AS Monaco is the only debutant in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague this season. Monaco retained the core of players that led the team to the 7DAYS EuroCup championship last season and added experienced players to be even more competitive.
Monaco signed a brand-new point guard duo, looking for two very different players for depth and versatility. Leo Westermann is set to start his 10th EuroLeague season and Monaco is his seventh club in the competition. Tall, experienced and with a high basketball IQ, Westermann should be Coach Zvezdan Mitrovic's extension on the court. On the other hand, Paris Lee is a EuroLeague newcomer who comes off a strong season (14.9 ppg., 7.8 apg.) with French side Orleans Loiret Basket. Lee is an excellent shooter and a great one-on-one player who makes things happen with the ball in his hands. EuroCup Finals MVP Rob Gray and Danilo Andjusic are set to provide the fireworks from downtown. Gray is an all-around scorer due to his unlimited shooting range, poise and self-confidence. Andjusic developed from a spot-up shooter to a scoring machine who attacks the rim and draws fouls. Yakuba Ouattara is back in Monaco to provide hustle, energy and outside shooting. Rudy Demahis, an up-and-coming playmaker, should see extended playing time during the season.
Alpha Diallo and Armel Traore should split minutes at small forward, even though Monaco may often play small ball with Gray and Andjusic together on court. Diallo is an interesting addition - a young, versatile and ambitious forward who powers the boards and can score in many ways. Traore, age 18, is set to make his professional debut with Monaco right out of Centre Federal du Basket-Ball. The Principality powerhouse has a new-look frontcourt with many options at center. Jerry Boutsiele is a great rebounder, especially on the offensive end, and an effective scorer. Donatas Motiejunas returns to the EuroLeague for the first time since 2012. He is a natural-born mismatch due to his post skills, shooting range and ballhandling. Donta Hall adds even more power to Monaco's frontcourt due to his rebounding and shot-blocking abilities. Brock Motum, an experienced power forward, can open the floor with his shooting from downtown and is also dangerous around the basket. Ibrahima Fall-Faye provides defense, energy, quickness and much-needed versatility due to his all-around skills.
PLAYER TO WATCH
All eyes will be on Rob Gray, who finished the EuroCup season in great shape. Gray was named the EuroCup Semifinals MVP after scoring 25 points in Game 1 against Herbalife Gran Canaria and making the game-winning shot on the buzzer in Game 2 to send Monaco to the finals. He did even better against UNICS Kazan, scoring 23 points in Game 1 of the Finals and hitting 25 in Game 2. Gray uses his great one-on-one skills to beat his defenders, take the ball to the basket or create his own shots from any distance. He does it with great determination and a lot of confidence, making things look easy. Gray has dominated the EuroCup like few others in his first campaign in that competition, and now faces a big challenge: repeating the trick on the biggest stage available in Europe: the EuroLeague.
When fans and experts named the EuroCup favorites before the start of the 2020-21 season, Monaco was not a name that was mentioned often but the team went all the way and lifted the trophy. Monaco now needs to take that underdog mentality to the EuroLeague and keep doing what worked well for the team last season: take one game at a time, play with high concentration, rely on Coach Mitrovic's defensive strategies and get its many scorers - Gray, Andjusic, Motiejunas - involved on offense. Monaco should fight for every win and if that happens, set more ambitious goals as the season goes by.