After an exodus of unprecedented levels in the summer of 2017, Europe has largely kept hold of the top tier talent through the summer of 2018. Emmet Ryan on the somewhat surprising stability that has emerged
The biggest star on the continent with the potential to be the biggest star in European history leaving for the NBA would normally be a cause for concern. Luka Doncic won pretty much all that could be won while in Europe, leaving with dual MVP awards for Spain’s ACB and Euroleague along with the finals MVP award for the latter, but it was not the type of blow suffered a year prior.
With Milos Teodosic, Shane Larkin, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Ekpe Udoh all jumping to the NBA last summer, the hit was hard and they were far from the lone outgoings. The 2017 off-season saw 17 players go from Euroleague alone to the NBA. That doesn’t account for outgoings to China, including Aaron Jackson who also ended up in the NBA after his stint there.
This season the losses are much lighter. In addition to Doncic there’s only Jonah Bolden , James Nunnally, and Brad Wanamaker, while Ryan Broekhoff left Eurocup side Lokomotiv Kuban to join Doncic at the Mavericks. There have still been moves to China but the ledger, on the whole, is much healthier.
The movement into Europe, and Euroleague in particular, is far greater than that out this season. The likes of Tyler Ennis (whose style looks well suited to here), Alec Peters, Johnny O’Bryant, and the returning trio of Markel Brown, Shane Larkin, and Joffrey Lauvergne add a bit of pop back into the top flight of European action.
Crucially there’s a ripple effect with these kinds of moves. As the quality at the top improves, the opportunities for clubs at Eurocup and Basketball Champions League level improves. They aren’t as prone to be routed of their finest talents as many essentially had to be to fill the holes higher up the food chain last summer.
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All of this after the exodus turned out to not be all that bad. It’s worth reminding that the pile-on in loss of talent last summer was a concern for the overall quality of what was going to come out on the other end. Throw in the loss of the reigning Euroleague MVP Sergio Rodriguez for the bulk of the season with injury and things had the potential to be really bleak.
The league wasn’t leaning on Luka Doncic to carry it but it wasn’t that far off doing so heading into the regular season.
It turned out the concerns were largely unfounded as savvy front offices managed to reorder matters for the most part. None did it better than Zalgiris Kaunas, which put together a contending squad on the budget of a pauper. Fenerbahce took the biggest single blow the last off-season, losing both Bogdanovic and Udoh, but managed to replace production rather than players with its adjustments and came close to making it back to back titles.
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It was Fener who took the biggest blow this off-season too as both Wanamaker and Nunnally left the Istanbul club. The moves made are promising, both Lauvergne and Ennis should contribute significantly quickly with Ennis about as logical a complement for Bobby Dixon as could be asked for.
Jason Thompson has gone to China but isn’t exactly viewed as a loss for the Turkish side as he never had the production required to fulfil the role asked of him. That does however leave a question at the 5 which will still need answering as.
Outside of that the big upside is that internal market has become strong on the whole. Teams aren’t seeking out players from a position of weakness, there are no major wounds to patch up, but rather from that of strength. There are still some front offices whose decision making despite the generous cheque books still needs some debating, to be as polite as possible, but they are at least operating from a calmer state of operations.
That’s good for the final product and is promising. Having weather last year’s storm well, it’s time for European hoops to win the peace.
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