Credit: D.Repečka, V.Mikaitis, Winner League | BasketNews illustration
Credit D.Repečka, V.Mikaitis, Winner League | BasketNews illustration

BasketNews continues the 3x3 EuroLeague edition, where three of our colleagues will give three answers to three questions.

Wade Baldwin

Wade  Baldwin
Wade  Baldwin
MIN: 24.55
PTS: 11.57 (46.08%)
REB: 3.57
As: 3
ST: 0.43
BL: 0.43
TO: 2.57
GM: 7

Orazio Cauchi, Giorgos Kyrikiadis, and Donatas Urbonas trio will look at the in-form Maccabi Tel Aviv, the unclear situation at Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, and the brand-new version of Alexey Shved at CSKA Moscow.

After shaky pre-season, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv are the hottest team right now. Is it fair to say that they’re contenders for the Final Four?

Orazio: Considering the fact that they basically had no pre-season because of Covid, it was clear that Maccabi was going to take a while before starting to show his real value.

Nunnally has been an amazing addition so far, Zizic is back after the injury, and the combination between Wilbekin and Keenan Evans is starting to work effectively. Coach Sfairopoulos is doing a good job in balancing offense and defense.

For me, Maccabi is clearly a playoff team, and if they’ll find the right match in the quarterfinal, Final Four is a possibility for them, especially if they’ll have the home advantage.

Giorgos: Maccabi are indeed on a 5-0 run that has allowed them to look further than their initial 1-2 would suggest.

They’ve shown resilience and character in demanding games. Moreover, several players have stepped up, giving coach Giannis Sfairopoulos some solutions.

Keenan Evans has risen as the team’s overall floor general when Scottie Wilbekin is not up to par. James Nunnally is the scorer we all expected to see. Jalen Reynolds has started to remind everyone of the impact he had on last year’s Bayern Munich.

Derrick Williams has had a very strong showing, shooting extremely - even surprisingly well from the perimeter (52%). Ante Zizic finally has a season worthy of his talent and his very promising rookie EuroLeague season with Darussafaka four years ago.

A series of away games are coming up for Maccabi. CSKA, Olympiacos, ALBA, Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, and Zenit are waiting for the Israelis before Christmas. In spite of having won two road games so far (ASVEL and Baskonia), they first must get a really big away win in order to be regarded as a Final Four contender.

Other than that, Maccabi seem to lack a regular point guard since both Wilbekin and Evans are primarily scorers, as well as an athletic big like Othello Hunter or Quincy Acy. When those two were in Tel Aviv, Maccabi had the single-best defense in the competition and were a viable Final Four contender.

This year, we have to wait and see how far this roster can go. Having fans back is a huge plus for them, but Maccabi will have to prove that they deserve their high place in the standings in the following weeks. So far, so (very) good, but no season has ever ended in 8 games.

Donatas: It’s really too early to consider Maccabi as the Final Four contenders. Especially when you have to beat FC Barcelona, AX Armani Exchange, Real, CSKA, or Efes to make it happen. To be honest, I don’t see them there yet.

Although I have to admit that Maccabi surprised me a lot. The way their pre-season went into a trash bin due to COVID, the way they were missing chemistry early in the season, their record 6-2 is just fantastic.

But this Maccabi team should look at it game by game. Playoffs should be the primary goal. Then a lot depends on the playoffs matchup and momentum. But it’s really great to see Ioannis Sfairopoulos and his team on the top again.

As Baskonia’s struggles continue, who do you think will go first: Dusko Ivanovic or Wade Baldwin?

Orazio: If Baskonia doesn’t improve their form soon, I believe that coach Ivanovic might be the first to leave.

There’ve already been some whispers about his potential departure and, personally, I don’t think he’s the right coach for this kind of roster. While he was the perfect guy to lead the team in the pandemic environment, I think that this new version of the roster needs a fresh voice to fulfill its potential.

There are several interesting players, but most of them need time and patience, something that coach Ivanovic doesn’t look willing to give them.

Regarding Baldwin, I believe that in the end, he might leave too but, considering he was probably the biggest addition of the summer, he’ll have a little bit more time to change things around.

Giorgos: I would pick Baldwin. He is the one that has to raise his stock as soon as possible.

His playing time this year has been a topic of many discussions, but his overall contribution vaguely reminds me of the player that made the difference for Bayern last year.

His assist-turnover ratio is almost 1:1, his decision-making not exactly his strong point, while his three-point percentage has dropped to 19%. Alec Peters is injured, yet Dusko Ivanovic brought in another Peters - not to bolster his frontcourt, but to give some extra boost to his short-handed guard lineup.

In this vein, Lamar Peters will “steal” some minutes from Baldwin, and, of course, if Dusko feels like it, he might as well show the exit door to the former NBA player.

Donatas: Dusko Ivanovic and Wade Baldwin is one of the weirdest duos in the EuroLeague. And I’m not sure if it will work out.

Baldwin stepped up and averaged 16.6 points in the last three EuroLeague games. But Baskonia lost all of these games badly (by 20.3 points on average).

If you want the best version of Baldwin both on and off the court, you have to have him as your go-to guy. But Dusko Ivanovic signed another guard Lamar Peters, and he played Baldwin only 8 minutes in the recent ACB win vs. Unicaja.

To be honest, before the season, I thought that Dusko would have to go first. But watching Baskonia giving him the freedom to sign another guard, I don’t think it goes in Baldwin’s favor.

CSKA’s president Andrey Vatutin said he likes current Alexey Shved’s version more than Khimki’s one. What’s your view on this?

Orazio: I understand Vatutin’s opinion. In Khimki, Shved was the absolute superstar, and everything revolved around him, while in CSKA, in many ways, he has to be a different kind of player because there are already several other important players in the locker room.

But with the current difficulties of CSKA, who’s still missing Milutinov and Grigonis, a bit of Khimki’s Shved might be necessary because otherwise, all the offensive load relies on Clyburn and Shengelia (when he’ll be at 100% again), and that can be a problem for the long term.

So I agree with Vatutin’s take, but the current situation requires a bit more of the “old” Shved if CSKA wants to get out of this slump while waiting for the recoveries of Milutinov and Grigonis.

Giorgos: I both agree and disagree with Andrey Vatutin on this one.

In Khimki, Shved was a one-man-show, while CSKA in Shved is looking for a role and some consistency. I don’t particularly favor either version.

Yes, Alexey Shved is more tamed, more contained, and is doing his best to adjust to a new role at CSKA. So far, only Will Clyburn has taken more shots than him. Being efficient and impactful is a hard task, especially for someone who was used to being the ultimate “go-to” guy for years.

Apart from the fact that CSKA are a losing team right now, of course, not in the way Khimki had been in the past, Shved has essentially Mike James’s shoes to fill. With Clyburn remaining the undisputed No.1 on this team, the Russian guard seems to struggle and suffocate in many games.

In recruiting James and Shved, Dimitris Itoudis took some risks. Only when CSKA get all their players back we will be able to give Shved a fair judgment.

Donatas: I’m on the bandwagon of this new Alexey Shved version. Even if some think that he’s taken as a hostage (everybody saw that open look Shved didn’t take against Olympiacos, right?), I believe we are witnessing a very quality version of Alexey Shved.

He’s not scoring as much as before (10.8 PPG). His shooting percentage isn’t significant either (2FG: 43.2%; 3FG: 33.3%), but he has the second-best +/- rating in CSKA, and he fits the Itoudis system well. I highly recommend watching his first quarter in Monaco. He played it like from a textbook.

As soon as all injured players are back in their rhythm and CSKA starts winning again, Shved’s efficiency will increase, and you won’t need to raise this question anymore.

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Free throws this season

Points made: 14,3
Accuracy: 79,2%
Place in standings: 3
Record max: 30
Record min: 5
Most made FTs: Tornike Shengelia