Right, then. With the last teams advancing into the Euroleague two dozen for the regular season and a break in the Kobe-to-Bologna soap opera today, BallinEurope breaks out an old favorite: power rankings!
Once again, the BallinEurope Euroleague Power Rankings are based on current trends, i.e. who’s hot, who’s not. For this edition of the list, also taken into consideration are offseason acquisitions and a dash of expectations vis-à-vis how these squads will look when the games really start to matter. Let the arguments begin!
1. FC Barcelona – Heard it before? Well, you’ve probably heard about the core of the Barca roster before, too: Juan Carlos Navarro, Pete Mickael, Erazem Lorbek, Victor Sada, Boniface N’dong, Kosta Perovic and Fran Vazquez; getting to add Chuck Eidson and Marcelinho Huertas doesn’t seem fair. In going 8-0 thus far this preseason, the Blaugrana have added to their trophy case with Lliga Catalana and Supercopa Endesa titles and Navarro in particular is still in EuroBasket form. Right now, BiE says this is the team to beat.
2. CSKA Moscow – Yes, BiE knows that the Red Army always looks better in the preseason these days, but their pair of decisive wins in the Gomelski cup over Žalgiris Kaunas and Fenerbahçe Ülker were quite impressive. In addition, CSKA may have had the most impressive off-season of any EL club by augmenting their strengths while adding speed and athleticism in Milos Teodosic, Nenad Krstic, Darjus Lavrinovic and Sammy Mejia. What’s that? Andrei Kirilenko’s now officially on board? Whoa.
3. Maccabi Tel Aviv – After an offseason which saw some excellent additions to the roster in Theo Papaloukas and Jordan Farmar plus David Blatt’s defensive mastery, the only arguable Achilles’ heel on this team might be a general lack of speed. But anyone conservative enough to doubt Maccabi in this area should have been silenced by the 105 the team ran up against Cholet, one of three wins versus LNB teams in September.
4. Montepaschi Siena – Last year’s EL third placers, Siena has taken Città di Cagliari and Supercoppa titles this offseason. Despite a close loss to Beşiktaş in the Lugano Bormio Tournament final (in which they still managed to run-and-gun to lotsa points in the 93-91 squeaker), the Italian side appears to be ready to take care of business in their usual fashion in 2011-12. Expect at least another Italian title, whether or not what’s-his-name plays in Serie A.
5. Anadolu Efes – After getting bounced from the Bormio Tournament in early September by Montepaschi Siena, newcomers Ersan Ilyasova, Tarence Kinsey, Vlado Ilievski and even Sasha Vujacic were incorporated well enough to lead Efes to wins over both Greek superpowers in the Two Nations Cup. And Stanko Barac even put in an awesome 17-point performance in the September loss to Union Olimpija. Right now, it looks like this team could go far indeed.
6. Panathinaikos – BiE’s giving PAO something of the benefit of the doubt here, although traditionally they’d still be ranked no. 1 based on their status as defending champions. Injuries are keeping down the Greens thus far, with Dimitris Diamantidis and Mike Batiste not suiting up in the Two Nations Cup. On the plus side, despite two losses to Fenerbahçe Ülker (including one in the Gomelski Cup) and another to Anadolu Efes, Panathinaikos fans are surely cheered by the nice play of additions Sarunas Jasikevicius, Alexandros Kyritsis and Steven Smith … surely this ship will be righted once at full strength, but for now let’s just say PAO is happy these games don’t count in the standings.
7 (tie). Real Madrid –
7 (tie). Caja Laboral Baskonia – Assuming that Madrid takes out Asefa Estudiantes in the Trofeo tournament tonight, BiE wants to give a slight edge to Pablo Laso’s guys; the truth is, however, Baskonia did take the Diputacion Trophy over Real, 75-68. Both teams have stayed at home throughout the preseason, making it slightly difficult to gauge either’s potential success in EL play. Aside from the Diputacion championship game, of note are the Supercopa results: Madrid’s 74-70 loss to Barcelona, an 11-point loss by Baskonia against Barcelona in the final, and Baskonia’s squeaker win over Bizkaia Bilbao Basket in the first game.
For both sides, the starting lineups shown in their meeting – Thomas Huertel, Brad Oleson, Fernando San Emeterio, Mirza Teletovic and Milko Bjelica for Baskonia; Sergio Rodríguez, Rudy Fernandez, Carlos Suárez, Nikola Mirotic and Mirza Begic for Madrid – are impressive. The benches included Kevin Seraphin, Nemanja Bjelica, Pau Ribas, Pablo Prigioni and Dejan Musli for the former; and a virtual EuroBasket “Who’s Who” in Novica Velickovic, Ante Tomic, Martynas Pocius, Felipe Reyes and Sergio Llull for the latter. Truth be told, no Euroleague team is looking forward to meeting either.
9. Unicaja Malaga – Mostly standing pat with their blue-collar roster led by Joel Freeland and Jorge Garbajosa, Unicaja has managed a 6-1-1 record in the offseason, including the 91-59 Copa Andalucia demolition of Cajasol. The sole loss recorded by the ACB side was an 84-83 defeat at Valencia based on a last-second stop of Gerald Fitch. While it should be said that the sole EL side Unicaja has faced was Armani, Unicaja could well exceed expectations craftily (and with a lot of Freeland) in 2011-12 – and in Group B, they’ll surely compete near the top.
10. Emporio Armani – After an 84-73 loss to giant-killers Sassari in the Varallo Sesia competition in September, Armani seems to be finding its rhythm, notably notching two wins against Benetton and one against Bennet Cantu in the Torneo Caorle final. Even scarier, Armani only brought out Ioannis Bourousis and Danilo Gallinari on Sunday. The result? Gallinari had 15 points and Bouroussis had 11 boards in a 62-53 win.
11. Olympiacos – How does the new-look Olympiacos look? Hard to say … the preseason record shows that the Reds lost to Montepaschi Siena, then crushed Partizan in the Città di Cagliari tournament in September. Then they soundly defeated Fenerbahçe Ülker, only to fall apart after the first quarter against Anadolu Efes in the Two Nations Cup final. The jury’s still out; check back in after the rematch with Efes tomorrow night.
12. Fenerbahçe Ülker – Another hot-and-cold team, and another beset by injuries. Fenerbahçe went 1-1 in the Gomelski Cup and 1-1 in the Two Nations. On the big minus side, these guys were crushed by CSKA Moscow for the Gomelski; on the kinda plus side, they have beaten Panathinaikos twice this off-season…
13. Brose Baskets Bamberg – Why rain on the parade? The German champs have two cups to their credit in 2011, beating S. Oliver Baskets and Ratiopharm Ulm for the Stechert Cup in early September, while the hometown-held Domreiter Cup had them nipping Gran Canaria 2014 and administering Eurocup side FC Bayern Munich a 40-point beatdown. We’ll see if the seriously low-key offseason (Really? The biggest signing was P.J. Tucker?) works out for Bamberg, but right now these guys might be wishing the preseason would never end…
14. Žalgiris Kaunas – BiE’s really not placing Žalgiris here to cause controversy, but the truth is that, after a win against Triumph Lubertsy and a tie against Unics Kazan (in which Robertas Javtokas did not play), the Greens have played in just two other preseason games, going 0-2 against CSKA and PAO in the Gomelski Cup. So, how much higher should these guys be?
15. Unics Kazan – Though Kazan has played sparingly this offseason and haven’t played since a draw with Žalgiris on September 15, BiE bumps them up a bit based on the single best result of their off-season: The signing of Euroleague veteran Lynn Greer.
16. Partizan Belgrade – The Black-and-Whites will surely be competitive this season, but losses to Dinamo Sassari and Olympiacos in the Città di Cagliari tournament did them no favors in this ranking. Activation of Nikola Pekovic and Acie Law would probably help…
17. Bennet Cantù – Beyond their four victories against Italian sides, the newcomers actually acquitted themselves well in a pair of losses to Euroleague teams, taking both Emporio Armani (70-68 on an Omar Cook buzzer-beater in the Trofea di Caorle final) and Montepaschi Siena (73-70 in the Italian Supercoppa championship on Siena’s home floor) to the wire. Cantù appears to be a bit thin on experience – Gianluca Basile excepted – but something is allowing these guys to stay close. In Group A, Cantù might just emerge into a final 16 bid.
18. SLUC Nancy – The French team was cruising through the preseason with a 5-0 mark against LNB teams, including a Trophée Sarthe Pays de la Loire title … and then they met Maccabi Tel Aviv and were dominated in all aspects of the game, 86-62. While Nancy made some nice offseason acquisitions in Nicolas Batum, Pape-Philippe Amagou, Jamal Shuler and Adrien Moerman, this team may suffer from an imbalance of shooters to height, a fact the Maccabi defense made pointedly clear. Also pointedly clear: Jean-Luc Monschau will be called upon to craft miracles against the bigger teams in Group A.
19. Bizkaia Bilbao Basket – After its starting 2-1 mark against ACB teams, the most significant result for the ACB surprise of 2010-11? A tough-fought loss against Caja Laboral in the Spanish Cup. These guys might be able to play against the big boys of the EL, but this side definitely gets a status of “wait and see.”
20. KK Zagreb – Meanwhile, the sole significant result for the Croatian champs this offseason was a 75-69 win over Union Olimpija in the Rixos Cup on September 17. Again, BiE’ll wait and see.
21. Asseco Prokom – Prokom took their time before getting started in the RZD Cup in Krasnodar in late September and immediately fell to the already well warmed-up CSKA Moscow, 76-52. The Polish side saved a little face by winning the third-place game over BC Astana. The best news: After a shaky 1-of-5 shooting in his debut, Donatas Motiejunas came back with a nice line of 13 points and nine rebounds against Astana.
22. Union Olimpija – Is it a chemistry problem? After signing seven new contracts, Olimpija’s results for the offseason are as follows: lost to Lokomotiv Kuban, crushed by BC Khimki, lost to Galatasaray, lost to KK Zagreb, and lost to Anadolu Efes before finally squeaking past them on September 26, 74-73. The Slovenians may yet solve their woes, or they could be the Cibona Zagreb of 2011-12 … without quite the budget problem.
24. Spirou Charleroi – Though Galatasaray may be the Simmonsian “sneaky good” team to wreak some havoc among the middling teams in Group D, BiE’s starting the last two qualifiers at the base of the totem pole. Surely few imagine Spirou to do very much in the – o, OK, BiE’ll say it – “group of death” and these guys are surely hoping Euroleague officials will gift them yet again with home-court advantage in the 2012-13 Qualifying Round.