Brose Baskets reclaimed their throne last season but Bayern have loaded up to make a big charge to get back on top this year. Emmet Ryan says it’s going to be hard for anyone to get between the big two from Bavaria
Was it just one season? Just one year with a big three? That’s the question heading into the Bundesliga this season. Both reigning champions Brose Baskets Bamberg and FC Bayern have clearly upgraded and improved their depth, albeit in the face of a notable loss for the former. The real question is Alba Berlin. They were the darlings of hipsters through the autumn and spring last season, recording the type of wins that get people excited. Barca, Maccabi, the Spurs. All from a Bundesliga club. Come the summer they came so close but Bayern stopped them in the decisive Game 5 of the playoffs and that effectively ended their shot at getting back to Euroleague. Painful as that loss was, it doesn’t come close to losing Reggie Redding, Alex Renfroe, Jamel McClean, Leon Radisevic, and Marko Banic. That’s a serious group of contributors. If any front office in Germany can rebound from such losses it’s…well actually it’s both Alba and Bamberg’s because both are excellent but it’s Alba who need to show it. Benedict Tundic, Dragan Milosavljevic, Elmedin Kikanovic, and Jordan Taylor are all being asked to step in as the latest wunder-finds but it’s surely going to take time for this team to adjust. That puts their likely playoff position in question, it’s hard to see them finishing higher than third in the regular season, but who knows what this side will look like come the post-season.
Reigning champions Brose Baskets lost a certain monster in the form of Trevor Mbakwe along with major contributors Ryan Thompson and have opened the wallet to try and replicate last year’s title charge. It’s a title or no Euroleague for this club, that’s the cold reality for Bamberg. They will never be offered a wild card so long as one of the Munich and Berlin markets are on the table. Nicolo Melli, Nikos Zisis, Bayern duo Yassin Idbhi Lucca Staiger, and fresh from NCAA rookies Patrick Heckmann and Gabe Olaseni have all been brought in. One thing that hasn’t changed? Their fans are amazing.
Although truth be told, while Bamberg are the best I’ve experienced the Bundesliga as a whole rocks for great crowds. Ok, back to on court matters with Brose Baskets. Defensively this team is definitely down from last season but the sheer development in creativity and scoring has to look promising. In an offence driven league like the Bundesliga, that’s going to count for a lot, but one wonders whether there is anywhere near enough on the other end to carry them to the Euroleague Top 16. The money spent would imply that’s the goal (h/t Sam Meyerkopf for emphasising that last weekend) but the overall build is one aimed at beating one team.
FC Bayern had a pretty ugly autumn, mainly due to their Euroleague troubles and adapting to the losses of Malcolm Delaney and Deon Thompson. The latter is back and that is an immediate help but look at that back-court depth. Paul Zipser and Vassilije Micic will be behind the starting duo of Alex Renfroe and K.C. Rivers. Nihad Djedovic now counts as German, you may have heard a little about this, and at Bundesliga level Anton Gavel is a luxury on the bench. We all knew Bayern were wealthy in the bank now they are showing it on the floor. The one, natural, concern is at the 5 where John Bryant’s defence is a major worry. Bayern almost won a title with him at centre last year and a lot lower level of support around him. Now he’s got much stronger aid and that has to make this team look stronger. Looking over this roster, if they can disguise the flaws of Bryant on D this team could make an Alba-esque push for the Euroleague playoffs. They simply have to be the favourites overall for the title, or at least to top the regular season table and get home court advantage through the playoffs.
Outside the big three, one team looks a clear best of the rest and far from an easy out in a series. ratiopharm Ulm would break my day job’s style guide (organisations that use small caps names get capitalised in the Sunday Business Post) have some serious bodies in Carlon Brown, Raymar Morgan, Taylor Braun, and DeAndre Kane. The problem for Ulm is that Brown and Morgan have injury issues and Kane isn’t the easiest man to work with. If the breaks go their way, Ulm should be a clear fourth. If they don’t, it could be a wacky season. Telekom Baskets Bonn have long been a reliable side in the regular season but getting past the first round of the playoffs remains a headahce. After that it’s all about health. Skyliners Frankfurt, EWE Baskets Oldenburg, and MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg all have guys who can do jobs but if they get hurt, the holes behind them are significant.
As ever Germany promises to deliver serious entertainment for the neutral, arguably the most offence driven league in Europe. The cup format is a bit different but, hey, if everybody looked the same we’d get tired of looking at each other. It’s also one of the easiest leagues to watch in Europe with a great global streaming service. That is always going to make it dear to our hearts. Oh and the beer, I love drinking before and after Bundesliga games…whether I’m at them or not.