It was an interesting off-season in a changing ACB. Teams have different budgets and there is a lot of youth coming in from all around Europe in the league. To help decipher all of this we also brought in Austin Green from LosCrossovers.com, the source for ACB writing in English. Austin lived in Madrid for the whole 2014-15 season covering the ACB and will be based in Sevilla for this season.
You can find the first three editions of our ACB Rountable here:
- Part One – What is FC Barcelona Doing?
- Part Two – Rating Campazzo to Murcia
- Part Three – Madrid’s Class of 2015: Prospects to Pros
For Part Four, we asked who, if anyone, could break the duopoly of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. The Catalans slipped to third place in the Regular Season in 2012/3 and 2013/14 but still contested a Finals clásico against Madrid. The last time that didn’t happen was 2011 when Barça swept Bilbao, and the last time another team won it all was Caja Laboral in 2010.
Can anyone else make the ACB Finals?
Sam Meyerkopf: Even with Barcelona’s stock market crash of an off-season, it will be very tough to break into that top two. My best guess would be for Valencia to make the jump.
Valencia added Antoine Diot, Fernando San Emeterio, Luka Sikma, John Shurna, and Justin Hamilton. San Emeterio is one of the best ACB players of the last decade, while Sikma and Shurna have both had personal and team success in the league. Diot is a leader and just someone with the cojones you want for your team. Hamilton is a bit of a risk coming from the NBA/D-League but he always played super hard and is surrounded by veteran experience.
Offensively, this should be a top 10-15 team in Europe. They have great distributors in Sam Van Rossom and Guillem Vives along with tons of finishers and shooters around them. Shurna and Bojan Dubljevic are two of the best stretch bigs on the continent.
The question is defensively. Besides an ageing Romain Sato and San Emeterio, there isn’t much lockdown ability. They are relying on Hamilton to really be a force in the middle, as the other bigs are mainly scoring oriented. Valencia will be looking to outscore most opponents but when the games get tight and the possessions get fewer, coming up with stops will be the key for them.
Rob Scott: Unicaja Malaga had a great summer, adding a bona fide scorer in Edwin Jackson and one of the most productive guards in the last few Euroleague seasons in Jamar Smith. The latter has one of the nicest shooters’ touches in Europe and I think he could be one of the canniest signings of the summer. If those two play up to expectations then they shouldn’t miss Jayson Granger and his shaky jumpshot too much.
Perhaps Smith isn’t the playmaker that Granger is, but Stefan Markovic is still around for a steady hand on the wheel, and the upgrade in shooting is well worth the potential risk. I think Jackson and Smith probably end up playing alongside each other a fair amount.
Add in Richard Hendrix – a huge upgrade at the 4/5 in terms of defense and mid-range, Nemanja Nedovic hopefully unchained in transition and this could be their year. They visibly tired last season in the midst of a gruelling Top 16 after leading the league at 19-3. That’s where Madrid and Barça going 14-deep is a huge advantage. But putting fatigue aside, to me they have the best chance of anyone, especially with continuity on the bench and most of the core of a strong team returning, and the security of coach Joan Plaza staying until 2018.
Austin Green: Unicaja and Valencia will be tough, but I think Gran Canaria had the best offseason in the ACB. I could definitely see them taking down either Real Madrid or Barcelona in the semis. Here’s their roster (* = new addition).
PG: *Kevin Pangos, Albert Oliver
SG: Kyle Kuric, Sasu Salin
SF: Brad Newley, *Xavi Rabaseda, Oriol Pauli
PF: Eulis Báez, *Pablo Aguilar
C: *Alen Omic, *Sitapha Savané, Ovidijus Galdikas
Kuric, Salin and Rabaseda all shot between 39-41% last year on a high-volume of 3s. Pangos was a career 41% 3-point shooter at Gonzaga. Oliver, Báez and Aguilar all hit at a 34 or 35% clip last season. That is an insane amount of shooting on one team.
Combine that with a good center tandem and the great Aíto G. Reneses on the bench, and Gran Canaria could definitely reach the ACB finals.