Credit: D.Repečka, ZUMA Press - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration
Credit D.Repečka, ZUMA Press - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration

After taking a break last week, the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague returns and does so BasketNews 3x3 EuroLeague edition.

3-pointers this season

Points made: 7,3
Accuracy: 33,3%
Place in standings: 16
Record max: 13
Record min: 3
Most made 3FGs: Marko Guduric

This week, BasketNews' journalists Orazio Cauchi, Uygar Karaca, and Giorgos Kyriakidis will pick the most anticipated game of the upcoming double-week, discuss winners and losers of the coronavirus-related break in the EuroLeague, and choose the most realistic prediction from the bold predictions list.

Those who missed it can find our full list of bold predictions for 2022 here.

Of all games that will take place in this double-week, which one do you wait for the most?

Orazio: Fingers crossed that both games I'm waiting to see the most will take place. This week my choices are both Barcelona games against AX Armani Exchange Milan and Anadolu Efes Istanbul.

The Spanish side is still dealing with some absences, but they remain, as of right now, the best team in the competition, and it'll be exciting to see them against two other top clubs like Milan and Efes.

Both Efes and Milan need to win to remain in the playoff area, while Barcelona could use a reaction after the loss in the ACB against Manresa. After so many postponed games in the last few weeks, hopefully, we'll have the opportunity to see two top matches in a couple of days.

Uygar: Certainly, both games of Anadolu Efes in their tour to Spain are very intriguing.

Baskonia is still a dark horse, in my opinion, and have a lot of potential to become somebody's nightmare. They can boast a strange rarity this season, winning twice against Barcelona. We must not forget that.

Efes are still not quite in the place where they would like to be and with those Covid-19 related interruptions, it is hard to fix your deficient parts these days.

Barcelona vs Efes is a natural top selection in the list, and despite all the gloomy tone because of the omicron surge, this match-up has a great potential to be an absolute cracker.

Two successive losses can leave Efes very concerned and outside of the Top 8. Beyond that, self-confidence could be hampered severely.

Giorgos: I'm mostly looking forward to seeing which game(s) will be suspended next.

On a more serious note and looking at the games involving two teams enjoying the luxury of some game rhythm (that leaves out Armani Exchange vs UNICS and Barcelona vs Efes, for instance), I would pick the FC Barcelona vs Armani Exchange game.

Barca saw Laprovittola and coach Sarunas Jasikevicius return in the losing effort against Manresa in the ACB, while Armani came off prolonged abstinence to beat Virtus Bologna and Derthona.

Jerian Grant and Ben Bentil have been exceptional in both games, so it would be very interesting to see whether they can keep it up against the EuroLeague leaders. Milan was the team that forced Barca to their second loss in the season, but a lot has transpired since then.

Most notably, Milan suffered a four-game losing streak which compromised their 5-0 start. Similarly, Barcelona don't look so impressive either. Against Baskonia, they went through a constant hammering on the defensive end. Nick Calathes, Alex Abrines, Brandon Davies, Sergi Martinez, and Dante Exum are still out with injuries or Covid.

On the other hand, 17-year-old James Nnaji played well against Manresa, registering five blocks in his debut. Armani Exchange will be without Dinos Mitoglou, Shavon Shields, Malcolm Delaney, and Gigi Datome, who account for 37.9 points per game, about 50% of the team total.

Trey Kell is scheduled to play a EuroLeague game for the first time, while Troy Daniels is not with the team yet. Those particular absences definitely make this contest highly unpredictable.

Which teams could become winners or losers of the coronavirus-related break in the EuroLeague?

Orazio: Difficult question. After this period, those teams that haven't played for several weeks might lack rhythm and fitness.

Furthermore, some of them are still dealing with Covid cases and the post-Covid effects, which sometimes can be definitely tricky to deal with. Personally, I believe that a couple of teams that might benefit from this situation are Maccabi Tel Aviv and Bayern Munich.

Both teams are coming from losing streaks, and a little break might help them get back on track after a difficult period. On the other hand, teams on a winning streak might lose the rhythm and face a little hiccup. Real Madrid could be one such example.

Uygar: Those times, when teams played fewer games than they had the number of practices, are long gone, and I doubt that getting out of match rhythm brought any good to anybody.

It is hard to imagine that such a hiatus could make any coach or player happy. The best way to develop team chemistry and improve game aspects that are not working is to play as many games as possible.

Given that, this compulsory break undoubtedly bought some time for those with a long injury list like Fenerbahce. It would have been harder for them to absorb the shock that struck with the devastating injuries of Nando De Colo and Jan Vesely if the games continued to take place.

Now they had some time to think and develop some alternative strategies to cope with this situation, which is obviously something that is not easy to do.

Also, Monaco had some extra time to get along with its new coach, Sasa Obradovic. He is known as someone that likes to implement a more structural approach for his teams rather than makeshift, practical but yet, short-lived solutions.

Monaco looked like a team that exactly needs to be reorganized with all those valuable individual parts like Mike James, Dwayne Bacon, Donatas Motiejunas, and Rob Gray lacking cohesion. I imagine Obradovic is least likely to complain about those incessant frustrating postponement notifications.

Giorgos: Usually, those who have more to lose are those most affected by a big break.

In this case, it's Olympiacos who were in almost perfect shape before COVID struck. The Reds routed Panathinaikos at OAKA by 19 points on December 23, played a Greek Cup game against Ionikos three games later, and then went into a two-week hibernation period.

The worst thing for a team and a coach is not only the inability to play official games but to hold regular practices that will keep everyone on their toes. As Giannoulis Larentzakis said before the departure to Istanbul, Olympiacos had only two practices with a full roster prior to their game vs Fenerbahce.

On the other hand, teams like Zalgiris that were not affected by the Omicron or any other variant lately, are more likely to perform to the best of their abilities. Although they are currently four games behind (Armani Exchange, Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, Crvena Zvezda), the Lithuanian side has played 4 LKL games since their last continental clash against UNICS on December 17.

Yes, the domestic league is not the highest level of competition there is, but one must note that Zdovc's team has little to lose this season and that those games (especially the last one against Siauliai, which went down to the wire) kept Zalgiris in perfect game shape.

It's still far better than practice or staying at home, with or without symptoms.

Which one of the bold predictions looks the most possible?

Orazio: I think that the one about the massive summer moves is very realistic. I believe that next summer will bring major changes to the EuroLeague's scenery.

Efes might go through a rebuild, and the same thing might happen to Maccabi Tel Aviv. Armani Exchange have several important players on expiring deals like Sergio Rodriguez, Kyle Hines, and Malcolm Delaney.

Fenerbahce has to deal with Vesely's expiring contract and the first indication that I've received points in the direction of a potential departure of the big man from the Turkish club. So I definitely agree that the next summer will be a really busy one on the market.

Uygar: I think Efes not making the Final four does not seem to be a long shot.

This is not because of the days they lost, but also they have won. The individual efforts from Shane Larkin, Vasilije Micic, Tibor Pleiss, and others saved the day, but the way that Efes played until now was very unconvincing.

If the home-court advantage is not retained, the road to the Final Four will be extremely tricky.

It remains to be seen how exactly are they going to fix their defense and more specifically, the 3-point defense? The aging personnel needs a boost in overall effort, as a lack of hunger for success was visible in some of the games that brought rollercoaster performance trajectories. They need to tighten the screws urgently.

Giorgos: Without any need to look further than the present, it's really very likely that Efes won't make the Final Four.

They would marginally make the playoffs if the regular season were to end right now. But to present something better than Shane Larkin's latest one-man show turn-ups, Ergin Ataman has to squeeze the juice out of a veteran roster.

Efes missed out on the chance to win their maiden EuroLeague trophy when the season was cut short in 2020. They somewhat made up the next year, playing effective rather than jaw-dropping basketball.

However, I think that the next campaign will include several roster changes, as players who had had a significant contribution, like Krunoslav Simon, Bryant Dunston, or Chris Singleton, seem to be past their prime.

Others, like Larkin or Micic, might pursue an overseas career, even if Efes have joined Europe's highest bidders over the last 3-4 years.

URBONUS podcast

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