The EuroLeague started 2022 with a massive COVID-19 outbreak that postponed Round 19. But when the EuroLeague returns to action, get ready for a very intriguing second part of the season.

2-pointers this season

51%
19,2
Points made: 19,2
Accuracy: 51,4%
Place in standings: 11
Record max: 25
Record min: 12
Most made 2FGs: Tornike Shengelia

On the latest Urbonus podcast, BasketNews' Donatas Urbonas & Rytis Vysniauskas shared their six bold, crazy, hot, brave, or whatever you may call it, EuroLeague predictions for 2022.

Efes won't make the Final Four

Rytis: I will say that the current EuroLeague champions will not be in the Final Four to defend the crown. They will make the playoffs, although even making the playoffs doesn't sound so convincing right now.

They had their last game in Kazan, without Vasilije Micic and Krunoslav Simon. And you could see that when there is only Shane Larkin, there's not enough power for them to win games against teams like Kazan now.

A rebuild is really needed. With Ataman or without Ataman, but they have to rebuild the squad.

They have to sign new players in the center position. Some guys are just getting old. They are veterans, and they're not as good as in the previous years.

When they started the season slowly, I always thought they would start winning games soon. Soon they're going to get better. Now, let's say they have nine wins, nine losses. But in some games, they just won because of individual quality, like against Zvezda, which was the better team.

It's already January, and I don't see too many improvements.

Donatas: I like your prediction. Although I can see them making the Final Four because at the moment, I see only two teams way better than others, and that's FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Other teams are struggling, so a lot depends on whether they will get a home-court advantage.

Rytis: I'm not so sure about home-court advantage. And actually, if Efes would face Olympiacos with the Greek club having the home-court advantage, I would go with Olympiacos now.

If they faced Barca, Real, or Olympiacos in the playoffs, I would go with these three. Even if they go against UNICS, Milan, CSKA... I wouldn't bet on Efes. The only team I see them beating right now is Zenit.

CSKA will win the EuroLeague

Donatas: My bold prediction is that CSKA will win the EuroLeague. 

I was a fan of CSKA chances before the season, and I feel that they will get it done.

They're 7th, but they're only two wins away from the third seed. There are plenty of games to get the home-court advantage for the playoffs.

And they had their full roster for the first time only on December 10. So there's a lot of time to get momentum.

We questioned if Shengelia next to Milutinov on the frontline is a good fit. But we forget that CSKA were 16-7 last year. They were 2nd in the standings before Milutinov got hurt.

I think they will make the Final Four for sure, and it's a tournament of two games. The experience is there. They have a great coach. I believe the chemistry will be there as well. And if they will find a good point guard who fits the rest of the group well, they will be a complete team.

I like Barcelona, and I like Real Madrid more at the moment. But that's just my bold prediction.

Rytis: I'm sticking with my pre-season prediction that Real Madrid will win the EuroLeague.

I'm going to stick with that because when everyone's healthy and they have a full roster, Real Madrid is the deepest team in Europe. In terms of experience, who can match them with Pablo Lasso and these guys? 

So in the Final Four, I will go with Madrid.

Monaco will make noise

Rytis: I watched their last game of 2021 against Maccabi. It was not a very solid game in terms of quality for both teams, especially on defense. But you could have expected that.

However, I saw Mike James playing really smart basketball, feeding Donatas Motiejunas and all the others, being a true floor general. Under Sasa Obradovic, Mike James is averaging 11 assists per game.

There are all these characters, egos, and everything. But so far, it seems that Obradovic is handling James very well. And when James is playing at this level, he makes other players better.

They're not going to be a defensive team, but they sure as hell have the instruments to win on offense. And I can see them doing it.

So my prediction is that Monaco will be the team that will make a run in 2022. They will not make the playoffs, let's make it clear. But I think Monaco will do something like Baskonia did last season.

Bertomeu is not going anywhere

Donatas: I think he will stay in the EuroLeague, just like in that famous scene from The Wolf Of Wall Street.

Currently, there are rumors that Spanish teams are treating to leave the EuroLeague if Jordi is out. I keep hearing all these rumors from very different corners of our basketball community.

Don't forget that Jordi created the EuroLeague. He's a lawyer. He put all the necessary things to keep his position safe. And as I said, Spanish teams support him strongly. So it's not going to be easy.

My only wish is that the EuroLeague would go forward. For me, there's no difference who runs the EuroLeague. But if Jordi stays, I hope he will plan to improve the league, starting from the different playoff format to helping teams make the EuroLeague more profitable.

Barcelona won't win the regular season

Rytis: Once again, my other prediction is related to the standings, and my prediction for this year is that Barcelona will not be the winners of the regular season.

I think they were winning too many games with all their problems. And right now, when I saw them losing against Baskonia, it made sense.

Donatas: Even the game against UNICS... They should have lost that one too.

Rytis: Yes. The quality is decreasing, and it's reasonable because they have really, really bad injury problems, and it will take some time for all these players to return. For Madrid, they had their COVID cases. The players are getting back. Madrid has the squad to play double or even triple-game weeks.

If we talk about Barcelona, Cory Higgins came back after his injury, but he was far away from the best version of himself. He will need some time. Nick Calathes, when he gets back, he will need some more time. Yeah, they were riding on Jokubaitis and Laprovittola's backs, and they were amazing. But how long can it last? 

For me, Real Madrid, with their depth, the roster, and their system, they're winning this battle. 

Donatas: You know what's the problem? That if you win the regular season, it doesn't change anything. It would matter a lot if we had the final series with the best of five. In the Spanish league, it matters because you get the home-court advantage.

I can see Saras resting his main players at the end of the regular season. Pablo Lasso will do it as well. But he has a deeper roster to win all these games with his second or third lineup. So yes, that's the issue of this format.

Rytis: It's a great point. Let's remember our previous EuroLeague champions. Fenerbahce were fifth in the regular season, and they won it with Zeljko. Real Madrid were fifth and won it with Laso and Doncic.

The number one seed really does not give you much. There's not much difference between first, second, third, or fourth seed.

Massive summer moves

Donatas: I can see Shane Larkin moving. It would be a hell of a game-changer to see him in Fenerbahce, right? I can see Vasilije Micic finally going to the NBA.

Will Clyburn is on an expiring contract. Daniel Hackett too.

I wonder what Fenerbahce will do with Jan Vesely and Nando De Colo.

Mario Hezonja... It's always a big summer drama with him. 

Milan has a lot of expiring contracts, from Delaney to Rodriguez, Kyle Hines, other veterans.

Many exciting changes might happen this summer that could change the EuroLeague picture.

Watch the complete analysis of these six predictions on the latest URBONUS podcast, where Donatas Urbonas and Rytis Vysniauskas also discussed Fenerbahce's playoff chances, the EuroLeague going through the COVID-19 outbreaks, and the drawbacks of the European basketball system.

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2022-01-10
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