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. With that in mind, it’s time to look at Panathinaikos and the small matter of an interesting off-season signing with a famous brother
Fit is an awfully funny thing. Nobody really knew where Giannis Antetokounmpo would work out, or even if he would, when he jumped to the NBA. The argument over his position remains unresolved by the Greek Freak is clearly a star in the league now and is already getting MVP talk. His brother Thanasis made the biggest move of his career this summer, jumping to Panathinaikos after impressing for Andorra in Spain’s ACB.
The pressure on the elder Antetokounmpo going to Athens is huge. His family name, hardly known a few years back, is now synonymous with the future of Greek hoops and he might have actually been served well by being an afterthought on the Greek roster for large parts of an ultimately disappointing EuroBasket 2017 campaign. Thanasis shines when he has the chance to take charge. He’s picked up the nickname The Elevator because of his exciting athletic brilliance. At his heart, Antetokounmpo is a scorer and one who wants to attack. That’s a huge asset but one that’s going to take a while to fit into Xavi Pascual’s system.
Pascual loves defence, if he were able to make the concept take human form he’d marry it. Antetokounmpo can defend but he’s used to a more free flowing approach to the game, that’s what happens when you log serious time in the D-League before building a career in Europe. The growth of Thanasis into the Pascual system, something the bulk of this PAO roster needed time with last season, is going to be worth watching in the year ahead.
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Coach: Xavi Pascual
Arena: Olympic Indoor Hall aka the OAKA, 19,989
Last season in Euroleague: 19-11, lost playoffs to Fenerbahce
Last season in Greek League: 25-1, won finals
Who’s new? Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Andorra), Zach Auguste (Usak), Marcus Denmon (Gazientep), Lukas Lekavicius (Zalgiris), Matt Lojeski (Olympiacos), Kostas Mitoglu (Wake Forest), Ian Vougioukas (Lokomotiv Kuban)
Who’s gone? Demetris Nichols (Cedevita), James Feldeine (Crvena Zvezda), Ioannis Bourousis (Guangdong), Antonis Fotsis (Ilyiakos), Vasileios Charalampopoulos (PAOK), Mike James (Phoenix Suns), Michalis Lountzis (Trikala)
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There’s a lot to like with the moves here. The only exit that stings is Mike James as the overall look is a side that has gotten a little younger and just a bit faster but neither going too far to break away from what Pascual built last season. This is a club that had to deal with a lot, radically different form home and on the road, the bus, an offence with a tendency to disappear at times, the bus, and rallying from the series loss that led to the bus to win the Greek title.
That should really stand to PAO during the regular season. I still don’t remotely trust this team in a playoff situation if they end up in the 4/5 and am not all that hot on them in the 3/6 but the overall picture is a side that is ready to build on the year past and make a serious run at the Final Four.
Fearless prediction: 3rd. It’s only a jump of one slot from where they finished a year ago but this side looks like one capable of making the journey there a lot more comfortable.
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