It was a huge double week in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, in which some teams took an important step toward their respective goals. Four teams - FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow and KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz - won both games in Rounds 27 and 28. Barcelona, Madrid, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and CSKA qualified for the playoffs and will fight with Anadolu Efes Istanbul for the homecourt advantage in their respective series. CSKA and Maccabi have a five-win gap over sixth-ranked Panathinaikos OPAP Athens with six games left in the regular season.
There are currently seven teams with either 12 or 13 wins, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul ranks eighth with a 13-15 record, so every basket will matter from now on until the end of the regular season. Getting a 2-0 record against a direct opponent will be very convenient in multiple-team ties and the tie-breaker against the teams fighting for the playoffs will be just as important as winning the game. If you saw the final minutes of the game between Khimki Moscow Region and Fenerbahce, you will understand why. Khimki led by 13-15 points after losing to Fener by 13 in Istanbul. It was like a close game situation, both sides calling timeouts with high intensity. This week, we have two of those games between playoffs contenders: AX Armani Exchange Milan vs. Olympiacos Piraeus and Fenerbahce vs. Panathinaikos and the latter is always special for Coach Zeljko Obradovic.
Round 29 promises a lot of excitement and as usual, we have some suggestions for you, EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge managers. One is the obvious choice, there is a very cheap sleeper and three players on their way up.
Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul (3.78 million) - To put it simply, Shane Larkin is back and he should be on your Fantasy Challenge team. Immediately. Make room for him, buy cheaper players, whatever, but make sure you sign him again because he is doing amazing things all season. He had 40 points and a PIR of 44 against Olympiacos in Round 28.
Jock Landale, Zalgiris Kaunas (1.51 million) - Landale is a solid center, who is fully adjusted to the EuroLeague and at a reasonable price. He comes off one of his best games in the competition with a career-high 27 points, just 1 missed shot and 6 rebounds for a PIR of 30, matching his personal best. He will have something to prove against Brandon Davies in Barcelona, too.
Tonye Jekiri, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne (1.50 million) - He had a strong start, slowed down a little bit when Adreian Payne returned from injury, but Jekiri is, slowly but steadily, returning to his best level. A tremendous rebounder with a soft touch for mid-range jumpers, Jekiri comes off a double-double - 10 points, 11 rebounds - against Real Madrid.
Octavius Ellis, Olympiacos Pireaus (1.61 million) - Ellis is one of those players every Fantasy Challenge manager loves - loads of rebounds and very few missed shots, with a lot of dunks. Nikola Milutinov has been sidelined and Ellis stepped up for him, averaging a PIR of 12 in three games as a starter. His two-point shooting percentage (76.7%) is off the charts.
Ilimane Diop, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz (400,000) - Since Larkin is so expensive, I thought it would be a good idea to recommend a very cheap player. Diop has been doing well lately with rebounds, blocks, mid-range jumpers, you name it. In his last three games, Diop has averaged 8.7 points, 1.0 blocks and a PIR of 10.7. All for just 400,000!