In the second of our 16 team previews in 16 days, Emmet Ryan looks at what to expect from last season’s surprise package Laboral Kutxa Vitoria aka Baskonia. With the roster changing wildly since last season’s run to the final four, what can we expect from this year’s edition?
As the intro suggests, we’re doing a preview for each of the 16 teams in Euroleague in the 16 days leading up to the start of the new season. Regarding player movement, we are relying heavily on the wonderful Mark Porcaro’s work with his 2016-17 player movement database. You should all follow Mark on Twitter.
We are going through the sides in reverse order of when they take the floor in the opening round of games in the 2016/17 Euroleague season. The entire reason we ended up on that order was because we figured it would be cool to finish with the two teams playing in the season opener.
Coach: Sito Alonso
Arena: Fernando Buesa Arena (15,504)
Last season in Euroleague: 18-11, final four
Last season in Spain: 24-10, semi finalists
Who’s new? Rafa Luz (Flamengo, NBB), Sander Raieste (Audentese, KML), Rodrigue Beaubois (SIG Strasbourg, LNB), Johannes Voigtmann (Skyliners Frankfurt, BBL), Andrea Bargnani (Brooklyn Nets, NBA), Shane Larkin (Brooklyn Nets, NBA).
Who’s gone? Ioannis Bourousis (Panathinaikos, A1E), Mike James (Panathinaikos, A1E), Davis Bertans (San Antonio Spurs, NBA), Darius Adams (Xinjiang, CBA), Fabien Causeur (Brose Baskets, BBL)
What friend are they on a night out? Changes night to night. Could be the guy first on the dancefloor and doing body shots or possibly hiding in a corner discussing philosophy.
Last season was extraordinary for Baskonia. Everything was measured brilliantly and it almost brought them to the championship game in Euroleague. Then the end of the season came and they lost so many important pieces in that side. Bye bye to Adams, Bertans, James, Causeur, and most of all Bourousis. They have a couple of good pieces still there, like Adam Hanga and Kim Tillie, but there’s been so much change.
The big question is around Bargnani, who had moments in his NBA career but comes back to Europe having flamed out with the Raps, the Knicks, and the Nets. He’s going to a place that has shown it’s a good spot for a rebuilding year but this is going to be the project to watch in the early going this season. He’s joined by fellow former Net Shane Larkin who came into the big league with plenty of promise but wasn’t able to stick anywhere in three seasons. For Larkin, this is definitely a promising situation and there’s arguably more pressure on the form Miami Hurricane than Bargs. Baskonia have the type of guys, particularly Hanga, who can allow a player to fit into the role he wants and Larkin knows the kind of guard he can be. Here it’s going to be about showing it.
For Baskonia it’s always a juggling act, they don’t have the money to compete on even terms with the richest clubs in Europe but they have the nous to find diamonds in the rough or get a player at just the right time before he becomes really expensive. Voigtmann, for my money, fits that role well as he has taken a big step forward over the past season and looks ready to deliver in Vitoria.
Fearless prediction: There’s so much potential to go either way here but far more pointing to missing out than making it. In a bit of a jumble, Baskonia come out at 11th for me.