In the seventh of our 16 team previews in 16 days, Emmet Ryan looks at the new look FC Barcelona. With a new coach and a bunch of new players, what can we expect from the Blaugrana in Euroleague 2016/17?
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: Georgios Bartzokas
Arena: Palau Blaugrana
Last season in Euroleague: 16-13, lost playoffs
Last season in ACB: 29-5, lost finals
Who’s new? Victor Claver (Lokomotiv Kuban, VTB), Tyrese Rice (Khimki MR, VTB), Petteri Koponen (Khimki MR, VTB)
Who’s gone? Alex Abrines (Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA), Tomas Satoransky (Washington Wizards, NBA), Samardo Samuels (Jiangsu Dragons, CBA), Moussa Diagne (Fuenlabrada [loan], ACB)
What friend are they on a night out? They used to be so reliable, they look like they could be the life of the party again but, man, you just can’t rely on them to make it to the pub
Things needed to change for FC Barcelona and the end of Xavi Pascual’s reign didn’t come as much of a surprise come the tail end of last season. There just wasn’t anything there to give reason to believe he could bring them back above Real Madrid in Spain, nor was their any sign of them making a serious challenge for Euroleague under his stewardship. Pascual is a fine coach and one who will likely gain in some respect as well from the change, both sides needed this parting.
His replacement, Georgios Bartzokas, won a Euroleague with Olympiacos before roundly being booted out of the club which has zero patience for anything less than absolute success. So he went to Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, moulded them into one of the most watchable teams in Europe and got them all the way to the final four.
Looking at the roster changes, to the untrained eye this might look like a tragedy if you look at where players are going and where they are coming from. Fit and calibre however are two other matters entirely. In Rice Barcelona got the pure ball handler they need, while also getting an obvious scoring boost. Claver offers some solidity on the inside and knows Barztokas well from their time together last season. The saddening news of course is Koponen, a national hero in Finland and one of the finest sixth men in Europe, who is out for an indeterminate amount of time after being involved in a serious car accident. Any involvement from Koponen this season is a plus and, frankly, his health is far more important than basketball so this site wishes him well in his recovery.
There are still so many questions around this side. After massive roster changes last season, there’s now bound to be a major switch in the system and in the key pieces on the floor. Juan Carlos Navarro is not getting younger but, if used in spot action, can be a guy to hurt teams. It’s the temptation to run him hard that limits his efficacy this days more than his actual age. Play him sparingly and he can hurt teams. Then there’s Ante Tomic. In the middle of last season, well really towards the end of the regular season, it was like he fell into the biggest mental rut that there was no escape from. What Tomic shows up this season is going to speak volumes about what Barcelona do.
Fearless prediction: For all the humming and hawwing, this is still a playoff team. The depth is there, the talent is too. They will drop some stupid games, of that I have no doubt, but they will still do enough to make the post-season. A final four? That I’m less confident on. I’m picking Barcelona to come fifth.