David Pick | Nr. 46

While the NBA free agency is yet to kick off officially, and many looming deals are cooking towards the 2021 summer signings; Europe at large, and the Euroleague in particular, have already lost some of its pillars to the NBA.

Campazzo, James, Deck, Vildoza and Bryant weren't just great Euroleague players, they were great Euroleague starters on their teams. Irreplaceable for most. Real Madrid, without Campazzo and Deck, failed to qualify for the Euroleague F4 and fell to Barcelona in the ACB finals. CSKA's dismissal of James might have benefited them in the locker room to rebuild constructive chemistry, however Iffe Lundeberg wasn't enough in the Euroleague Final Four. Daniel Hackett elevated both his game and stats, but his contribution at best should be an added boost as an "X Factor", not a go to guy.

Oddly enough, Bryant can amusingly go down as the first player in European history to lead his club to the domestic championship series (in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv), and participate in the NBA Finals with the Bucks, all in the same season. C-R-A-Z-Y.

However, with all the sadness in losing some of the more exciting players Europe has to offer its fans, it seems like thus far in the 2021 offseason - Europe has beaten the NBA. Why? Highly coveted PG and Euroleague MVP Vasilije Micic has chosen to STAY in Turkey, signing a reportedly whopping 13,000,000 Euro deal with Anadolu Efes, and therefore throwing the NBA dream, for now, out the window.

It was a super move by Anadolu Efes, especially with clubs like CSKA Moscow and UNICS Kazan on the market for PGs at that time, even Fenerbahce would have attempted to link Micic with Nando De Colo. Overall, it was powermove by Ergin Ataman to flex on everyone else and secure the best Euroleague free agent.

If i had to review ALL the offseason signings, we would need about 10 blogs to digest and evaluate all. but let's dive into some of the more relevant deals to date.

Nicolo Melli: NBA --> Olimpia Milano

A few years back Melli was regarded as one of the top forwards in Europe. He never had a tenacious attitude or killer instinct, and his stats throughout the 2017-2018 season as a standout for Fenerbahce, with 8.9PPG were far from impressive. But he showed up and showed out in the Finals vs Real Madrid in 2018, pouring in 28 points, a Finals high since 1985. Melli then spent 105 games in the NBA between the New Orleans Pelicans (2019–2021) and less than a handful with the Dallas Mavericks. In between Melli replaced Deandre Ayton for the World Team in the Rising Stars Challenge in 2020. The business side of the NBA can often be overwhelming and like multiple players before, Melli discovered during warmups before a game in Chicago that he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks.

That was all enough for Melli who chose to return to Europe and sign back in the Italian fashion capital. Honestly, he has a huge debt to score with the locals, as it's widely known that Melli's ludacris unsportsmanlike foul on Tyrese Rice in Game 1 of the 2014 Playoffs vs Maccabi Tel Aviv, led Luca Banchi and co to losing the season.

Kevin Punter & Zach LeDay --> Partizan Belgrade

It doesn't matter if Zeljko Obradovic is in the Euroleague or not, wherever he goes, drama follows. The GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) signed in the Serbian capital after sitting out for a season and is building a EuroCup Galacticos. It's rumored that Punter signed for 2.5M Euros over till 2023, and it seems like Obradovic isn't done. Rodions Kurucs opted to follow Melli and leave the NBA for a return to Europe. Kurucs logged 131 games in the NBA with the Nets, Rockets and Bucks,

Sergio Scariolo, Milos Teodosic --> Virtus Bologna

Some might read the line above and think I made a mistake because Milos already played for Virtus. That's true. But the fact that Virtus failed to qualify for the Euroleague started a rumor frenzy around Teodosic leaving Italy. Long story short, instead of jumping on many of the Euroleague offers thrown at him, the Serbian wizard opted to stay in Bologna and battle again for a ticket to the Euroleague. Scariolo, head coach of the Spanish National Team, left the NBA's bench with the Toronto Raptors where he won a championship ring, and resumed the bench overseas. Scariolo is a force overseas and he will be able to recruit a lot of star power to Virtus.

Wade Baldwin --> Baskonia

Baldwin resurrected his Euroleague brand with Munich, following both a disappointing and underachieving campaign with Olympiacos. Baldwin was a key factor to Munich's Cinderella run en route to the Euroleague playoffs and 5 game series vs Milano. However, his lack of shooting abilities have also been revealed to be his Achilles heel. 

Baldwin shot 26% (8-30) in Greece, and 28% (37-130) with Munich during the season, however in the last three decisive games he logged 1-11 from 3PT range (!). Moving to Baskonia has been an upgrade nonetheless, but in the Spanish ACB league with some of the best defenders outside the NBA and high basketball IQ, he must prove he can shoot consistently to stay out on the floor.

ALBA Berlin --> Peyton Siva, Simone Fontecchio OUT, Tamir Blatt and Yovel Zoosman IN

There's a new age in Berlin, and coincidently or not, it's all Israeli. Siva, ALBA's longtime floor general has bolted to New Zealand for approx $150,000 and joined Matthew Dellavedova as high profile PGs in the NBL. Fontecchio made a huge boost in his career this past season and earned a giant contract in Baskonia Vitoria, that includes an NBA buyout for obvious reasons.

Blatt and Zoosman have been battling over the last few seasons head to head with Maccabi Tel Avivand Hapoel Jerusalem for all the titles in Israel. Zoosman, however, was also battling injuries and a head coach that had very little tolerance for him. It was no surprise that Zoosman chose to leave Maccabi, turning down a reported $200,000 offer; as it's difficult to develop and grow with multiple imports signed to your position each season. Not long ago Zoosman was dubbed a defensive stopper and became a starter for Maccabi in the Euroleague, but that was short lived and the team lacked success. Then Omri Casspi returned, Angelo Caloiaro's status grew stronger, former Top-5 NBA draftee Dragan Bender returned to his home away from home, and recently Derrick Williams inked in Tel Aviv. Zoosman felt overlooked and underappreciated and requested for Maccabi to let him go. He's a good spot up shooter, strong defender with long arms and light on his feet, but his ball handling is lacking, he isn't comfortable making decisions in PNR situations, and he isn't a vocal leader. Zoosman will need a lot of mental support and patience to mature into his true potential.

While Blatt was known to be one of the best guards in Israel, and 2nd to Gal Mekel as the senior PG of the National Team, Euroleague will be a whole different animal for him. Tamir has good court vision and limitless range, but he doesn't finish well in traffic, and will struggle against big and smart guards. Unlike shooters like Scottie Wilbekin who demand high attention while running off screens, it was evident when playing against Stefanos Dedas and Hapoel Holon that Blatt's red flags might backfire on him more than benefit. Tamir isn't a strong defender, and Holon guards would isolate and attack him every time he was on the floor. Furthermore, Yogev Ohayon, Chris Johnson, and Tyrus McGee would pound him down in the post and force him into foul trouble. It remains to be seen how and if he can hold his own in the Euroleague.

Achille Polonara, Pierria Henry --> Fenerbahce

It was a tough bitter-sweet night for head coach Igor Kokoskov. Italy played vs Serbia in the Olympic Qualifiers tournament while a few hours prior, Kokoskov and Fenerbahce celebrated the signing of Polonara from Baskonia. Fast forward some hours later in Belgrade, and Polonara was named MVP with a super performance against Serbia and his new coach Kokoskov. Henry was a high profile guard on the market, Henry obtained a Senegal passport and Cotonou status, linking him to Real Madrid. It seemed like a natural move, however the American playmaker signed in Istanbul and joined an impressive backcourt alongside Nando De Colo.

James Nunally, Derrick Williams, Kameron Taylor --> Maccabi Tel Aviv

Maccabi pulled some interesting bunnies out of their hats this offseason, starting with Nunnally who hasn't played basketball in a year, but is also at the perfect age to peak in his career. Williams will be the athletic boost, and crafty forward that was lacking for Giannis Sferopolous. Taylor is an enigma though. He made the jump from Hungary to Bamberg and raised a lot of eyebrows, but his decision making became questionable having then signed to Hamburg without European competition. Taylor is well regarded overseas, and he's now getting an opportunity to show himself on the big stage. It won't be easy stepping into Bryant's and Dorsey's shoes.

Thomas Heurtel --> Real Madrid

Everyone remembers the unfortunate saga between Barcelona and the French PG, leading to his departure from Catalonia and his return home to ASVEL. Last season, Barcelona cut Heurtel and forbidden him from signing with any other Spanish club. Word quickly spread that he inked a deal with Los Blancos for the 2021-2022 season, but he couldn't play in Spain till then. Heurtel signed with Tony Parker's club and led them to the Jeep Elite Championship, en route to his fancy new deal in Madrid. With Sergio Llull declining from season to season and losing his star status, Real need a balanced and crafty floor general, and I'm sure no one will have more fire under their butt than Heurtel when Real play against Barcelona.

Panathinaikos --> Oded Katash OUT, Dimitris Priftis IN

Flashy signings aren't only on the court, they also happen on the sidelines. PAO's decision to cut ties with Katash shortly after he won the Greek double with the Greens, caught many in Israel by surprise. But it seems like in Greece, his fame couldn't keep his head above water. Katash left Hapoel Jerusalem midseason to Athens on a 1+1 agreement. He didn't build the Greek roster, rather tried to make the best of it. He did just that, winning both the Cup and the Championship, but his style of play drew loads of criticism. Prifitis was coming off a EuroCup run leading Kazan to the Euroleague and his pedigree was growing fast in Athens, leading to a long term 3 years deal to resurrect PAO's sinking ship.

Other notable Euroleague signings:

Wade Baldwin (Baskonia), Sertac Sanli (Barcelona), Marius Grigonis (CSKA), Thomas Walkup (Olympiacos), Andrey vorontsevich (Kazan), Jordan Loyd (Zenit St Petersburg).


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