuroCup MVP has the goods to be one of the top players in the EuroLeague. He was one of four ALBA players to play all 28 EuroLeague games last season; he led the team in rebounding (6.5 rpg.), was third in assists (4.5 apg.) and second in steals (1.1 spg.). Despite shooting 43.3% from the outside, Sikma averaged just 9.7 points last season. Sikma is unselfish - almost to a fault. He averaged just 7.3 field goals taken per game and topped eight attempts just eight times. On four occasions he collected just as many or more assists than points and eight times he registered as many or more assists than field goal attempts. In his second EuroLeague campaign, Sikma could take a step forward as a scorer, which would not only make him a more dangerous weapon, but would make the entire ALBA attack tougher to handle.
After success in Germany secured from last season, ALBA will look to take another step forward with a strong season in the EuroLeague. Last season its inexperience showed as ALBA went 2-6 in games decided by 4 points or fewer and with much of the team back, it would seem Aito’s men could change that this season. The team still has the axis of Siva, Eriksson and Sikma to rely on, Granger will be hungry to return to his high level after a major injury and Lo will be re-motivated by coming back to his hometown and playing for ALBA professionally for the first time. All-in-all, ALBA comes into the 2020-21 season with plenty to prove - after already proving a lot last season.