Group B Preview – Olympiacos, Partizan Belgrade, Unicaja, Efes Pilsen, Lietuvos Rytas, Qualifier
Best team – Olympiacos: This one isn’t really close as the only team in this group to make the Final Four last year is by far the best team in the group. Olympiacos came within a missed Ioannis Bourousis hook shot from making the Championship game. The Reds return most of their key players and with a healthy Josh Childress finally adjusted to the Euroleague look for this team to cruise through this group.
Surprise Team – Efes Pilsen: Yet another Turkish team is picked to be Slam’s dark horse but this time it is in Group B. Pilsen really worked hard to make their team better this offseason with the acquisition of scoring champ Igor Rakocevic who might be the best shooter in all of Europe. Pair him with Bootsy Thornton and you are looking at one of the best scoring combos in the Euroleague, watch out.
Best Player- Igor Rakocevic, Efes Pilsen: Olympiacos might have the best team but Efes Pilsen has the best player. Rako is a dynamite scorer who specializes in the three ball but can also take it to the rack. He is a two time winner of the Alphonso Ford Trophy for top scorer and is someone you can give the ball to in a clutch situation and expect him to come through. Igor was All-Euroleague First Team last year and I expect him to repeat the same performance next year.
Best Young Player- Jan Vesely, Partizan Belgrade: All isn’t bad in the land of Serbia as Partizan does have a bright spot in young Jan Vessely. At only eighteen years old Vessely started at the power forward spot for Partizan and did his best work hustling and working the offensive glass. If he wants to fully develop as a player Vessely needs to develop a reliable jumper and at least one go to post move. Right now he gets his points from put backs, hustle, and running the break. Vessely is also a highly touted NBA prospect because of the maturity of his game at such a young age.
Overall Summary: This group is very similar to Group A in that there is one superior team (Olympiacos), three competitive teams that could surprise people (Unicaja, Efes Pilsen, Lietuvos Rytas), and two team that probably won’t have much of an impact (Partizan and the qualifier). Efes Pilsen looks to be the second best team in this group if they can blend all of their new talent together while Partizan is going the opposite direction as they lose most of their talent. Unicaja is in a flux because they are losing their best offensive weapon to the NBA in Marcus Haslip and need to find a replacement. Rytas was not in the Euroleague last year so they could struggle but they are the Lithuanian League Champions. This is a wide open group after Olympiacos so look out.