This summer, Bayern Munich made most of its moves on the market following a different strategy than in the past few seasons. The end goal, though, remains the same: giving Andrea Trinchieri the right tools to secure another qualification to the EuroLeague playoffs

Credit: Scanpix
Credit Scanpix

Since the arrival of coach Andrea Trinchieri in 2020, Bayern Munich have become a constant playoff contender in EuroLeague. The Italian head coach has turned Bayern into one of the most difficult teams to deal with in Europe.

Cassius Winston

Cassius  Winston
Team: FC Bayern Munich
Position: PG
Age: 24
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Birth place: Detroit, United States of America

In the past two seasons, Bayern forced Milan and Barcelona to game 5's in the EuroLeague playoffs, surrending only at the very end of those series. It's no secret that Andrea Trinchieri is one of the best European coaches. His arrival in Munich really helped the German club make that step forward necessary to be among the elite of EuroLeague basketball consistently.

Trinchieri was able to do that thanks to his X&O's abilities but also with his impressive grasp on the players. Last summer, he was able to recruit veteran big man Othello Hunter to the team even though he was seriously considering retirement before the upcoming season.

Hunter and Trinchieri built such a positive relationship that the player decided to stay in Munich for a further season, signing a contract extension until 2023 during the offseason. 

Bayern cannot compete with the budgets of the Spanish powerhouses like Real Madrid or Barcelona, so to remain relevant, they have to make the right decisions on the market, finding the right players at the right price.

It is something that Bayern executive Daniele Baiesi has always been able to do really well, finding diamonds in the rough or reclamation projects that worked extremely well under his management.

Last summer, Bayern signed Darrun Hilliard from CSKA Moscow. In Russia, the American swingman had always been just a piece of the puzzle, a 'system' guy. In Munich, despite the injuries that limited him over the season, he quickly became a key player, often taking over his shoulders a lot of offensive responsibilities.

The mix of young talent (Jaramaz, Sisko, Weiler-Babb, and George) and veterans (Lucic, Hunter, Rubit, and Zipser) brought Bayern to the EuroLeague playoffs last season despite many having counted them out. 

This season, the German club will try to reach the postseason for the third time in a row, but during the offseason, they decided to go in a different direction than in the past few seasons.

While previously they moved on the market mostly trying to bring in players who were about to leave other 'big teams' of the EuroLeague or to invest in younger talents from the EuroCup sides, this summer, Bayern decided to invest in players coming from the NBA market.

Their three main additions of this summer all come from the NBA/G League route: Cassius Winston, Freddie Gillespie, and Isaac Bonga

Winston, a Michigan State alumn, was drafted by the Washington Wizards with the 53rd pick overall in the 2020 NBA Draft. In his two seasons with the Wizards, the point guard found more space in the G League than in the NBA.

With the Wizards, Winston played only 29 games in two seasons, averaging less than 5 minutes per game.

In G League last season, he averaged 13.3 points, 5.1 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game while shooting 40% from ę-point. As a former player of coach Tom Izzo, Winston knows what it means to play for a tough coach.

He grew up as a player in a very competitive environment, and he thrived on that. For these reasons, his addition might be a great fit for Trinchieri, another head coach well-known for being extremely demanding with his players. 

"He's a point guard of great mental responsiveness, vision, and nerve to play for a coach like Andrea Trinchieri," a European scout told BasketNews. "He's also a tough player on the defensive end of the court, something that coach Trinchieri always appreciates. Having played for coach Tom Izzo, he already has a certain type of mentality that I believe could be a good fit under Trinchieri."

"It'll be very interesting to watch him playing with Bayern," another European scout told BasketNews. "Personally, I believe that Winston will be very effective and a great fit next to Weiler-Babb, Hunter, and Lucic. I think he has the right skill set for coach Trinchieri and Bayern."

Freddie Gillespie has a unique history and path behind him. He started to play basketball only when he was 16 years old, and even then, he prioritized American football over basketball.

But when he started to grow too much for football, he turned to basketball. He began his college career in a Division III college, Carleton. From there, thanks to his performances, he started to gain the attention of bigger schools.

In 2018 he joined Baylor as a walk-on and had to sit out for a year due to the NCAA rules related to transfers. After his redshirt year, he earned a full scholarship with Baylor. At the end of the 2019-2020 season, Gillespie was named Big 12 Most Improved Player, Second Team All-Big 12, and to the All-Defensive Team.

After going undrafted in the 2020 NBA Draft, Gillespie, in January of 2021, was selected by the Memphis Hustle with the second pick overall in the G League draft. In the G League, the player had an immediate impact and averaged 10.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game.

By the end of the 2020-21 regular season, Gillespie signed a couple of 10-day contracts with the Raptors and then signed for the remainder of the season. Despite some good performances during his time in Toronto, Gillespie was waived by the team before the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

He then returned to the Memphis Hustle in G League, and right before the end of 2021, he signed a couple of 10-day contracts with the Orlando Magic. 

This offseason, he signed a two-year deal with Bayern Munich, marking the beginning of his first European experience. Gillespie is the prototype of the 'high risk-high reward' player. He has really interesting tools, especially from a physical perspective, but he's also still pretty raw in some aspects of his game.

"Gillespie has shown his value in G League, but he's still pretty raw as a player," a European scout told BasketNews. "He has a great body and very good rebounding instincts, but he still needs to work on his offensive game and polish some of his defensive moves. For me, the real issue is if he'll be able to maintain a certain level of activity for many minutes at the EuroLeague level. The level of activity and concentration required in the G League is not as high as in EuroLeague."

"Gillespie is kind of a project sign, in my opinion," another European scout told BasketNews. "He's a good player but still raw. He needs to polish his game to become a prolific roll & cut big man here in Europe. But for sure, having Andrea Trinchieri as head coach could help him improve his game."

The return of Isaac Bonga to German basketball represented a surprise in the final part of the offseason. The German guard, who's still only 22 years old, had left Europe in 2018 when the Los Angeles Lakers drafted him in the second round of the NBA Draft.

Bonga spent only one season in LA, and then he was traded to the Washington Wizards. In Washington, he had more opportunities to play, and especially in his first season there, he averaged 19 minutes per game, adding 5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

In his second year in Washington, his minutes started to decrease, and he left the team at the end of the 2020-21 season.

Last season, Bonga signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Raptors. Still, even in Canada, the German couldn't find many minutes, and this summer, he decided to return to Europe, signing a two-year deal with Bayern Munich. Bonga is represented by the same agency that also represents Trinchieri, Wasserman. 

As a member of the German national team and with his versatility, Bonga is definitely a smart addition for Bayern. He can cover multiple positions, especially on the defensive end, he has a physicality and athleticism that can really help the team moving forward, and he still has a lot of room to improve. 

"Personally, I love the idea of Bonga being back in European basketball," a European scout told BasketNews.

"He has a style of play that, in some ways, can be compared to the one of Will Clyburn. Of course, he's not a natural scorer like Will, but physically they have common aspects. I believe that to really help Bayern. He needs to change his style a little bit, he needs to be more of a team guy and less selfish as a player. If he can make that switch, I believe he'll be able to make a big contribution to the team."

With the contract extensions of Vladimir Lucic, Weiler-Babb, Hunter, Rubit, and Sisko, Bayern, once again, will present a good combination of young talent and experience. A mix that Trinchieri has already shown how to maximize in the right way. 

Although Bayern used a different strategy on the market this summer, the goal for next season remains the same: securing a spot in the EuroLeague playoffs and continuing to make things extremely difficult for the other top teams in the competition, just like they did in the past two seasons.

Bayern Munich might miss a true 'superstar' on the court, but they definitely have a coach who can elevate the group to a whole new level every season. 

Show comments
Thank you for reporting a comment

Add comment

We have the right to remove comments which are offensive, contains abusive language, or violates other rules of the website