An old tradition of BiE is resurrected as our editor, Emmet Ryan, sticks his reputation on the line and waits for it to get battered
It has been a few seasons since our long established trend of doing fearless predictions ahead of the Euroleague season (or major international tournaments for that matter) but it’s a good time to bring them back as some normality returns to the sport.
Let’s get right to it with the big one.
Champions – FC Barcelona
A controversial call to say the least, despite being second favourites on most markets, given how they fell at the final hurdle and the general uncertainty around the wider organisation at present. Still, I always felt Barca weren’t going to win the title at the first attempt with Sarunas Jasikevicius. They came close but didn’t get quite over the line. A second year with Saras at the helm should be enough to block out the noise and this is still a fantastic roster.
Home court advantage – Anadolu Efes, Olimpia Milano, CSKA Moscow
I should add I expect Barcelona’s route to the title to include home court advantage in the playoffs. At least one of these other three calls will infuriate readers but, if anything, it’s the safest of these that I considered to be the most capable of dropping out of the top four in the regular season. I fully expect Efes to be at the Final Four but they may need to do so from a 5th seed slot as they adjust to the loss of Sertac Sanli’s production but I reckon they do enough to get home court.
Milano are improving at Euroleague level under Ettore Messina and last year was a big step forward. I expect them to consolidate that this year in the regular season and secure a top four berth.
CSKA are CSKA. I am not marking them outside of homecourt until it actually happens. They’re getting home court.
Playoffs – Real Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg, Olympiacos, Fenerbahce
This is by far the most fun one to pick because I know I will be wrong on some of these calls but I have little idea where.
I’d be surprised if Real, who should be steadier with less risk of players being bought out to go to the NBA in-season than last year, or Zenit, who wobbled a bit but had the grit to get to the post-season a year ago, miss out but I’m nowhere near as hot on Oly and Fener.
My faith in Oly is almost entirely because Kostas Sloukas seems to be the right guy to bring it all together and win the type of games they should have won but lost last year. Still, if he gets hurt all bets are off. Fener are improved on paper but there has been enough change that I’m not wholly confident they keep it together entirely.
MVP – Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes
A very tough call. My vote in reality is always based solely on the regular season as I really don’t think playoff performances should count even though they officially do. Were my criteria the actual criteria, I could well see Mike James winning it with Monaco but I have them out of the playoffs and that alone scuppers his chances. Larkin was good last season, very good, but there was something about the electricity with him that felt like it wasn’t all the way back. With a full summer’s rest, I have him getting the nod this year.
Rising Star – Victor Wembanyama, Asvel Basket
I mean, if he gets decent minutes this year it really feels like a lock. There’s not much more to say beyond that I really look forward to getting a decent look at him.
Coach of the Year – Sarunas Jasikevicius, FC Barcelona
Our final pick feels like the one most capable of being wrong, even though MVP has always proven to be more volatile. Consider last year when there were reasonable, downright strong, cases for up to 10 coaches during the meat of the season yet, when it all came down to it, the victory of Ergin Ataman seemed obvious.
Few awards go to someone associated more with the overall winners than this one. Added to that, it really feels like Saras is due one by now considering the work he did at Zalgiris somehow didn’t land him the nod.