Euroleague Round-up, Round 2: Anadolu Efes and CSKA Moscow emerge as the favorites

Photo: YouTube
Photo: YouTube /
Photo: YouTube
Photo: Willy Hernangomez | YouTube /

The second week of Euroleague was slightly more predictable than the opening weekend. A few teams have asserted themselves as favorites, with CSKA Moscow, Unicaja Malaga, Anadolu Efes and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar being our only 2-0 squads. Group A is still a mess, but gave us the weekend’s most entertaining action. And several NBA prospects got increased playing time this week, which made things easier to break down.

Let’s jump into the action.

Group A

Group A began the season as the group most likely to be drama-filled, and through two weeks, that’s shown to be the case. All six teams sit at 1-1 in the standings and no team has truly stood out in a way that gives you confidence that they’re the favorite. Khimki Moscow looked like they might be that team after a comfortable round 1 win over Real Madrid but they’re a team led by Alexey Shved, and many of the negative things that earned Shved a ticket out of the NBA were on display in the Russian side’s 69-60 loss to Bayern Munich. Shved had four turnovers and shot 2-for-7 from 3, as Khimki totaled 19 turnovers for the game, making it easy for Bayern jump out to a comfortable first half lead they would never relinquish.

The two sides’ main NBA prospects, Marko Todorovic and Paul Zipser, had relatively forgettable performances after looking strong in the opening week.

Meanwhile, Crvena Zvezda lost Kings prospect Luka Mitrovic to injury in domestic competition, and they looked lost without him in a 98-71 loss to Real Madrid. Without Mitrovic, Real Madrid bossed Zvezda around inside with their superior size advantage, edging the Serbian team in rebounds (51-33) and hitting 57.8 percent of their shots inside the 3-point line. Knicks prospect Willy Hernangomez went 5-for-6 from the field for 11 points for Madrid, looking strong while Gustavo Ayon and Trey Thompkins owned the paint.

Fenerbahce Ulker was the victim of the biggest upset of the weekend, losing to Strasbourg 91-70. Bogdan Bogdanovic was Ulker’s most consistent player, posting 12 points, four rebounds and four assists in a strong showing. However, Fenerbahce just couldn’t hang with the scorching inferno that was Kyle Weems. The former Missouri State product had 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting and hit four 3s to help the French underdogs pull away in the second half.

At least Fenerbahce fans got to see some hot Airwolf action:

Group B

Anadolu Efes cemented themselves as the likely Group B favorite, handling Olimpia Milano by a final score of 89-73. All three of the Turkish squad’s NBA prospects played well, as Dario Saric, Furkan Korkmaz and Cedi Osman combined for 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Saric was his typical self, impacting the Efes offense on and off the ball in finishing with 12 points and five rebounds. Korkmaz hit two 3-pointers and was able to showcase the off-ball movement that should help make him a first-round pick.

Alessandro Gentile added to last week’s strong showing by putting up 22 points on 7-for-10 shooting, and bruising Cavs prospect Milan Macvan added 18 and 9 for Milano. Nonetheless, a lack of bench scoring kept the Italian side from making too much of a challenge for Efes.

It was a strong week for French teams in Euroleague, as Limoges also got on the board against Cedevita Zagreb by winning 84-80. Marko Araupovic was the only draft prospect to play in the game, and while he’s been a starter in both games for the Croatian team, he’s been mostly invisible. Speaking of invisible, Cedevita’s defense was miserable in this game, allowing Limoges to shoot 50.8 percent from the field.

In the final game, Laboral Kutxa beat Olympiacos 96-89 in overtime. Since Olympiacos refuses to play Nikola Milutinov and Dimitris Agravanis, this game was relatively uneventful for our interests.

Group C

The big story in Group C this week was seeing how Barcelona would bounce back from their loss to Karsiyaka, and while a 78-72 win over Zielona Gora isn’t the most promising result, Barca did win a game they needed early. Samardo Samuels drove the Barca bus offensively with 23 points, but Tomas Satoransky had a much better performance this week, posting 10 points and four assists. Aleksandar Vezenkov also started, but only hit one 3 and had one assist in 12 minutes of game time.

Meanwhile, Karsiyaka bounced in the opposite direction with an 85-73 loss to Panathinaikos. Vasilis Charalampopoulos got his first game action of the tournament for Panathinaikos, hitting his only shot in six minutes, and Nick Calathes dished out 11 assists in the victory. Karsiyaka shot 7-for-31 on 3-pointers in the loss, and after a strong first game Colton Iverson struggled to score, furthering the Turkish side’s struggles.

Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar needed a missed buzzer-beater to hang onto a 76-74 win over Zalgiris, but they’ve also emerged as one of the four teams to start the competition at 2-0. Zalgiris got a decent performance from Olivier Hanlan, who had nine points and two assists off the bench, but he struggled to contain Malcolm Delaney, who led Krasnodar with 21 points.

Group D

CSKA Moscow looks like the team to beat this year — they posted a second 100-point scoring output in a 107-78 win over Sassari. Christian Eyenga had 14 points on nine shots for Sassari, but Moscow had 33 assists on 36 made baskets, and it’s hard to defend the type of ball movement CSKA is showing right now. Brose Baskets also beat Darussafaka in a game that didn’t feature any notable NBA-related action.

Then there was the Malaga-Maccabi Tel Aviv game, which was won comfortably by Malaga to the tune of 93-82. Once again, Maccabi faced a strong team, lost and didn’t look good in doing so. And once again, Dragan Bender made zero impact on the game, posting two points, two rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes of play. Remember, though, that Bender is yet to turn 18-years-old. Expecting him to make an impact out of the gates would be foolish, and he’ll still be in the running for the No. 1 pick come June.

More concerning is that something seems incredibly off about Maccabi. They don’t have good ball movement offensively, their lineup rotations are all over the place and they just don’t seem to have a good game plan. Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, Nemanja Nedovic continues to look strong for Malaga, with a nice little 13-point scoring effort for the Spanish side.

Prospect of the Week — Willy Hernangomez, Real Madrid

Hernangomez, the 35th pick of the 2015 draft by the New York Knicks, was the most direct beneficiary of the absence of Mitrovic in the Madrid win over Crvena Zvezda. Hernangomez has a huge frame and he used it well to finish pick-and-rolls from Sergio Llull and Sergio Rodriguez. Madrid used Hernangomez as a roll man six times, and he hit five of those shots, including this vicious two-handed jam off a rejected screen in the second quarter:

Part of this is because of the amount of weapons Madrid has on offense — Hernangomez doesn’t get this much space if Crvena doesn’t respect Rodriguez’s dive with a double-team or cling to Trey Thompkins on the perimeter. But this is very much the role Hernangomez will play in the NBA, and Hernangomez was able to display both his off-ball movement, which is pretty high-level for a 21-year old, and the threat he presents as a screen-setter. The defender hedges into Hernangomez here, knowing this large man is about to crush him with a screen, and Rodriguez recognizes this and burns him to get into the lane.

More than anything, Hernangomez showed this weekend that he’s capable of doing the little things that NBA offenses will demand of him, even if most of his actual scoring came against a very weakened Zvezda front line.

Next Week

Group A brings us a suddenly very interesting matchup between Strasbourg and Bayern, while Real Madrid plays Fenerbahce. Olimpia Milano and Olympiacos will try to figure out the early second place spot behind Efes in Group B, while Group C will give us a fun matchup between Panathinaikos and Barcelona. CSKA Moscow will likely continue their rampage through Group D with a matchup against Brose Baskets, and maybe this week is the week Maccabi figures things out, as they get what should be a winnable matchup with Sassari.