With the new Euroleague season nearing, BallinEurope is once more break down each of the teams individually on 16 consecutive days in the run up to tip off. As with last season, we’re going in reverse order from the opening round of games. We continue our rapid catch-up process, because we are so behind schedule, with a look at the year ahead for CSKA Moscow
The Philadelphia experiment didn’t go as Sergio Rodriguez would have liked but he got the shot he wanted. The second stint, and its significant payday, was well-earned by Chacho and he comes back to a rather different Euroleague to the one he left. Plenty of the guys he battled against have jumped to the NBA while he’s now lining up with plenty of dudes he used to try to take down.
For Chacho, this is a big change. CSKA Moscow carries with it expectation and the great fear. Only a title suffices with this club. Final Fours are mandatory, so too VTB League crowns, but a season is only considered anything approaching a success with a Euroleague title. It’s not the best deal and, let’s not dance around it, CSKA have a habit of CSKA-ing in Final Fours. Chacho is used to being on great teams with high hopes but not quite the same good-bad dynamic. Winning the ACB meant a whole lot, getting to a Final Four and losing was disappointing but it was still a creditable performance.
Not here and Chacho probably wouldn’t have wanted any more. The Sixers were still in The Process mode during his time there. Now he’s at a team which enters every game expecting victory and he gets to go for the Ws alongside a roster that is laughably stacked.
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Coach: Dimitris Itoudis
Arena: USH/Megasport Arena, 5,500/13,126
Last season in Euroleague: 22-8, lost semi-final
Last season in ACB: 22-2, won finals
Who’s new? Will Clyburn (Darussafaka), Othello Hunter (Real Madrid), Alan Makiev (Avtodor), Sergio Rodriguez (Philadelphia 76ers), Leo Westermann (Zalgiris)
Who’s gone? Aaron Jackson (Beijing), Milos Teodosic (Los Angeles Clippers), James Augustine (Unicaja), Dmitry Kulagin (TBD), Joel Freeland (TBD)
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The loss of Milos rightly dominated the headlines but the hole left by Aaron Jackson is arguably harder to fill. Milos is Milos, a unique talent, but most of the production side should be made up for pretty well by CSKA’s off-season moves. Defensively, CSKA look a touch weaker in the backcourt without Jackson and none of their changes really look like they’ll fill that gap directly.
The Will Clyburn signing has been met with scepticism to a degree, in terms of fit more than talent, but with CSKA retaining their key role guys on the roster there’s enough room for a Clyburn type player to make an impact. Westermann could prove the most interesting signing of the off-season as this is a big step up for him.
On the whole, there’s loads to like about this side in terms of the season ahead and you know they’ve already scouted a pub in Belgrade.
Fearless prediction: 1st. Note how I said at the start of these previews that these picks are looking at the regular season only. In terms of the regular season, I just love the look of this outfit. They are going to gobble up Ws.
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