The 2017 Euroleague playoffs are upon us. The new 30-game regular season was very successful in terms of week-to-week entertainment, and it helped narrow the field from 16 teams to eight. Now, a best-of-five series and two single-elimination victories stand between one team and a Euroleague title. Last year, that team was CSKA Moscow, who swept Crvena Zvezda, and then won two absolute wars with Lokomotiv Kuban and Fenerbahce to capture their third Euroleague championship.
They’re back to try to make it four this year, but first, they’ll have to run through what should be a deeper playoff field than we had last season. CSKA comes in as the No. 2 seed, and they’ll have to face off with fellow 2016 Final Four participant Baskonia in the first round. Real Madrid usurped the Russians as the top seed, riding a 14-2 run into the playoffs. They get “Blatt BC,” as David Blatt’s Darussafaka Dogus squad snuck into the playoffs on the final day with a win over Crvena Zvezda. There’s the Euroleague’s Memphis Grizzlies, Olympiacos, a defensive juggernaut at the No. 3 seed, and Anadolu Efes, who are scalding hot, winners of eight of ten heading into the playoffs. And of course, there’s the marquee 4-5 matchup, featuring last year’s runner up Fenerbahce dueling with four-time champion Panathinaikos.
The Euroleague playoffs are annually a showcase for Europe’s top basketball talents, and that’s no exception this year. Euroleague legends like Milos Teodosic, Vassilis Spanoulis, and Sergio Llull will attempt to further the length of their epic sagas that will be told for future generations. Former NBA players abound in large roles, like Anthony Randolph for Real Madrid, or Nick Calathes, who leads Panathinaikos. The future is also present throughout the playoff rosters. Draft-and-stash players dot the rosters of these teams, and players like Kings first rounder Bogdan Bogdanovic at Fenerbahce and Celtics first rounder Ante Zizic at Dacka will play integral roles for their squads. There’s also Luka Doncic, who is poised to be a key rotation player for a potential Euroleague champion, the year before he is even draft eligible. Not bad.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The best-of-five quarterfinals start us off on Tuesday, with CSKA/Baskonia and Panathinaikos/Fenerbahce opening up. Here’s how each series breaks down, who to watch for as an NBA fan, and what could swing each matchup.