Pinar Karsiyaka shocked the continent in last season’s BSL playoffs but with an awful lot of movement, what can we expect from the year to come? Emmet Ryan takes a look at arguably European basketball’s strongest league
The run through the playoffs was silly. In May we had all been warned, or at least an assemblage of Euro-hacks in the mixed-zone at the Euroleague Final Four. Ismail Senol said to watch out for Karsiyaka but come on, they weren’t going to get passed either Fenerbahce or Anadolu Efes? Instead they ended up topping both of them as a 9-3 playoff run saw the Izmir club claim a stunning title and with it a berth in the big show as Euroleague granted the club a B licence. In the few months since that crazy summer, there’s been a lot of change there and around large chunks of the top end of the BSL.
Starting with the reigning champions and a title defence is, at best, going to prove challenging. Ufuk Sarica enters this season without Ali Muhammed/Bobby Dixon (Fener), Baris Harsek (Fener), Jon Diebler (Efes), or DJ Strawberry (Olympiacos). Sarica has at least retained Kenny Gabriel, Juan Palacios, Soner Senturk, and Egemen Guven. The new arrivals include Kenan Sipahi, Kerem Gonlum, Joe Ragland, and Colton Iverson. Losing Muhammed is huge, the man wasn’t just Karsiyaka’s best player he was the soul of the side while Strawberry seemed to only improve with every game in the post-season. The one thing that should never be forgotten about the team that Moneyballed its way to the title is that they find ways to make it work. They are far from favourites but no-one can count them out.
The big moves have, unsurprisingly, happened largely with Istanbul clubs. Fenerbahce have undergone massive chopping and changing. Out goes Nemanja Bjelica, Semih Erden, Andrew Goudelock, Emir Preldzic, Nikos Zisis, Luka Zoric, and Oguz Savas along with the aforementioned Sipahi. In come Pero Antic, Luigi Datome, Nikola Kalinic, Kostas Sloukas, Ekpe Udoh, and the Karisyaka duo of Harsek and Muhammed. The one thing that jumped out for me when looking at this was that, somehow, Erden looks a legitimate loss. I’m the first guy to say that Semih isn’t Mr Reliable but he showed fantastic chemistry with Muhammed at EuroBasket and that combo could have worked well together. Having helped an underdog rise to the top, it’s going to be interesting to see how Muhammed manages with a far more stacked plate. This Fener team certainly isn’t as fast as his old line-up, few are, but Antic, Kalinic, and the returning Jan Vesely all give Muhammed an awful lot to work with.
The biggest single exodus from Fener was a gang of men who were part of last season’s Final Four team that have headed off to Darussafaka Dogus, also known as Dacka, also known as The D.
The D have prized Savas, Preldzic, and Erden from Fener, to go along with big time addition Reggie Redding, Euroleague winner Marcus Slaughter, Luke Harangody, Milko Bjelica, and Ender Arslan. There are a lot of nice pieces here, how it forms into a team is anyone’s guess but having splashed the cash the pressure is on this roster to deliver right away. Dacka got a wild card to Euroleague but come into this campaign on the back of a disappointing early exit from the BSL Playoffs. The post-season is where this team has to show something.
Last season wasn’t a great one for Galatasaray as the club struggled to keep a competitive roster together. The changes have come although the spending spree wasn’t quite what was first expected. Joey Dorsey was the headline acquisition and he’s joined by Caleb Greene, Stephane Lasme, and Errick McCollum. Alongside mainstay Sinan Guler, this is a solid but not spectacular side. The goal for Gala has to be getting through the first round of the playoffs and going deep in Eurocup. To do the first half, a top four finish would help a great deal but even securing fifth or sixth gives them a fighting chance.
And, of course, like we were going to forget about Efes and Cedi Osman’s fantastic hair.
The biggest news with Efes isn’t who has arrived but that so much of the core remains. Osman is back and seems to be continually improving, Dario Saric is there too, along with Thomas Heurtel, Nenad Krstic, and wunderkind Furkan Korkmaz. Kormaz aside, who is not likely to see significant minutes this season, those are crucial pieces for the Istanbul club. Joining their push for success on two fronts are Bryant Dunston…yes he won back to back Defensive player of the year in Euroleague and yes we are still stunned by this but he’s useful…three-pojnt specialist Jon Diebler, Derrick Brown, Alex Tyus, and Jayson Granger. Those are some good bodies who can make their presence felt early. That combination of stability and fresh talent should stand to them early in the season.
Other interesting arrivals to the BSL include AJ Slaughter signing with Banvit, Tremmell Darden, Maciej Lampe, Erik Murphy and Nate Wolters joining Besiktas, and Tarence Kinsey moving to Trabzonspor.
On the whole this promises to be a cracking season with a whole lot of adjustments from power teams early. That could leave room for early upsets but by year end we should be set for a few monstrous series in the playoffs. Turkey is where the money is right now, at least if we are talking in terms of depth for any league, and that should lead to some fascinating games. It’s also relatively easy to follow with a Digiturk subscription…even if I haven’t been able to get it to work on desktop yet. For US followers, Efes alone are worth tracking with one future draft pick and two big time stashes (seriously Osman just keeps getting better) and once you get your fill of them you’ll find a whole bunch of teams playing exciting ball to follow.
Hat-tip to Ahmet Subasi for pointing out BSL not TBL is the correct shortening of the league now