Look ahead to the new Turkish Airlines EuroLeague campaign with a number of my personal opinions, which could end up being bulletin-board material.
Ten predictions for the 2023-24 EuroLeague season
Before every Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season, fan bases across the continent believe that their team has a shot at winning the title and that their star player is in line for an MVP-level campaign. Well, it doesn't always work like that. But hey, this is the best time to make some season predictions, right? These are my 10 predictions for the 2023-24 EuroLeague season. (Please feel free to remind me of how right/wrong I am come next May.)
10. Bayern to lay strong foundations but come up short
The reset button was pressed at FC Bayern Munich over the summer, with Pablo Laso being brought in to lead the team into the future. The biggest problem facing Laso and co., however, is that almost all the other teams have improved. Therefore, it isn't quite Mission: Impossible for Bayern, but almost. I expect Coach Laso to get Bayern on the right track ahead of a strong season in 2024-25, but a playoff – or play-in – spot in 2023-24 might be a bit premature.
9. Kemba Walker will shine... in moments
AS Monaco shocked the basketball world this summer by signing Kemba Walker to a one-year deal. The four-time NBA All-Star still has some juice left in the tank at 33 years of age, but it would be a surprise if we saw Walker take the EuroLeague completely by storm. Instead, I predict that we will see some incredible moments by Walker, rather than an incredible season. Nevertheless, it should be a lot of fun to see how he does.
8. Markus Howard will lead the league in scoring
Last season, Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz's Markus Howard announced himself to the EuroLeague by scoring 30 points or more in two of his first three games. Come the end of the campaign, the 24-year-old posted 14.2 points per night, the 12th-highest average in the competition. An even bigger role awaits Howard after the exit of Darius Thompson, so if he can add more consistency to his scoring, he'll have a great shot at securing the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy.
7. Look out for Efes
Anadolu Efes Istanbul turned the page this summer by embarking upon a new era. Following the departures of Vasilije Micic and Ergin Ataman, the Turkish club retooled by bringing in All-EuroLeague Second Team point guard Darius Thompson and head coach Erdem Can. Efes failed to make the playoffs last season, finishing with a 17-17 record, but its new Big Three of Thompson, Shane Larkin and Will Clyburn is ready to do damage in the coming EuroLeague season.
6. Partizan will have a better record than Zvezda
There has been a lot of excitement about the many new additions at Crvena Zvezda Meridianbet Belgrade, but I'll always hang my hat on the coaching of Partizan Mozzart Bet Belgrade maestro Zeljko Obradovic. Just three wins separated the two last season, but it was Partizan that reached the playoffs. With so much competition to make the postseason, I think Partizan will end up in the brand-new play-in tournament and Zvezda will miss out once again.
5. A tough season awaits for Barcelona
FC Barcelona has reached the Final Four in each of the last three seasons, having previously not got there since 2014, but that run will be put to the test next season. After all, Nikola Mirotic, the 2021-22 EuroLeague MVP, has left the club, as have Cory Higgins and head coach Saras Jasikevicius. With its competitors all having strengthened this summer, Barca – led by first-year head coach Roger Grimau – will be fighting to make the playoffs, let alone the Final Four.
4. Shavon Shields will make the All-EuroLeague team
This isn't too bold of a prediction, but Shavon Shields is primed to remind EuroLeague fans of his talent next season. The EA7 Emporio Armani Milan small forward was named to the All-EuroLeague Second Team in both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns, but an injury limited him to just 10 games last year. Now healthy again, Shields is set for a big comeback season and I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes an All-EuroLeague player for the third time.
3. Olympiacos will survive the losses of Vezenkov, Sloukas
In one summer, Olympiacos has seen both the reigning EuroLeague MVP and the best sixth man in the league walk out the door in Sasha Vezenkov and Kostas Sloukas, respectively. But, it's important to have faith in Georgios Bartzokas's system. With five new signings, including two returnees in Nikola Milutinov and Nigel Williams-Goss, the picture isn't all that bad, too. Another Final Four appearance is far from guaranteed, but the Reds should be firmly in the playoff picture.
2. Fenerbahce will reach the Final Four
In year one under Dimitris Itoudis, Fenerbahce was one game away from making it to the Final Four after forcing Olympiacos to a five-game series. Fenerbahce snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed last season, but with its core group returning and with a sprinkling of new additions, a first Final Four appearance since 2018 should be on the cards. Perhaps Fenerbahce fans should already be keeping an eye on flights to Berlin next May…
1. Expect OAKA to be back to its best
One of the saddest parts of the 2022-23 EuroLeague season was seeing a half-full OAKA on a fairly regular basis, with Panathinaikos Athens fans disillusioned at what they were seeing on the court. This summer, the picture has completely changed. Ergin Ataman's appointment – and the confidence he exudes – has revived the fan base, which has been treated to big signing after big signing. Panathinaikos's supporters are ready to make OAKA a fortress once again.