Panathinaikos OPAP Athens comes off a difficult season in which the Greens ranked 16th overall with an 11-23 record. New coach Dimitris Priftis together with a very balanced squad featuring several hungry signings ready to make their Turkish Airlines EuroLeague debuts alongside a core of players that know the competition inside out have fans in the Greek capital feeling optimistic for 2021-22.
There have been significant changes at the point guard position. Kendrick Perry arrives from Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana to provide athleticism, intense defense, court sense and leadership. He ranked third in PIR (19.2) in the 7DAYS EuroCup last season, averaging 16.1 points, 6.1 assists and 1.4 steals in 16 games. Panathinaikos also added combo guard Daryl Macon, a great scorer with excellent shooting selection. Perry and Macon are EuroLeague newcomers and should be helped by Lefteris Bochoridis at point guard. In his second stint with the Greens, Bochoridis offers size, intensity and strong driving skills. Nemanja Nedovic is expected to play a leading role due to his experience, all-around scoring skills and unlimited shooting range. Right at the prime of his career, Nedovic has all it takes to have a huge season. Howard Sant-Roos is a special player; he provides versatility, elite defense, aggressiveness and a high basketball IQ. Sant-Roos should do a little bit of everything to help Panathinaikos succeed. Eleftherios Mantzoukas is a young, ambitious talent ready to fight for significant playing time. He is quite quick for a player his size (2.07 meters) and is an excellent three-point shooter.
Ioannis Papapetrou and Okaro White are versatile, experienced forwards who can play multiple positions. Papapetrou comes off a strong 2020-21 campaign (12.1 ppg., 4.1 rpg.) and is fully established as one of the best small forwards in European basketball. White already played for Coach Priftis in the EuroCup with Aris Thessaloniki and UNICS Kazan. He helps under the boards and can open the floor with his outside shooting, too. Leonidas Kaselakis provides energy and a winning mentality off the bench. Center Georgios Papagiannis returns to lead Panathinaikos's frontcourt, providing much-needed effectiveness at both ends. Just like Papagiannis, Jehyve Floyd is a terrific shot-blocker who can change games through defense. Jeremy Evans spreads the floor with his deep shooting range and can also finish high above the rim due to his outstanding athleticism.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Georgios Papagiannis took a huge step forward last season. He worked hard to become a mobile center, finishing alley-oops and moving better around the basket. It paid off at the defensive end, too, as Papagiannis ranked second in blocked shots last season at 1.6 per night, only trailing two-time EuroLeague Best Defender Edy Tavares. Papagiannis was also ninth in two-point shooting percentage (67.4%) as he averaged 8.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in 32 EuroLeague games. At age 24, Papagiannis is already an experienced EuroLeague player ready to make a difference at both ends of the floor. His size 2.20-meter frame and quick feet give him an advantage in the paint and Papagiannis looks ready to make the most out of it.
Panathinaikos needed a fresh look and made a lot of roster changes to achieve that. Coach Priftis is also a EuroLeague newcomer but is experienced enough and has his trademark style, in which defense comes first and foremost. It may take some time for players like Perry, White, Macon and Floyd to adjust to the competition, but Panathinaikos also managed to keep stars Nedovic, Sant-Roos, Papagiannis and Papapetrou, who will carry the team from the very beginning of the season. Of course, Panathinaikos fans will be back in the stands and that is great news for the Greens, as they know how to be their team's sixth man.