In the tenth of our 16 team previews in 16 days, Emmet Ryan looks at a side that had a fantastic year last year but faces an uphill struggle to even come close to repeating it. There’s a long road ahead for Crvena Zvezda
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: Dejan Randonijc
Arena: Hall Aleksandar Nikolić/Kombank Arena (5,878/22,680)
Last season in Euroleague: 12-15, lost playoffs
Last season in ABA Liga: 20-6, won finals
Who’s new? Milko Bjelica (Darussafaka Dogus, BSL), Charles Jenkins (Olimpia Milano, Serie A), Ognjen Kuzmic (Panathinaikos, A1E)
Who’s gone? Tarence Kinsey (Hapoel Jerusalem, ISL), Vasilije Micic (Tofas, BSL), Quincy Miller (Maccabi Tel Aviv, ISL), Marcus Williams (Buducnost, ABA), Maik Zirbes (Maccabi Tel Aviv, ISL)
What friend are they on a night out? Rowdy SOB who punches well above his weight every time.
Those of you who read our Zalgiris preview are going to find a lot familiar here. Zvezda have got a massive financial disadvantage compared to nearly every other side in Euroleague, have tremendous fanbase, and they have lost a ton of significant bodies. The list of those gone is so long that it’s hard to even say who is the most crucial but, for my money, the big one is Zirbes. It was what he was able to do in terms of the dirty work to keep Zvezda’s offence alive that’s going to hit them most.
That being said, this is a fantastic situation for Kuzmic who is going to be the clear first choice 5 and have a chance to make a real impact after a rough year with Panathinaikos. The one-two punch of Miroslav Raduljica and Kuzmic never really worked there, and it hadn’t looked great even at EuroBasket before then, but now Kuzmic gets the chance to set the tone at centre. Having had a shot in the NBA, Kuzmic needs to rebuild his game to get back to a higher level. He won a championship with the Golden State Warriors while barely featuring at all during the season but played a prominent role in the D-League championship win of the Santa Cruz Warriors. Here, well, it’s home and he has a chance to use it as a launchpad.
Beyond that, it’s likely to be a rough ride for Zvezda but they are built to bounce back no matter what happens this season. The youth system is a talent factory and the front office has shown plenty of wisdom in the past.
Fearless prediction 15th. It sucks, Zvezda’s fans deserve less disappointment but at least they are in a position to come back and contend for the playoffs in a year or two.