With the new Euroleague season nearing, BallinEurope is once more break down each of the teams individually on 16 consecutive days in the run up to tip off. As with last season, we’re going in reverse order from the opening round of games. We continue our rapid catch-up process, because we are so behind schedule, with a look at the year ahead for Real Madrid and a certain young prospect you might have heard about
So you might have heard of this Luka Doncic kid. Did you know he’s only 18? That he’s Slovenian? That he plays for Real Madrid? Ah, great. He’s really gone under the radar for some folk. Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s get to why this season is going to be fascinating for him.
To start with the obvious, this is almost certainly Doncic’s last campaign in Europe. Ever. He’s got some unfinished business before he makes that big jump to the NBA. There’s a second Rising Star award to collect, which barring injury he’s a runaway favourite to win, a serious shot at the MVP award (more on the why in a moment), and the small matter of winning the championship.
The extended absence of Sergio Llull this season for Real is going to be a huge loss for the side but it is an opportunity for Doncic. This is going to be his team to run, as much from the 2 or 3 as the 1, and the veteran line-up is going to look to him to be the guy while Llull is on the shelf. That’s a major opportunity for the young guy to develop his game.
Obviously, it would be preferable for Doncic to play alongside one of the most exciting dudes on the planet but while Llull sits the Slovenian has a chance to show the maturity in his game more. We’ve already seen that Doncic is afraid of nobody and the ghosts of last May were shredded on that same floor in Istanbul this past September. It’s Luka Doncic time.
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Coach: Pablo Laso
Arena: WiZink Center, 15,000
Last season in Euroleague: 23-7, lost semi-final
Last season in ACB: 25-7, lost finals
Who’s new? Fabien Causeur (Brose Bamberg), Ognjen Kuzmic (Crvena Zvezda), Facundo Campazzo (Murcia), Chasson Randle (New York Knicks)
Who’s gone? Andres Nocioni (retired), Alex Suarez (retired), Dontaye Draper (TBD), Othello Hunter (CSKA Moscow)
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The continuity here is a huge asset with one notable change that could cause quite a few headaches. Role wise, losing Hunter and gaining Kuzmic makes the 5 issue bigger than it was. Defensively Kuzmic is great but he’s not shown enough at the other end to be reliable at this level. Gustavo Ayon’s issues are the reverse and we saw at EuroBasket that Kuzmic doing a Mr Defence-Mr Offence tandem isn’t exactly ideal.
The back court looks so much deeper, even down Llull. That’s the difference additions like Causeur and the long-awaited return from loan of Campazzo can make. Losing the spark of Llull is big but this is still a cracking line-up that can do an awful lot out there. With Doncic already showing significant improvements on D, Real are going to be good.
Fearless prediction: 2nd. They topped the ladder last year but the loss of Llull coupled with CSKA just looking more likely to rack up wins in the regular season at a faster rate than anybody I can’t pick them for the repeat. For the title? Well that’s another discussion entirely for all the runners and riders.
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