After coming within a whisker of the continental crown last year, Olympiacos Piraeus did not change a lot of players this summer, but nonetheless returns with a different look. The departures of 2022-23 EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov and veteran playmaker Kostas Sloukas forces head coach Georgios Bartzokas to redefine his team more than a bit. Some returning players are expected to take on bigger roles while some newcomers who had worn Olympiacos's jersey in the past know what to expect. The goal remains the same: challenge for the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague title and try to lift the trophy for the fourth time.
2023-24 Roster Rundown: Olympiacos Piraeus
Thomas Walkup, the team's primary floor general, is set to lead Olympiacos at both ends of the court. One of the best on-the-ball defenders in the competition, Walkup led the EuroLeague in steals (1.8 spg.) last season and was third in assists (5.6 apg.). His high basketball IQ, work ethic and experience make him a natural-born leader. Nigel Williams-Goss, who helped Real Madrid win the title last season, is back with his first EuroLeague for the prime of his career. He is deadly from deep range and can use his quick first step to attack the rim. Michalis Lountzis saw playing time in 20 EuroLeague games last season and is set to play a more important role in the team due to his court sense and shooting skills.
Isaiah Canaan and Giannoulis Larentzakis should split most time at shooting guard. Canaan is a terrific one-on-one scorer with unlimited range both off the dribble and off screens. Fully adjusted to the team, Canaan should deliver from day one. Larentzakis surprised fans and experts alike with his clutch skills last season, often bringing out his best in the fourth quarters of close games. He is a tough defender who is never afraid to take big shots, and has a big chance to keep growing with increased playing time. Shaquielle McKissic is one of the most athletic players in the competition and is set to keep thrilling fans with his fast break dunks and acrobatic baskets. Tough, physical and determined, McKissic always brings in the right energy at the right time, and is an effective scorer with a solid mid-range game. George Papas and youngster Venjamin Abosi should fight for playing time at shooting guard.
Team captain Kostas Papanikolaou is Olympiacos's heart and soul, able to do a little bit of everything to help his team win. Papanikolaou helps on the boards, is a solid three-point shooter and a terrific defender due to his ability to read passing lanes. Elite three-point shooter Alec Peters can change any game with shots, and is another experienced player that thinks team first. Another former EuroLeague champion, he's a candidate to see increased minutes and opportunities at the "four" position.
Speaking of team-oriented players, Olympiacos signed Luke Sikma, a unique power forward with off-the-charts passing skills. He averaged 4.2 assists in 121 EuroLeague games with ALBA Berlin in the last four seasons, well above almost any other frontcourt player. Sikma is also a good scorer both in the low post and from mid-range and rebounds well at both ends. His passing ability from the post gives Olympiacos inside-out options like few other teams. Similarly, Moustapha Fall may be a pure center who changes shots on defense and can be unstoppable on offense, but he's also a very capable passer from the high or low posts. What's more, Olympaicos has brought back one of Europe's elite centers in his prime, Nikola Milutinov, giving the Reds the ability play with an elite center on the court all 40 minutes long. Georgios Tanoulis and Panagiotis Tsamis have an excellent chance to learn from more experienced players while fighting for playing time.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Milutinov returns to the EuroLeague ready to prove he is one of the best centers in the competition. He is a great low-post scorer due to his size, speed and great hands. Milutinov can score in many ways around the basket, attacking the rim as often as possible or looking for his really effective jump hook. He is also a terrific offensive rebounder: Milutinov holds the record for most offensive boards in a EuroLeague game, 16, in December 2020. He reads the game and runs the floor better than most big men and rarely makes mistakes, averaging just 0.6 turnovers in almost 24 minutes in the 2020-21 season. Right in the prime of his career, Milutinov does not need to hold the ball or see extended playing time to make the difference in a game. With Fall and Milutinov, Olympiacos should be rock-solid in the paint at all times.
A decade ago, Coach Bartzokas led Olympiacos to its third and so far last EuroLeague title in 2013. The Reds returned to the EuroLeague Championship Game in 2015, 2017 and 2023 but were not able to lift the trophy. Last season's heartbreaking last-second loss against Real in the final will be all the motivation this team needs all season long. No other team should be more inspired to have a solid season, return to the Final Four and get the EuroLeague crown. If Olympiacos finds the key to be as effective as it was in the last two years, but with new leaders and different roles, the sky is the limit for the mighty Reds.