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. We continue our rapid catch-up process, because we are so behind schedule, with a look at Olympiacos
There was talk for a good chunk of the back end of last season and the early summer that Nikola Milutinov was going to make his jump to the Spurs earlier than expected. Having essentially been the second man in the three-man big rotation for Olympiacos, the old man style game of Milutinov was evolving into one where he was showing more confidence and aggression off the ball. There was a chance the Spurs would pounce.
They didn’t but even the idea that they might have seems to have inspired Milutinov this off-season. Already in the early autumn games we’ve seen him show a desire to take that step forward with an enhanced role for the Reds. It’s not just about showing off for the Spurs, it’s about showing he’s not afraid of anyone and that he doesn’t mind if certain sectors of the commentariat describe his game as ugly (this corner included…although we do it out of appreciation for its ugliness) because he just wants to show that he can get it done.
The path for a big to get to the association from Euroleague has been clearly laid down by the likes of Khem Birch and Ekpe Udoh. Be fearless, be effective, and do it at both ends. That’s the type of simple road map a guy with Milutinov’s game relishes. For Oly, they need him to have that hunger this season.
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Coach: Ioannis Sfairopoulos
Arena: Peace and Friendship Arena aka SEF, 11,604
Last season in Euroleague: 19-11, lost championship game
Last season in Greek League: 25-1, lost finals
Who’s new? Giorgios Bogris (Tenerife), Andreas Christodoulou (Rethymno) Jamel McLean (Olimpia Milano), Brian Roberts (Charlotte Hornet), Janis Strelnieks (Brose Bamberg), Hollis Thompson (Austin Spurs), Kim Tillie (Baskonia)
Who’s gone? Ioannis Athineou (Aris), Daniel Hackett (Brose Bamberg), Patric Young (Olimpia Milano), Patrick Maragkos (Faros), Dominic Waters (Karsiyaka), Khem Birch (Orlando Magic), Matt Lojeski (Panathinaikos), Erick Green (Valencia)
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The Strelnieks signing might be my favourite of the off-season in terms of fit. Olympiacos needed a guard who is reliable defensively, can log comically high minutes, and do something on offence. The Latvian ticks all of those boxes comfortably and, assuming he stays healthy, that should be a great fit for the Reds going forward.
The relatively light domestic schedule always helps the Reds and I see no difference this season. The interior is going to be interesting to watch but they have time to find the right formula that works. Spanoulis is a year older but the right management of his minutes, coupled with Billy getting the summer off, should help a great deal. They are going to be fine because, with few exceptions, they are always fine.
Fearless prediction: 5th. There’s not quite enough here for me to give them a home seed in the playoffs but we are talking about as close as it comes to it. I see a big gap between the top five and the rest right now, with Oly far closer to those above them than those below. They’ll be grand, we’ll see what happens in the post-season.
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