Credit: BNS, D.Repečka, imago images - Scanpix | BasketNews iliustracija/A.Zaikauskas
Credit BNS, D.Repečka, imago images - Scanpix | BasketNews iliustracija/A.Zaikauskas

Shavon Shields, Wade Baldwin, Achille Polonara, Jordan Loyd, and Marius Grigonis are among the most notable names that come to mind when talking about last year's Turkish Airlines EuroLeague breakthroughs. Who will be the players to succeed similarly this year?

Nikola Ivanovic

Nikola  Ivanovic
Team: Crvena Zvezda Belgrade
Position: SG
Age: 27
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 85 kg
Birth place: Montenegro

Compared to last season, this year, we are seeing many more newcomers in the strongest European league. However, there is no shortage of options among players with EuroLeague experience from which we can expect an eruption.

BasketNews' Jonas Leksas has selected seven players who could have a breakthrough season. Some of them will increase their value and sign with a higher-tier team. Others will establish themselves in the league and eventually prove that they belong here.

However, players who have already played a solid season in the EuroLeague and are close to reaching their maximum potential were not included in the list.

Marcus Eriksson

Credit Lukšta

ALBA Berlin's Swede is stepping into his third season, and it looks like it could be the year Eriksson grows out of the German club's jersey.

The 27-year-old sniper played the most productive season of his career in the EuroLeague (averaging 12.4 PPG) last year. This summer, ALBA lost Simone Fontecchio, Peyton Siva, Niels Giffey, and Jayson Granger. ALBA were unable to find equivalent replacements for them, and it seems like most of the responsibility to carry the team will fall on the shoulders of Eriksson, Luke Sikma, and Jaleen Smith.

The 2.01 m swingman has shot at least 41.5 % from three in each of his last three EuroLeague seasons. Last year, he displayed a historic showing by scoring 10 3-pointers in a match against Khimki and finishing the game with 36 points and 41 PIR.

Eriksson has the right size for his position, an elite jump shot, and is approaching the peak of his career. If he manages to avoid the re-occurring health issues next season and add more confidence to his offensive game, it is realistic to see him in a stronger EuroLeague club next summer.

Tadas Sedekerskis

Credit Twitter Baskonia

Last season was the first one when the Lithuanian earned a spot in the rotation of a EuroLeague team. But the averages of 3.5 PPG and 5.6 PIR weren't enough for it to be called a breakthrough season.

Sedekerskis is a defensive-minded player and will probably never be one of the team's first options on offense. However, he is only 23, and little by little, we see more and more courage in his game.

It is evident that Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz's coach Dusko Ivanovic likes Sedekerskis for his ability to play at both forward positions, trusting him with 23 minutes per game during the first three Spanish Liga ACB matches, where he recorded averages of 4.3 PPG, 5.3 REB, and 11 PIR.

The 2.06 m athlete is already an elite EuroLeague player on defense and does a lot of the dirty work that coaches appreciate. By adding more confidence on offense, we can expect double-digit averages in efficiency from Sedekerskis in the upcoming EuroLeague season.

Nikola Ivanovic


The Montenegrin played in the EuroLeague during the 2018-19 campaign, averaging 7 PPG and 10 PIR over 19 minutes with Buducnost Podgorica.

Even though his stats weren't off the charts, Zalgiris Kaunas and Sarunas Jasikevicius were interested in acquiring him mid-season, which says a lot about Ivanovic's potential.

The guard returns to the strongest European league after a two-year hiatus, gaining a lot of experience. Having joined Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, Ivanovic is in the running to take over the role of the team's primary playmaker from Nate Wolters.

Ivanovic spent the last four seasons with Budusnost and had a breakthrough season in the EuroCup last year, accumulating 14.6 PPG, 3.4 AST, and 15.7 PIR.

Ivanovic showed that he has the potential to impress on the EuroLeague stage by starting the Adriatic League season with 20 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 35 PIR.

Alex Poythress

Credit Basketnews/D.Repečka

Poythress, who made his EuroLeague debut last season, was inconsistent but showed great flashes, making it possible for him to shine this season even more.

The combination of Poythress, Arturas Gudaitis, and Jordan Mickey form a versatile front line at Zenit St. Petersburg, and at least at the beginning of the season, Poythress is set to be the starting center for the Russian club.

The 28-year-old American had his fair share of ups and downs last season but ended up with solid averages for a newcomer anyway - 8.6 PPG, 4.3 REB, and 8.8 PIR.

A 2.06 m big man like Poythress is heavily dependent on the point guards in his team. Therefore, while Shabazz Napier will be recovering from an injury, it may be difficult for Poythress to shine. Still, one of the best EuroLeague coaches, Xavi Pascual, didn't try to keep Poythress in the off-season for nothing.

Ioannis Papapetrou

Credit imago images - Scanpix

It may seem that Papapetrou falls out of context on this list - the forward has been the leading player for Panathinaikos OPAP Athens for two consecutive seasons. However, the 27-year-old Greek has only started showing his offensive potential in recent years, and it's time for his stats to increase even more.

This summer, the 2.03 m forward rejected the offers of the top EuroLeague clubs, showing his loyalty to Panathinaikos. The question is whether Papapetrou will be able to make the Greek powerhouse a winning team this year.

Papapetrou, already among the top five small forwards in the EuroLeague, has long been valued for his solid defense but also showed his offensive abilities by averaging 12.1 PPG last year. In the upcoming season, his role on the team should increase along with his scoring numbers that should amount to at least 14-15 PPG.

For Papapetrou, who has signed a new two-year contract in the off-season, the key will be avoiding the health issues plaguing him in recent seasons. In the match against Virtus Segafredo Bologna, Papapetrou scored 41 points, which is an excellent indicator for him looking forwards.

Nick Weiler-Babb

Credit imago images/kolbert-press-Scanpix

Another basketball player that made his debut in the EuroLeague last year, Nick Weiler-Ball is stepping into his sophomore season in the strongest European competition.

In the summer, Bayern Munich said goodbye to Baldwin and D.J. Seeley, and the newcomers may need time to adjust to the demanding coach Andrea Trinchieri. Therefore, Weiler-Babb is expected to play well from the start of the season.

The American was recovering from a leg injury he sustained during last season's EuroLeague playoffs for a month and a half but looked solid in pre-season, which indicates that a more significant role is intended for him.

The 25-year-old guard had flashes of greatness last season, the most prominent of which were 25 points and 38 PIR against Khimki. But, like many Euroleague newcomers, Weiler-Babb lacked consistency.

The combo guard will open the doors for Trinchieri to play individual action-based basketball, as he did last year with Baldwin, allowing starting shooting guard Darrun Hilliard to get enough rest. It would certainly be surprising if Weiler-Babb's point averages won't increase from 6.3 to double-digits.

Simone Fontecchio

Credit FIBA

Last year, the Italian finally made a name for himself in the EuroLeague, averaging 10.6 PPG for ALBA. In the off-season, Baskonia bought out his contract and signed a long-term contract with Fontecchio. However, it is one thing to play successfully for the EuroLeague outsiders, and it is another to maintain the level in a team fighting for a spot in the playoffs.

Still, the 25-year-old forward was fantastic for the Italian National Team in the summer, where he averaged close to 20 PPG, which makes it likely for him to fit perfectly in the fast-paced Baskonia as well.

It is true that a 2.03 m forward will have to adjust to Ivanovic's schemes, which is apparent from the first three official matches of the Liga ACB, where Fontecchio averaged just 5.3 PPG and 4.3 PIR.

It is still difficult to say how Fontecchio will fit alongside Rokas Giedraitis. Still, the potential he has shown in the Italian NT suggests that he is a EuroLeague star-caliber talent, approaching the peak of his career.

If Fontecchio manages to improve his last season's EuroLeague averages (10.6 PPG, 10.1 PIR), it will be a solid foundation on the road to becoming an elite EuroLeague player.

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