Euroleague 2013 Preview: Groups C & D

Jamie McDonald

Here's a preview giving you a little background on the teams and players to watch, as well as young guns who might have a shot at the NBA in the future. After Groups A & B, we continue with C & D.

GROUP C

FC BAYERN MUNICH BASKETBALL

Stars and former NBA players: Nihad Djedovic, Heiko Schaffartzik, John Bryant

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent: Nihad Djedovic, Paul Zipser

http://www.euroleague.net/rs/50122/45d06ff8-6247-4820-b4fc-659a7cd7547c/712/filename/45d.jpg

Who are they? Bayern is famous for being maybe the best soccer club in the world right now, with world class players like Franck Ribéry, Phillipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger in their ranks. A few years ago, Uli Hoeness, a former player who turned Bayerns manager at the age of 26 and made Bayern the European powerhouse they are, had the vision of creating a basketball section within the club that would match those of other soccer powerhouses like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and CSKA Moscow (well, CSKA might not be a soccer powerhouse... not even sure you can call it soccer what they play nowadays). Because of the glamour attached to the Bayern brand, it has been the darling of Euroleague organizers for a while now and they have granted them a wild card for the competition despite not qualifiying through German league play.

Any players I should know? John Bryant is an US-American center that has been beasting the German league for a few years and has a famous fanboy in the 'NBAgeek' Patrick Minton. In last year's Eurocup, Bryant averaged 16 points and 9 rebounds in just 26 minutes. He's an interesting player, somewhat undersized at the 4/5-spot, but still a brutal force inside with a nice shooting touch from outside too, having converted 36% of his 126 threes last year. Who knows, the Euroleague spotlight might give the 26-year old a last chance to a NBA camp invite next year. Nihad Djedjovic is a swingman with great vision and ballhandling skills for his size (6'6") who has yet to show his talent as an all-around player. Slowly falling off the NBA radar, Djedjovic is due for a breakout season. However, this year's Bayern squad is filled with ballhandling options which might turn Djedjovic into a somewhat severly underused roleplayer.

Additionally, this teams exciting fundaments are crazy sparkplug Heiko Schaffartzig who is always a good bet to swing a game in a J.J. Barea-manner, and talented 6'10" wing Robin Benzing. Benzing, whose dream has always been the NBA, has been among the leading scorers at the EuroBasket and will look to make noise on the highest European stage. A distant NBA-talent might be 19-year old point guard Paul Zipser who unfortunately shouldn't have a chance of getting minutes with this team that also has Steffen Hamann in its ranks, Germany's long serving defensive-minded point guard.

Why should I watch them? Heiko Schaffartziks clutch craziness should be entertaining enough but the team is also filled with a few players who just didn't had what it took to catch the attention of NBA scouts, like Djedovic, Bryant and Benzing. Also, Bayern won't survive on the goodwill of the organizers of European competition forever so they have to prove that they can turn the fame and money behind them into actual successful basketball at the domestic and international level.

STELMET ZIELONA GORA

Stars and former NBA players: Christian Eyenga, Craig Brackins, Vladimir Dragicevic

http://www.euroleague.net/rs/49916/45d06ff8-6247-4820-b4fc-659a7cd7547c/e26/filename/45d.jpg

Who are they? Stelmet is last year's Polish champion who is debuting in the Euroleague. They're not completely new to the international stage as they completed a surprise run in the Eurocup last year.

Any players I should know? Stelmet's heart and soul last year was US-American Walter Hodge who earned several weekly MVP honors in last year's Eurocup competition. As a reward and to the sadness of Stelmet's fans, Hodgy was picked up by Spanish team Laboral Kutxa which is competing in Group D. Hodge's production at the guard spot (21 points, 5.6 assits in last year's Eurocup - 52% 2FG, 50% 3FG) will be very hard if not impossible to catch with Stelmet's remainng alternatives. However, the Poles were able to secure the rights to former fringe NBA players Craig Brackins and Christian Eyenga who might bolster their talent level a little. A player they will rely on a lot will be Montenegrin center Vladimir Dragicevic who has some experience playing on decent squads in Spain and Russia. Playing with St. Petersburg last year, Dragicevic averaged 10.6 points in the EuroCup. Apart from that, the talent level is quite thin.

Why should I watch them? Polish basketball is not very successful but it does have some appeal to it with the tough interior play and flashy streetball style some of their point guards like to break out every once in a while. Well, that's the best advertising I can do for this one.

OLYMPIACOS

Stars and former NBA players: Vasillis Spanoulis, Acie Law, Matt Lojeski

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent:

http://www.euroleague.net/rs/50324/45d06ff8-6247-4820-b4fc-659a7cd7547c/acc/filename/45d.jpg

Who are they? Greek powerhouse and the dominant European team of the last two years, winning the Euroleague twice in a row in quite dramatic fashion. The team's success went along the lines of the rise of a few players that since have left the team to seek new challenges. However, Olympiacos has done a good job of replacing them with other risers who could lift them to undisputed contendership status, and who can work in Olympiacos system that has Vassilis Spanoulis hand writing on it.

Any players I should know? Kyle Hines, Pero Antic, Kostas Papanikolaou and Josh Powell - that's a a decent group of players that most European elite teams would love to have... and they all have left Olympiacos before the season, opening up big holes which the remaining players will have a hard time to fill at this level. Its franchise face Vassilis Spanoulis however remained with the club after another strong Euroleague Final Four showing which earned him Tournament MVP status. In the final against Real Madrid, Spanoulis knocked down 5 of 9 three pointers for 22 points. His synergic backcourt partner is former NBA player Acie Law, not as shot happy and strong as a playmaker but a sturdy defender who knows his role and helps Spanoulis focus on offense.

Olympiacos will hope that newcomers Cedric Simmons and Matt Lojeski will help catch some of the offensive production they lost with guys like Papanikolaou and Hines. In Matt Lojeski, whose name is still somewhat obscure at the international level, I think Olympiacos signed a European offensive star in the making. Lojeski played his way into Europe's top level of basketball through the backdoor of the Belgian league. As a terrific shooter either coming off screens or after creating some seperation after a dribble, Lojeski secured two Belgium MVP trophies before catching the attention of the Greek club. Unfortunately, the US-born who is eligible to play for the Belgian national team is coming off a somewhat serious injury this offseason which kept him from participating at the EuroBasket.

Why should I watch them? Because they are the champions! It's not clear whether they are the 'team to beat' talent-wise, but their recent run should make any team take them more than serious regardless. Spanoulis is always a joy to watch anyway and the question whether Olympiacos can 'three-peat', which hasn't been done in Europe for centuries, is one of the biggest stories of this year's competition.

UNICAJA MALAGA

Stars and former NBA players: Zoran Dragic, Fran Vasquez, Jayson Granger

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent: Domantas Sabonis

http://www.euroleague.net/rs/50116/45d06ff8-6247-4820-b4fc-659a7cd7547c/2ea/filename/45d.jpg

Who are they? Unicaja has been a weird team that has enjoyed mixed success in the last few years. They've qualified for the Top 16 of Euroleague for 8th consecutive times while missing the Spanish league playoffs for the second time in a row - yeah, the Spanish league is kind of tough. Losing two very important key pieces in former NBA player Marcus Williams and Luka Zoric, Unicaja tries to maintain their international success, relying on their solid back court rotation.

Any players I should know? Offensively, the team is carried by Goran Dragic's evil alter ego (that's one theory - he might also just be his brother) Zoran Dragic, US-born Niklas Caner-Medley and former Orlando Magic draft pick Fran Vasquez. In Dragic's second year with Unicaja, he will be asked to take on a much larger offensive role than he did last year (4.7 PPG in 16 Euroleague minutes per game) now that starting point guard Marcus Williams is gone. He will be supported by 24 year-old Jayson Granger whom I look forward to as a breakout candidate. The 24-year old Uruguayan is debuting in the Euroleague after a few promising years with Estudiantes in Spain. Granger is an all-around performer who averaged 11 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals per 25 minutes in last year's ACB.

In the frontcourt, Malaga relies on 25-year old Lithuanian Mindaugas Kuzminskas whose debut in the Spanish League will be of interest. Kuzminskas has been on the NBA radar for years as a youngster but couldn't quite develop into an above average player on either end during his several stints in Lithuania. At the age of 30, Orlando might have given up waiting for Fran Vasquez who is still a serviceable vet but might have to do a little too much night in night out with so many young players around him getting minutes. One of the guys he will share minutes with is Arvydas Sabonis' 17 year old son, Domantas. Domantas hasn't shown much yet, but he's still incredibly young for a player getting decent minutes on a Euroleague team, and with such a famed father, one should at least keep him in mind for the next 3 years.

Why should I watch them? If watching a dude with "Sabonis" on his back is not enough for you to get fired up, let me say that this should be a fun team with capable and quick guard play. Seriously though.... SABONIS!!!

GALATASARAY LIV HOSPITAL ISTANBUL

Stars and former NBA players: Carlos Arroyo, Jamont Gordon, Nate Jawai, Manuchar Markioshvili

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent: Carlos Arroyo, Nate Jawai, Furkan Aldemir

Who are they? Galatasaray's basketball division is Turkey's great traditional hoops club. Founded in 1911, Gala enjoyed great success for decades before falling victim to a long slump against its main rivals Fenerbahce and Anadalu Efes. After finally winning the Turkish championship again in something like 20 years in 2012, Galatasary tries to builds on its 2011 Euroleague performance when it reached in the Top 16, relying on Euroleague vets and a Puerto Rican point guard who has extensive NBA experience.

Any players I should know? I want to thank 'Gala' for bringing  Puerto Rico's 'second finest' (yay J.J.!), Carlos Arroyo, back to the highest stage of European basketball. He might have never been more than a average point guard in the NBA at best, but his lone Euroleague stint in 2009 with Israeli Maccabi was impressive enough to keep an eye on him as one of the tournament's potential stars. This year, he'll get to work with a big front court target in former Timberwolf Nate Jawai, and agile Zoran Erceg, both of whom gained EL experience with their respective clubs FC Barcelona and CSKA Moscow in 2012. High-scoring winger Jamont Gordon and defensive all-around asset Erwin Dudley round up the core. A welcome addition to Galatasaray's game build around Arroyo's speed is Georgian star Markioshvili who is a terrific shooter beyond the arc and should be a great third option asset who won't cry for the ball but able to swing games with his shooting.

Galatasary also possesses an interesting trio of prospects at the age of 21, Furkan Aldemir (picked in 2012 by LAC), Dogukan Sonmez and Huseyin Koksal. Aldemir got a vote as "best player not playing in the NBA this season" in the GM survey, but that is beyond ridiculous. They're all interesting and should see spot minutes every now and then. Apart from Koksal who is 17 years old however, Sonmez and Aldemir have not shown significant development to really stay on the NBA radar any longer.

Why should I watch them? Carlos Arroyo is among the group of players who could end up the tournament's superstars despite playing on a team that might not be build to make a push for the crown.

MONTEPASCHI SIENA

Stars and former NBA players: Daniel, Hackett, Kim English, Erick Green

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent: Erick Green, Kim English, Allessandro Cappelletti,

http://www.euroleague.net/rs/50118/45d06ff8-6247-4820-b4fc-659a7cd7547c/f4c/filename/45d.jpg

Who are they? Siena has dominated the Italian League since 2007, winning the domestic championship in all of these years, and winning both the championship and cup in the last five years. They seem to make the Final Four every year even with underwhelming rosters but had a great run all the way to the Final Four in 2011. This year's team won't be good enough for that but they still have a bunch of fun players and US NBA talent.

Any players I should know? Before the season started, Siena was lucky to secure Kim English, a sharpshooting guard who played limited minutes for the Detroit Pistons last year. They also inked 2013 Nuggets draft pick Erick Green who should see many minutes at forward. Siena's charismatic leader is naturalized US-born guard Daniel Hackett who has torched the Italian league for years and joined the domestic powerhouse before last season. In his first year with Siena, Hackett was named Italian Finals MVP as well as Italian Cup MVP. Montepaschi was also able to get Josh Carter from St. Petersburg, a very underrated forward who shoots very well from range and plays defense, as well as power forward Othello Hunter who was terrific in last year's ACB (13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds in 25 minutes) before going on a tour to China.

Why should I watch them? This team has been fun the last few years and added fun player material in English, Green, Hunter and Carter. Siena looks to give English and Green significant playing time which might weaken the team on this stage, but the team looks good enough on paper to make another run at the Top 16 with athletic play at a nice pace.

Projection: Olympiacos is a lock to make the Top 16 and Stelmet the only team that stands no chance. The rest of the bunch is very interesting with Galatasaray and Unicaja safer bets due to team talent, but Bayern might finally be for real. Siena shouldn't be ruled out too as they have a harmonic roster of role players all around. It's going to be a hot dance to avoid tha elimination spot.

GROUP D

LOKOMOTIV KUBAN

Stars and former NBA players: Marcus Williams, Derrick Brown, Richard Hendrix, Simas Jasaitis

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent: Igor Kanygin

http://www.euroleague.net/rs/50120/45d06ff8-6247-4820-b4fc-659a7cd7547c/699/filename/45d.jpg

Who are they? Russian side Lokomotiv Kuban had a great 2012 campaign with the help of additions like Nick Calathes, Derrick Brown and Richard Hendrix, resulting in the club's first Euroleague participation. Kuban isn't just here to test its waters but has ambitions to make the Top 16 right away. The loss of Nick Calathes will be a test, but Kuban was able to land a decent replacement in former New Jersey Net Marcus Williams.

Any players I should know? Derrick Brown is a fairly athletic 3/4-hybrid who played for the Bobcats just two years back before LeBron told him to go away. Brown listened to the Kings advice and threw a dart at a world map. Being a bobcat, he failed miserably in the first 5 attempts, injuring himself, but eventually, the dart landed near "Kuban, Russia" There, Brown made an immediate impact as a force on both sides last year, being a key contributor to Kubans Eurocup championship run with 15.7 points, 4,3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 25 minutes of play. Brown was pretty much unstoppable inside (66% 2FG) and feasted on the attention opposing teams had to give Calathes and Eurocup Finals MVP Richie Hendrix.

Hendrix had a short run with the Spurs a few years go and is a frontcourt partner for Brown that leaves many teams overmatched. After playing for Italy's EA7for most of the year ith little playing time in 2021, Hendrix joined Kuban about a month before the Eurocup championship game and crowned a nice late season run with 14 points, 9 rebounds and two assists in the tournament's final.

Newcoming Marcus Williams will have to see how he can get his frontcourt duo involved. A very talented, multifaceted point guard, Williams has been up and down in his European career so far. After a promising stint with Russian Unics Kazan, Williams disappeared in China for a year, signed and disappointed with Unicaja Malaga and will have to replace his new team's former star now. It won't be easy and somewhat risky from both sides, but when Williams succeeds, he catapults himself undoubtedly into the top sphere of euro guards. Lithuanian guard duo Mantas Kalnietis, and the always solid ballhandling option Simas Jasaitis are premium options to relieve Williams a little.

Why should I watch them? To me, Kuban is one of the most well constructed teams that is not usually mentioned among the favorites. Brown and Hendrix are among the most exciting frontcourt duos in Europe and the Williams-Kalnietis head of playmaking has a lot to give too. Watch outfor Kuban in their first Euroleague season.

PANATHINAIKOS

Stars and former NBA players: Michael Bramos, Roko Ukic,

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent: Vassilis Charalampopoulos (that's more letters than Antetokounmpo!!), Giorgos Diamantakos

http://www.euroleague.net/rs/49933/45d06ff8-6247-4820-b4fc-659a7cd7547c/db6/filename/45d.jpg

Who are they? While bitter rival Olympiacos took the European crown the last two years, Panathinaikos took comfort in dominating the competition at home, sweeping the Euroleague champion in the league finals and winning the domestic cup as well. After winning the Euroleague in 2007, 2009 and 2011, "Pao" would love to be the team at which hand's Olympiacos' streak ends.

Any players I should know?Former Croatian Raptor (that sounds weird...) Roko Leno Ukic is one of the team's main creators and did a solid, yet not overwhelming job in the Euroleague last year, averaging around 9 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 27 minutes of play. The tall point guard suffered an achilles tendon injury at the Eurobasket and was supposed to miss up to three months, but seems to be able to play already while being held out of domestic league play.

Important to this team's success is also a its array of Greek players, headlined by Dimitris Diamantidis, never-bloomer Loukas Mavrokefalidis, Antonis Fotsis and the younger Nikos Pappas and Michael Bramos. Defensive stud Diamantidis, the most legendary of Greek's "golden generation" is 33 already and despite becoming a little slower on defensive, is still masterful offensively. In last year's Euroleague run, the floor general averaged 8 points and 5.8 assists in 31 minutes of play. US-born swingman Michael Bramos is a breakout candidate to watch. Bramos can do some damage as a scoring option and is a very good rebounder for his size of 6'5", averaging 3.4 rebounds and 8.1 points on good shooting numbers (66% 2FG, 36% 3FG). Here's to hope that the role of the man who graduated from Miami University in Ohio (there's a Miami in Ohio?! Why didn't anybody tell LeBron!?) increases. An intriguing pick up could be ancient Mike Baptiste (36) who has little NBA experience and shouldn't heavy minutes. Baptiste has played for Pao before and despite being very old, his physicality still makes him a threat to make buckets in a short amount of time off the bench.

16-year old Vaseleios Charalampopolous is a 6'8" forward who played very well at the U16 Euro Championship (12.5 points on 47% 2FG, 86% FT, 8.8 rebs (2.8 offensive), 1.3 assists, 1 block and should see spot minutes every now and then for Pao. 18-year old 7'0" center Diamantakos did a similar feat at the U18 tourney, averaging 18.4 points (59% 2FG), 11.1 rebounds (3.9 offensive) in 25 minutes of play.

Why should I watch them?They have a hard nosed elite squad and should be seen in the second tear of contenders. Panathinaikos also has some of the very best fans in all of bsaketball, being very loud, intimidating and doing all sorts of stuff that you usually see pissed off Greek citizens do in front of the Acropolis (or wherever their government resides). Those "de-fense!" chants and booing players route  when they shoot free throws you guys do are cute too of course.

MACCABI ELECTRA TEL AVIV

Stars and former NBA players: Ricky Hickman, Joe Ingles, Devin Smith

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent: Joe Ingles

http://www.euroleague.net/rs/50119/45d06ff8-6247-4820-b4fc-659a7cd7547c/244/filename/45d.jpg

Who are they? Israel's finest team that has dominated the local scene for centuries, accumulating around 50 domestic titles. Internationally, Tel Aviv has had great success as well. With David Blatt at the helm, Maccabi will try to get to the top of European ball again after two courageous runs to the the playoffs in the last two years. However, this came at the expense of domestic success as they were not able to secure the Israeli title.

Any players I should know?Those of you who have watched the Olympics in 2012 might remember head coach and most sophisticated Shved hater David Blatt. Tel Aviv saw some of its most glorious recent days under the stewardship of Blatt who, after coaching elsewhere, returned to Maccabi following the Olympics.

Maccabi's biggest signing this off-season was Australian dude Joe Ingles who couldn't quite establish himself as a reliable offensive option in Barcelona's star-studded squad. Maccabi will need Ingles to look more for his shot, especially after the somewhat mind-boggling decision to let go Niklas Caner-Medley after just one year without really giving him a chance. Ingles-Medley-Tyus would have been a heck of a trio.

Maccabi should have great use for Ingles, who shot 39% from range each in the Eurolague and ACB, playing off the inside out play that lives on its quick guards like Tyrese Rice & Richad Hickman as well as the inside presences of Shawn James, David Blu, Alex Tyus and fatty Sofoklis Shortsanitis. Tyus is a defensive-minded big with decent offensive game who has not only been crucial to Maccabi's defense but also to that of the Israeli national team. He is still recovering from an injury that kept him out of EuroBasket and thus doomed the team's outlook in that competition severely. 30-year old Shawn James is a similar type, however more offensive-minded with decent vision of which a shooter like Ingles should benefit. As good as guys like James or Blu are, they're hitting their thirties now so Maccabi's fate is lingering on the health of 25-year old Tyus.

Tyrese Rice will be very interesting to watch for Maccabi after terrific stints with Lietuvos Rytas of Lithuania and Bayern Munich of Germany (15.8 PPG in 23MPG!), but he will have tough competition for minutes with 30-year old Richard Hickman.

Why should I watch them?They're a well-coached team with very skilled players at the top of their rotation and two likely breakout candidates in Rice and Ingles. Also, their fans are some of the very best.

LIETUVOS RYTAS VILNIUS

Stars and former NBA players: Darius Songaila, Omar-Sharif Cook,

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent: Edvinas Seskus

http://bc.lrytas.lt/media/players/team/9.jpg

Who are they? Rytas is a top team in Lithuania that was unable to break rival's Zalgiris dominance at home the last few years. Internationally, they've had moderate success, reaching the Euroleague Top 16 in 2010 and reaching the Eurocup final in 2011. Vilnius is the definition of a middling team but as always has a roster that is intriguing enough to expect a little miracle.

Any players I should know? Before the season, Vilnius lost a young key piece in Nemanja Nedovic to the NBA but was able to sign a vet with an NBA past in Darius Songaila. Songaila is 35 already, but should be motivated playing at the highest level and in his home country, coming off a strong season for Ukraine's BC Donetsk with heavy minutes, averaging 15.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the domestic league. Another important frontcourt newcomer is undersized Colombian F/C Juan Palacios who was a valuable scorer and rebounder for JSF Nanterre's surprise coup in France last year. After playing at college in Lousville, Palacios played terrific seasons in some of Spain's minor leagues and at the age of 28, is rounding into a very decent player.

Offensively, the show is run by US-Montenegrin point guard Omar-Sharif Cook who played for group rival Laboral Victoria just a few months back. Cook ha sto bounce back from a forgettable shooting performance in the 2012 Euroleague, hitting just 19 of 59 shots for Laboral and generally having had one of his most disappointing runs, averaging just 2.8 points per 19 minutes in Spain. Cook is a pass-first guard who settles for spot-up shots from range anyway, yet it would help Vilnius tremendously if he could give them 8-11 points per game.

If they won't be able to rely on him, it'll be all on Martynas Gecevicius and Renaldas Seibutis on the perimeter. 25-year old Gecevicius was a solid rotation piece for Olympiacos two years back, but couldn't see many minutes with last year's championship squad which made him make the move to a less talented Euroleague team where he sure would get his minutes. Gecivius,an all-around terrific playmaker and scorer is a lucky signing should be another breakout candidate to watch. Seibutis has been a volume scorer during Vilnius most recent Eurocup (12.9 ppg in 2011) and Euroleague runs (14.8 ppg in 2012).

Why should I watch them?

LABORAL KUXTA VICTORIA

Stars and former NBA players: Andres Nocioni

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent: Devon Van Oostrum

http://www.euroleague.net/rs/50323/45d06ff8-6247-4820-b4fc-659a7cd7547c/9c5/filename/45d.jpg

Who are they?Caja Laboral is one of Spain's top teams and always a threat to go deep in the Euroleague, just like 2012 when they were already believed dead after a 1-6 start. However, Laboral went on a 7-game winning streak and advanced before being stopped in the playoffs. After a streaky season which also saw an early Spanish League playoff exit despite the strong play in mid-season, Caja is willing to go deep again with an interesting roster.

Any players I should know? Laboral's star is former Argentine Chicago Bull Andres Nocioni. After not getting any nice offers in the NBA, Noci spent a playing season at home before signing with the Spanish side. Despite being 34 years old, he was really good in Laboral's Euroleague run last year, but especially efficient in the Spanish league where he averaged 13.3 points (58-126 3FG made - 46%!) and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes of play. His frontcourt partner is quite contrary to the undersized, bully forward. Tibor Pleiss is a 24-year old German center standing at 7'1" and considered a talent that might not ever fulfill his potential because of his softness. Yet, the Thunder-draftee played a decent season as reserve center even though his statline of 6 points, 5 rebounds, 0.8 blocks per 16 minutes statline isn't remarkable. He should see more minutes this year.

Laboral has an dynamic mix of young and old at the point guard position. Lithuania's 36-year old supervet and Jasikevicius bodyguard Rimantas Kaukenas is the oldest of the group while super intriguing British Devon Van Oostrum is the youngest at 20. Van Oostrum left the island at an early age and bounced around several Spanish destinations to be mentored in Europe's best basketball environment. He held his own well at the 2013 Eurobasket, averaging 7.2 points and 2.2 assists per 20 minutes. It's good to see him play for a good team at this stage but minutes should not be easy to come by after Laboral signed Walter Hodge who played terrific basketball for Stelmet ZG last year, and still has French guard Thomas Heurtel in its ranks.

Another interesting youngster to look out for is 7'0" center Illimane Diop who has an extraordinary wingspan of around 7'8" and is a sureshot to get drafted at some point. He's still incredibly raw and prone to fouling out though (yeah, the good old tall guy stereotyps).

Why should I watch them? They have some of the more intriguing youngsters and fringe NBA hopefuls in Van Oostrum, Pleiss, Diop and Heurtel, even though DVan and Illimane won't see any minutes. Still, this is a nice basketball team with dynamic youth and vet power to carry them past the Top 16 again.

CRVENA ZVEZDA TELEKOM

Stars and former NBA players: DeMarcus Nelson, Jaka Blazic, Charles Jenkins, Blake Schilb

Interesting youngsters and NBA talent: Aleksandar Cvetkovic, Luka Mitrovic

http://www.euroleague.net/rs/49915/45d06ff8-6247-4820-b4fc-659a7cd7547c/ecf/filename/45d.jpg

Who are they? Serbian up-tempo powerhouse that has had moderate success internationally, reaching the Top 16 of Eurocup last year. Debuting in the Euroleague. Overmatched.

Any players I should know?Crvena signed former Golden State Warrior Charles Jenkins who, as a spot-up shooter, fits perfectly into the teams running mentality. He will be fed by talented 23-year old point guard Jaka Blazic who came over from Union Olimpija Ljubljana. Blazic has significant Euroleague experience as a starter for Union last year where he averaged 12.4 points, 4 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 28 minutes of play. Another key member of the backcourt is defensive minded DeMarcus Nelson who even started for the Chicago Bulls a few years back and has since been all over the map - Italy, France, Ukraine and now Serbia. During that time, Nelson has made a name for himself at the offensive end as a capable fast-paced playmaker too and averaged 4.1 assists with 4.4 rebounds in last year's Eurocup forCrvena Zvezda. US-swingman Blake Schilb joined the team from France as a taller version of Nelson. The versatile 6'7" man from Loyola University averaged 4.6 rebounds, 4 assists and 15 points per game during last year's Euroleague for Chalon Basket.

Crvena Zvezda's important inside man is gigantic 7'4" man Boban Marjanovic who joined the team from Serbian rival Mega Vizura after a terrific domestic season, scoring 16.8 points on 69% FG & 85% FT, 11.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 blocks. The 25-year old  played for some great European teams like CSKA  in his early twenties and finally seems to put his talent and gigantic frame to good use.

Why should I watch them? As a pretty fast-paced team with terrific talent on the wing they - as well as their opponents - will fill up the scoreboard. I think they even set a record for PPG in their Top 16 Eurocup run. Blazic-Nelson-Schilb & Marjanovic is an intriguing core that should be really fun to watch, but unfortunately for "Red Star" (Crvena Zvezda translated), there isn't much talent behind them. Yet, they also have a core of intriguing young players. Cvetkovic might no ever make the NBA, but 20-year old Luka Mitrovic has been very good at the domestic level in decenemt minutes and 17-year old center Dusan Ristic odds of catching the NBA's attention are really good.

This group is very much at the same level at the top with Kuban, Laboral, Maccabi and Pao capable of winning this group. Crvena Zvezda is the only team you should not bet any money for, but the race to avoid the second elimination spot should be exciting.

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In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

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