FC Barcelona did not change much over the summer as it retained the core of players that took the team to third place in the standings when the 2019-10 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Barcelona only made two new roster moves, though they were in key spots on and off the court. The club hired a new head coach in Sarunas Jasikevicius. It will be Saras's third stint with the club and his first as coach. As a player, he helped Barcelona win its first EuroLeague title in 2003. Should he win the EuroLeague again, Jasikevicius would join Armenak Alachachan, Lolo Sainz and his predecessor on the Barcelona bench, Svetislav Pesic, as the only ones to win the competition as player and coach. Barcelona also signed superstar playmaker Nick Calathes. Ambitious and ready, Calathes and Saras are marquee addition to an otherwise stellar squad.
Calathes and Thomas Heurtel will share point guard duties. Calathes is an old-school floor general who arrives to make all of his teammates better by putting the ball in the right place for everyone to get better shots. He will also help on the boards and get the fast break started. Heurtel is a much better shooter, especially from downtown, but his passing skills are also remarkable. He is set to provide instant offense off the bench. Kyle Kuric is back to do what he does best: shoot the ball with unlimited range. A tough defender, Kuric will try to make the difference with his outside shooting. Two-time EuroLeague champion Cory Higgins is a two-way player, who is strong on defense and effective on offense, experienced and ready to keep making history. Alex Abrines will also provide the fireworks from downtown and up-and-coming playmaker Leo Bolmaro will get plenty of opportunities during the season.
Nikola Mirotic returns as the team's leader. A power forward with unlimited shooting range and great character, he led the EuroLeague in defensive rebounds (5.2 drpg.) last season. His talent, basketball IQ, feel for the game and determination is second to none at this level. Brandon Davies and Pierre Oriola will split minutes at center, with Artem Pustovyi pushing them to get more playing time. Davies is an athletic big man with great explosiveness who already earned All-EuroLeague First Team honors playing for Saras at Zalgiris. Oriola, the new team captain, offers aggressiveness and character, and also knows how to find advantages in pick-and-roll situations due to his great hands and quickness. Adam Hanga is set to return to his natural position, small forward, where he can offer his all-around game and outstanding energy. Victor Claver will see playing time at both forward spots. An experienced, versatile player, Claver will take care of all the small details to make his team more competitive. Another former 7DAYS EuroCup Rising Star, Rolands Smits, will back Claver up.
PLAYER TO WATCH
All eyes will be on Calathes, who ranks second all-time in assists with 1,260, trailing only Vassilis Spanoulis (1,516). Only four players have dished 16 assists or more in a EuroLeague game; Calathes has done so four times! His basketball IQ is off the charts as he always finds good options for others to score, whether in the half-court, transition or pick-and-roll situations. The fact that he will be coached by one of the greatest point guards in European basketball history - and a former teammate of his at Panathinaikos Athens - only makes Calathes even more dangerous. His main challenge is raising his shooting percentages (career 28.0% 3FG, 55.4% FT). If Calathes does so, he will become completely unstoppable.
Barcelona has not been to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four since 2014. It was well on its way to reaching the goal last season and it should be its first target in the new campaign. Barcelona has all it takes to be successful: it kept a great core of players with superstars such as Mirotic, Higgins, Hanga and Heurtel, added one of the biggest superstars in the competition and hired an elite head coach who knows the club and the city better than most. Of course, nothing is taken for granted in the EuroLeague and Barcelona will have to work harder than ever to clinch that Final Four spot and get an opportunity to fight for a third EuroLeague title, more than a decade after it last lifted the trophy in 2010.