By: Nick Gibson / @euro_adventures
It’s the #EuroleagueLockin. The beast is back.
Nikola Pekovic, Partizan via Minnesota Timberwolves
Admit it. You missed Nikola Pekovic these last three seasons. Yes, that Nikola Pekovic. The one decked out in black and white, elbowing his way through double teams as synchornized cheers and stomping feet shook the rafters at Pionir Arena. That Nikola Pekovic averaged 16.4 points and 6.9 rebounds for Partizan in 2007-08. His dominance in that year has since been matched only by fellow Partizaner Aleks Maric in 2009-10 (14.6 and 8.4 en route to a Final Four berth). Nikola didn’t lose his edge when he made the switch to Panathinaikos, but he did lose minutes. As masterful a tactician as Zeljko Obradovic may be, he’s not above stiffing guys on minutes for what he presumes to be the greater good of the shamrock. This new Nikola scored only slightly less, but snared just over half of the rebounds, and you could tell he was aching for enough daylight to break loose for 25 and 11 just once (the one time he played more than 25 minutes in 2008-09, he posted 26 and 6).
Now, back with Partizan at least until the lockout ends, Nikola will have his run of Belgrade. Scary.
Ratko Varda, Union Olimpija via Asseco Prokom
Without Ratko Varda, Asseco Prokom wouldn’t have come within a couple wins of a Final Four spot in 2009-10. They were flimsy in the paint, nothing but narrow-legged chuckers like David Logan outside, and what seemed like quarterly defensive breakdowns and lost leads. Then old Ratko dropped and spiked Prokom’s drink with facial hair and fat guy strength. Now, there’s another team that needs a muscular makeover. Ratko will heed the call, returning to Ljubljana for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
Theo Papaloukas, Maccabi Electra via Olympiacos
Leonardo DaVinci started the Mona Lisa when he was 51 or 52. Theo’s only 34. I think he’s got several masterpieces left in him.
And for the record, the Mona Lisa? Not that great. No offense, Leo. Big fan of your code.
EJ Rowland, Unicaja via Vanoli Cremona
If you haven’t seen EJ play, you’ll all get a chance in a couple weeks when he pounds the rock for the Bulgarian national team. A quick, always crafty American who’s been around a bit, Rowland should be a nice fit to a four-guard rotation which will also include Gerald Fitch, Saul Blanco and Kristaps Valters. The only challenge: convincing one of those four to give up the ball.
Pape-Philippe Amagou, Sluc Nancy via Chorale Roanne
After a summer that has started and ended with Nicolas Batum, it’s good to see that Nancy remembered they have a roster to fill. A ball handler’s probably something they should have. Now they do.
Dogus Balbay, Anadolu Efes via University of Texas
One of college’s most vicious perimeter defenders for the last two seasons, he’ll fit right in with a league that appreciates individual defense more than any overseas. But with a jampacked backcourt that’s growing weekly, the problem will be playing time. He might have to wait a year for a distinct role to open up.
Xavier Rabaseda, Barcelona via Fuenlabrada
When news spread of Jaka Lakovic and Roger Grimau’s departure from Barcelona, all eyes logically turned to Xavi Rabaseda, a talented local who spent 33 games in Fuenlabrada putting up eight points per game, biding his time, marinating. Now he’s finally heard his name called again (he was up with the club briefly in 2009) and this time he will shoulder more of the load. Well, a small portion of it at least. With Chuck Eidson in town and Pete Mickeal on the mend, he’ll likely battle Joe Ingles for those extra minutes on the perimeter as Victor Sada, Marcelinho Huertas and JC Navarro handle things up top. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that Mickeal’s body is wearing down and Xavi should be at the ready at all times; a key injury usually leads to a blockbuster midseason pick-up (think Joe Ingles and/or Alan Anderson last season when Mickeal went down), but if Rabaseda can play his way into Xavi Pascual’s heart, he’ll get a chance to dazzle us when the time comes.
Marcus Eriksson, Barcelona via Assignia Manresa
Kids on MTV celebrate their Sweet 16s with Hummers, diamond encrusted cupcakes and surprise appearances by Diggy Simmons or one of the Jonas Brothers. Marcus rang in the new year alongside the sweaty, hairy professionals of the ACB, making him the sixth youngest to do so. Though the Swede’s ACB feet have officially been moistened after a year with Manresa, don’t expect to see him catching passes from Marcelinho just yet; I’d bet on at least a couple of years loanage, a la Xavier Rabaseda and Nihad Djedovic, before that sweet shooting stroke makes its way to Palau Blaugrana.
Let’s see what this list looks like with a new boss at the top.
|Rank #colspan#||Player #colspan#||Team #colspan#||He's here because... #colspan#||Last DLU #colspan#|
|1||Nikola Pekovic||Partizan||The top spot here is dependent upon the NBA. And I hate that. But from a pure How much better does this make Partizan? standpoint, the answer is this: before this signing, Partizan wasn't making it past the regular season.||-|
|2||Milos Teodosic||CSKA Moscow||The EL's most clean cut franchise adds the Shooting Stoner to a backcourt that just lost a pair of legends in Trajan Langdon and JR Holden. Good thing Milos' brain doesn't process pressure.||1|
|3||Ioannis Bourousis||Olimpia Milano||Can't wait to see him play extended, consistent minutes. The most efficient big in Europe is about to get a big test.||2|
|4||Nicolas Batum||SLUC Nancy||Batum alone can't make them a contender, but he can make them watchable. Now it's time to go get some help.||3|
|5||Marcelinho Huertas||Barcelona||With Marcelinho in the fold, arca's starting line up looks more like an All-Euroleague team.||4|
|6||Jaycee Carroll||Real Madrid||The two-time ACB scoring champ is ready for his EL debut. He won't be able to sneak up on the Spanish teams anymore, but everyone else: hide your kids, hide your wife.||5|
|7||Maciej Lampe||Caja Laboral||Ever since he vanished from Maccabi's roster two seasons ago, I've been itching to see him in the EL again. He's primed to explode.||6|
|8||Bojan Bogdanovic||Fenerbahçe Ülker||You won't find many 26-year-olds as mature as Bojan (still just 22); now it's time to be assertive and create a role for yourself, big guy. As the star.||7|
|9||Ersan Ilyasova||Anadolu Efes||Welcome back to Turkey, my friend. It's not quite the Barcelona team you left a couple seasons ago, but it might be even more stacked.||8|
|10||Nenad Krstic||CSKA Moscow||Boston's trash is CSKA's treasure, as Krstic will add to Moscow's already stellar defensive front of Khryapa, Kaun and now Darjus Lavrinovic.||9|
|11||Stanko Barac||Anadolu Efes||A 24-year-old center who rarely makes mistakes and still has room to grow. Yeah, OK. We'll take him.||10|
|12||Esteban Batista||Anadolu Efes||Indifferent to pace or pairings, Stevey Bats gets boards as well or better than the rest. If he and Barac can figure each other out, it's lights out for the rest of Turkey.||11|
|13||Malik Hairston||Olimpia Milano||With a frontcourt of Bourousis, Radosevic and Fotsis and Omar Cook at the point, all Milano needs to fall in with the elite is a dynamic small forward. Well, damn.||12|
|14||D'Or Fischer||Bilbao Basket||Bizkaia. Bilbao. Basket. Blocks. All start with B's. Weird. But not really.||13|
|15||Sasha Vujacic||Anadolu Efes||"Stop telling me and show me, Sasha."|
|16||James Gist||Fenebahçe Ülker||His enthusiasm is neither a front nor compensation for a lack of skill. Ülker's no Partizan, fan-wise, but they're getting there. A couple oops from Gist should accelerate that process.||15|
|17||Julius Jenkins||Brose Baskets||After two seasons, he's back in the Euroleague where he belongs. Excellent.||16|
|18||Dusko Savanovic||Anadolu Efes||Don't expect another All-EL season from Dusko, but be ready for some big shots in some big moments. And sweat. There will be plenty of sweat.||17|
|19||Ratko Varda||Union Olimpija||Adding grit to youth worked last season with Gregory and Jagodnik. Expect similar charm.||-|
|20||Ben Woodside||Union Olimpija||Put Davis Bertans on the floor with Woodside and watch the shots fly up. Neither one's what I would call bashful.||18|
|21||Acie Law||Partizan||For the first time in three seasons, Partizan can build a core around a PG rather than throwing one into the mix once the train's left the station.||19|
|22||Luka Zoric||Unicaja||This Nesterovic clone was built for the index rating. Spain should be kind to him.||20|
|23||Martynas Pocius||Real Madrid||Excuse me, I've lost Real Madrid's weakness and was hoping you could help me find it.||21|
|24||Martynas Gecevicius||Olympiacos||This Olympiacos team is going to look very un-Olymoiacos-y, but they'll have a lot less ego and only a slight shortage of talent and experience.||22|
|25||Drew Nicholas||Olimpia Milano||Former EL scoring champ came to personify Panathinaikos' consistently unspectacular dominance. Italy's a different story, and we'll see if he still has some 20-point games left in the tank.||23|
|26||Kyle Hines||Olympiacos||This bull sees Red.||24|
|27||Leon Radosevic||Olimpia Milano||A bright star in a dimly lit organization last year, now he'll be a key piece in the Italian Renaissance.||25|
|28||Henry Domercant||Unics Kazan||The hefty hoister seems to be right at home in Russia. Now, after five Final Four-less EL seasons and in a starring role, he'll be hungrier than ever.||26|
|29||Sonny Weems||Zalgiris||Props to Sonny for making the leap, and props to Romanov for welcoming the Raptor with open arms. Think Weems has any idea what he's gotten himself into? Not a chance in Hell.||27|
|30||Nathan Jawai||Unics Kazan||I hope restaurants stay open late in Kazan. Nathan strikes me as a fourth meal fiend.||28|
|31||Theo Papaloukas||Maccabi Electra||One legend out (Derrick Sharp), another steps right in. He'll figure out his role quickly, and perfect it a few games in.||-|
|31||Pat Calathes||Panathinaikos||Don't be surprised to see the Calathes Bros account for 40% of the starting line up next year. Pat's a perfect complement to Batiste's bruiser mentality.||29|
|33||PJ Tucker||Brose Baskets||Casey Jacobsen has somebody to do the dirty work for him while he wets things up from outside.||30|
|34||EJ Rowland||Unicaja||He'll get used to having the ball in his hands with Bulgaria. He might need to tone that down once the EL season hits.||-|
|35||Jon Scheyer||Maccabi Electra||With his vision fully restored, the cultural adjustment is all that stands between him and an instant impact.||31|
|36||David Lighty||NGC Cantú||The new kids on the block get proactive and pluck one of college's most well-rounded, pro ready swingmen. Me like.||32|
|37||Jordan Farmar||Maccabi Electra||I'm not so easily enamored by the NBA names if they don't seem to fit.||33|
|38||Vlado Ilievski||Anadolu Efes||The reigning EL minutes leader will fall into an important back up role behind fellow vet Kerem Tunceri, who's had a history of nagging injuries. Stay ready, Vlado.||34|
|39||Tarence Kinsey||Anadolu Efes||An extremely reliable an oft forgotten scoring threat. He just hangs around, ends up with 12 or 13.||35|
|40||Shawn James||Maccabi Electra||Who needs Serge Ibaka when you've got Shawn James? If you think that's a stretch, check the stats. (OK, so maybe it's still a stretch.)||36|
|41||Matt Howard||Olympiacos||Printezis, Kyle Hines, Matt Nielsen and he make up one of the tougher forward threesomes in the EL. Interesting change for team not usually renowned for its physicality.||37|
|42||Milko Bjelica||Caja Laboral||The milk man delivers. Plain and simple.||38|
|43||Pape-Philippe Amagou||Sluc Nancy||This is a step in the right direction for Nancy. Still young, 26, but experienced. And he can dribble a basketball. All of those things are more useful to Nancy than toting around an empty roster spot.||-|
|44||Thomas Huertel||Caja Laboral||Huertas is out, Huertel is in. Let's hope Thomas can process all of this newly acquired pressure.||39|
|45||Milovan Rakovic||Zalgiris||Tatted up, shaved down and ready to beat your ass.||40|
|46||Tremmell Darden||Unicaja||He'll be ranked higher if Unicaja asks him to assume the role he had in France last year.||41|
|47||Xavier Rabaseda||Barcelona||Xavi plays up to level of his competition as it is. If he can raise his game to match that of his teammates, he can be dangerous.||-|
|48||Gianluca Basile||NGC Cantu||Gather 'round, children. Listen to the old man's stories.||42|
|49||Kalin Lucas||Olympiacos||Olympiacos fans won't have any patience with Kalin if he can't remember how to be an elite, efficient PG.||43|
|50||Robertas Javtokas||Zalgiris||He should sell his house and just move into an ice tub to be safe.||44|
|51||Marcus Slaughter||Brose Baskets||If you watch this man play, his last name starts to makes sense.||45|
|52||Federico Bolzonello||NGC Cantu||I guess Mr. Lighty needs somebody to get him the ball. Let's see how it pans out.||46|
|53||Marko Cakarevic||Partizan||After extending super vets Bozic and Kecman (again), Partizan better hope Cakarevic can provide some bounce on the wing.||47|
|54||Dogus Balbay||Anadolu Efes||He'd mean more to them if management hadn't flooded the team with new acquisitions in the backcourt.||-|
|55||Aleksander Capin||Union Olimpija||He needs to calm down and play smart. Neither is his specialty.||48|
|56||Raul Lopez||Bilbao Basket||The ACB finalists finally have a new face on the bench, and it's one of experience. It's also one, however, of considerable age and injury.||49|
|57||Hakan Demirel||Fenerbahçe Ülker||A toned down playmaker who can do a little bit of everything. Always nice to have those guys around.||50|
|58||Yogev Ohayon||Maccabi Electra||He's playing behind a fat stack of PG's.||51|
|59||Ermal Kuqo||Anadolu Efes||You might not notice him when he's out there, but his opponents will feel him the next day. (Does that sound weird? Yeah, I think it sounds weird.)||52|
|60||Jaka Blazic||Union Olimpija||I wish my last name were Blazic. It would make introductions more fun.||53|
|61||Marcus Eriksson||Barcelona||Terrific talent, but this is a list for 2011. Not 2013.||-|