With the new Euroleague season nearing, BallinEurope is once more break down each of the teams individually on 16 consecutive days in the run up to tip off. As with last season, we’re going in reverse order from the opening round of games. Our next stop today is Istanbul and the reigning, defending, champions of Euroleague. Emmet Ryan looks at the year ahead for Fenerbahce and a chance for Brad Wanamaker to make a mark that matters
Brad Wanamaker is used to two things: Winning and being an important reason why they winning happens. At Brose Bamberg he delivered a MVP season alongside two Bundesliga titles, having already tasted success with the Austin Toros in the D-League. When Wanamaker changes teams, he expects to be featured early and often because he tends to deliver. Fenerbahce signed him after he played a pivotal role in carrying Darussafaka to last season’s playoffs.
Now, Wanamaker is stepping into a situation like no other. Two huge pieces of the championship side Fener built last season have jumped to the NBA. Final Four MVP Ekpe Udoh is gone to the Utah Jazz while Bogdan Bogdanovic is off to Sacramento to help the Kings. The change is radical and Wanamaker is going to be expected to pick up on an awful lot of the production required.
The challenge however pales in comparison to most of Wanamaker’s stops along the way. Normally he’s been on good teams trying to live with great sides. The second of those Bundesliga titles was the only campaign in his career that he was on a truly favoured side, and even then Bamberg had a chip on their shoulder style campaign in Euroleague alongside it. Now he’s on the team with the biggest target on its back in all of Europe, short of a job in the NBA it’s hard to describe him in a happier spot. Here he is surrounded by winners as he enters his age 28 season looking to keep winning. That’s the type of pressure he wants and the type of opportunity he craves.
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Coach: Željko Obradović
Arena: Ülker Sports Arena, 13,059
Last season in Euroleague: 18-12, champions
Last season in BSL: 28-2, won finals
Who’s new? Marko Guduric (Crvena Zvezda), Sinan Guler (Galatasaray), Nicolo Melli (Brose Bamberg), Jason Thompson (Shandong), Brad Wanamaker (Darussafaka)
Who’s gone? Pero Antic (Crvena Zvezda), Egehan Arna (Darussafaka), Berk Ugurlu (Karsiyaka), Bogdan Bogdanovic (Sacramento Kings), Ekpe Udoh (Utah Jazz), Anthony Bennett (Phoenix Suns)
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When you lose players of the calibre of Bogdan and Udoh, those are monstrous holes to fill. What you have to love here about Fener’s off-season moves is that they focused on replacing the overall production rather than going all out on trying to get like for like replacements. With Udoh there’s a touch of that admittedly with Thompson but the rest of the moves look squarely at Fenerbahce trying to get their total team production at a point where the holes can be filled.
The Guler, Guduric, and Wanamaker signings are all to get around the absence of Bogdan. Each brings really different assets, none is going to replace Bogdanovic but collectively they can fill that hole. Likewise the arrival of Melli immediately makes Fener’s front-court deeper as it was quite clear by the final third of the season that Antic wasn’t in Zoc’s long-term plans nor was Bennett ever going to win over the coach.
Fearless prediction: 4th. Hold your anger Fener fans, I still expect you to be serious contenders on the whole. On paper, this is definitely a stronger roster than the Panathinaikos one I have ranked ahead of it, the reason I dropped Fenerbahce down here is because of priorities. Zoc only cares about the title, that means he is going to be more patient than most with the regular season campaign. He also has to get a really new look side operating together. Combine those factors and there will be a few eyebrow raising losses that everyone will forget about if and when Fener make it to Belgrade.
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