05
Nov

David Pick: Five szenarios on five new EuroLeague-Stars

Welcome back BIG Magazine readers! Love to have you with me for another column and hoops insight.

In my previous column I digested the different EuroLeague rosters and massive import of NBAers to the EuroLeague that will ultimately change the way players in the U.S. view European basketball. Take a quick look on what is happening in China these days and how a simple tweet might cost a franchise millions of dollars and perhaps a GM his job - and how Europe might benefit from all of this.

“Fight for freedom. Stand for Hong Kong” - tweeted Rockets GM Darryl Morey as the Houston Rockets prepared to play a preseason game in China not long ago. A simple tweet - that has since been deleted - but spiraled into a massive hurricane. Morey was tweeting support for protests for democracy in China, and now faces major backlash.


The Houston Rockets are one of the most popular organizations in the WORLD, thanks to its history with Yao Ming, T-Mac and now James Harden, aka the The Beard. Morey meant no offense to Rockets fans in the U.S. or China but the Chinese Basketball Association has cut ties with Houston and the broadcasting channels in China have ended their cooperation to air Rockets game. A lot of ludacris is going on over a simple tweet.

The NBA is not apologizing for Morey, while James Harden took to the media to clear the air and level the storm: “We love China. We love playing there. They show us great support individually and as an organization, and we appreciate them as a fanbase.

I’m not sure how this tale ends - but it might convince more players to bolt to Europe over China, even though the money isn’t as lucrative, and the season several months longer. Who knows, Jeremy Lin was almost Europe bound. Let’s see how this plays out.

Back to europe 

We’re about a month into the season, long past preseason and training camp, and it’s a good time to evaluate how teams have gelled together and who made last-second desperation recruit to potentially save his EuroLeague season?

At the same time, I also want to focus this blog on some of the bigger names that have landed in Europe and rank the best-worst case scenarios.

Starting with the EuroCup - ratiopharm ulm and EWE Baskets Oldenburg have kicked off the season very poorly at (0-2, according to the time this blog has been written; Ulm also 0-1 in Bundesliga) - but I’m being very patient with Ulm. In all fairness, they have a new coach, new system, and gave the keys to the team to an 18-year-old French wonderboy slash NBA prospect in Killian Hayes, so they’re bound to stumble upon road bumps, because it’s a natural learning curve for everyone - and what doesn’t kill only makes you stronger, and I think Ulm has a vision and front office that allows the coaching staff to keep working quietly and patiently, which is essential and a rarity in today’s achievement-driven sports.

I hope ratiopharm can make it out of the group stage, but I fear they're too young, too inexperienced but ambitious at the same time - and will be left out of the top four seeds. Virtus Bologna clearly is going to win this group with AS Monaco batteling for the No. 2 seed, while MoraBank Andorra and Promiheas' sub-par Euroleague squad will make some noise as well. That leaves fellow Israeli club Maccabi Rishon with a poorly build team and no point guard, competing against Ulm in the battle of who isn't the worst team in the group.

EWE finished their build quite early, and a larger budget for imports - thus I had bigger expectations of them in the EuroCup, but there’s plenty of time to turn things around I’m sure.

Unicaja Malaga and Galatasaray Istanbul are significantly superior to EWE, but for sure the 3-4 spots are reachable and manageable. There's no way Dolomiti Trento, Asseco Gdynia or Buducnost Podgorica should leave Oldenburg out of the next round. It's up for grabs and I feel that EWE have the right tools - surely the right fans and arena - to pull off this mission. My fingers are crossed for them.

FIBA BCL - Telekom Baskets Bonn, Brose Bamberg and RASTA Vechta will kick off the Champions League competition (none of which are champions LOL) after a slow start in the BBL. While Bonn is leveled at .500, Bamberg and last season’s European Cinderella have dropped multiple games in the BBL thus far and changes are already cooking behind the scenes.

I'm kind of puzzled as to why there is only ONE lone BBL club in the FIBA Europe Cup competition - medi Bayreuth. It just doesn't make sense to me. Most of these teams in the FIBA Cup, I can't even pronounce their names or figure out where they're located geographically. Seriously, how many off the top of your head know where CSU Sibiu is? or Bahchsehir College? Kataja? Egis Kormend? PVSK-Veolia?

WHAT THE HELL PEOPLE? GET SOME BBL CLUBS IN THERE.

Severeal BBL clubs aren't really in the domestic championship conversation, therefore this gives them a competitive edge and something to help grow the fan base and lure better players and attract them to the club. Germany is a great league and is structured well from top to bottom. Even the money in better than in most of these other FIBA Cup clubs. So again, no idea why or/and how there is only a single club this season competing. I hope that'll change soon. It'll bring even more attention and credit to the Bundesliga, where the scouting is top notch in my humble opinion.

Let’s step it up a notch, Euroleague time. Here are my Top-5 NBA-to-Europe signings that will have the biggest impact this season.

1. ETTORE MESSINA - OLIMPIA MILANO: After several seasons of mediocrity and throwing money out the window on washed up players and bad coaches, Giorgio Armani decided to step it up even more. Enough with gimmicks signings. He opened his deep pockets (again) and scored a deal with one of the greatest European coaches of all time - Ettore Messina. Coach Etto will bring a Spurs mentality to the club, but he isn't an easy coach to play for. He is old school and has a strict system. Messina demands 150% every second, and unlike previous coaches in Milano, there will be no room for hero ball and multiple possessions of boring no-ball movement 1x1 isolations. That's why he booted Mike James off the team. Messina has been gone from Europe since 2014, but he is now hungrier than ever to collect more championships. I honestly wasn’t impressed with Milano’s build in the offseason. I think they have a lot of solid pieces, but none really ELITE level in the EuroLeague, excluding maybe Sergio Rodriguez. Messina, I believe, realised this as well - and at the very last second before tipoff landed FIBA World Cup star Luis Scola out of China. His team already looks way better and plays with a higher IQ.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: FINAL FOUR. WORST CASE SCENARIO: NO PLAYOFFS.

2. NIKOLA MIROTIC - BARCELONA: At age 28, as he enters his prime as a basketball player, with 319 NBA games in his resume and one brutal scuffle with former Chicago Bulls teammate that got him traded to New Orleans Pelicans, Nikola Mirotic brings his NBA 12.3PPG per game average to Europe and thus far has proven to be a huge BINGO. Mirotic has already won Barcelona a huge road game vs last season’s EuroLegue finalist Anadolu Efes; he was named ACB MVP, and he’s gone 30+ times to the free throw line over three games. His biggest challenge nonetheless will be his nemesis home club Real Madrid, as the Los Blancos already beaten Barca in the King’s Cup. That hurt the Catalonia people, but seeing Los Blancos celebrate another championship will be unacceptable to them.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: All-EuroLeague Forward of the Year. WORST CASE SCENARIO: No Final Four, No ACB title.

3. SHELVIN MACK - OLIMPIA MILANO: For a rookie, Mack couldn't have been placed in a more difficult situation. But at 29-years-old, it's time to accept the challenge and become a man. Mack, who was the star and go to guy at Butler University alongside Gordon Hayward, has never been a leader or 1st-2nd option in the NBA on any team. He played for Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Utah, Orlando, Memphis and Charlotte. He logged almost 500 games in the NBA. Mack has huge shoes to fill coming in to replace EuroLeague's top scorer Mike James. But not only that, the adjustments and different defenses he will face and have to overcome will be another challenge. If he can top all these obstacles, he can become a very special player, or he will go back to the NBA and will we never remember he was ever here. He did not impress me at all throughout preseason, so perhaps his injury could be a minor setback for a major comeback.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Top-3 scorer in the EuroLeague. WORST CASE SCENARIO: Milano lose faith in him and sign another guard.

4. JIMMER FREDETTE - PANATHINAIKOS: There isn't a newcomer in Europe with heavier weights on his shoulders than Mr. Fredette. With Nick Calathes' unreliable 3PT%, PAO need a scorer and high volume shooter to put up points in bunches. Jimmer has endless range, and it'll be easy for him to pull up from the BIG3 4-Point Range, especially with Europe’s 3PT arch being closer than that in the NBA. Jimmer is 30-years-old, and after he fired 37.2PPG in China, he needs to step in to the massive shoes of Keith Langford, not because Langford was such great for PAO last season, because he wasn’t - but because if you unload the former EuroLeague's best scorer, you only do so to bring in the next superstar scorer, and there's no reason that can't be Jimmer. Pao’s bigs, in my opinion, aren’t the best, or toughest, so Jimmer will have to claw his way to get open looks - because unlike Jaycee Carroll who runs off screens and toys with his defender, Jimmer is a pull-up-off-the-dribble kind of shooter who can create, so that should be his go to weapon.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: EuroLeague No.1 scorer and Final Four Qualifiers. WORST CASE SCENARIO: Jimmer can't handle the physicality and defense in Europe, and gets pushed out the door before season's end, Pao don’t make the playoffs.

5. WHO HAS THE BIGGEST HOMECOMING - OMRI CASSPI TO MACCABI TEL AVIV OR TIMOFEY MOZGOV TO KHIMKI MOSCOW? Casspi returns to Israel to Maccabi Tel Aviv after a decade in the NBA and “winning” an NBA championship ring with Golden State. He actually didn't win the championship with the Warriors because he was cut 80 games into the season to make room for a replacement guard as Steph Curry went down with an injury. Nonetheless, like the Cleveland Cavaliers honored David Blatt with a ring despite being fired with the best record in the East, Casspi has an Israeli ring, an NBA ring, and he is in pursuit of the only ring left - EUROLEAGUE. Casspi has looked extremely out of shape during preseason, given that he’s been hurt most of last season. He is a better shooter than ball handler and moves well without rock, but this Maccabi team has scoring-mentality guards, and none of them penetrate to kick out to the shooters - believe me, I lived it last season with Alex Tyus. He was miserable. Casspi has been taking upon himself to do things that are out of his comfort zone, but for Maccabi to go deep, they need to better structure their backcourt and feed the frontcourt.

Mozgov, at 33-years-old is long past his prime, and maybe that's why CSKA overlooked him - because they wanted someone younger and less injury prone alongside Kyle Hines. Also, Mozgov made the NBA from Khimki and not from CSKA, and there are loyalty ties between the big man and his former club. Mozgov's NBA career began decently with the Knicks, then got better with the Nuggets, and then the Cavs - winning a championship as well on the team Blatt was fired from. But his days with the Lakers and Nets pulled the curtain down on his NBA career. Mozgov prefers to enjoy basketball and family at his age instead of warming the bench in the United States. If he can remain healthy, he is in the race to win best big man in the competition. But that is a BIG IF.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Maccabi (finally) make the playoffs, Casspi makes All-1st Team Forward of the Year. Khimki as well - back in the playoffs behind the Russian dou of Mozgov and the Mamba Alexey Shved, Khimki makes the VTB Finals are beats CSKA for the VTB Championship. Mozgov earns Center of the Year. WORST CASE SCENARIO: Casspi and Mozgov each suffer from injuries and finish the season on the sidelines. Both Maccabi and Khimki breeze out of the playoffs race.


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