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24 Questions For The Start Of Euroleague 2013-14

As the 2013-14 Euroleague season begins, RealGM presents 24 questions for the Euroleague fans.

1. Will Anadolu Efes be a better team with Zoran Planinic than it was with Jordan Farmar?

Anadolu Efes Istanbul replaced their biggest star, Jordan Farmar, with Zoran Planinic, who was dominant while playing for Khimki Moscow region during the 2012-13 season. Planinic averaged a career-high 12.4 points and league-high 6.3 assists per game, but is he good enough to do what Farmar couldn't and carry Anadolu Efes on his back all the way to the Final Four?

2. Can Brose Baskets remain competitive without Bostjan Nachbar?

German champion for four consecutive years, Brose Baskets Bamberg lost its main star Bostjan Nachbar this offseason, complicating its chances to make it out of the group. Nachbar averaged team-high 16.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in Euroleague action last season and there's a big question if anyone can fill the gap that was left with Nachbar's departure. 

3. Will the rise of Ukrainian basketball leave footprints for the future?

Ukraine has just qualified for the Worlds Championships for the first time in country's history and Budivelnik Kyiv will be the first Ukrainian team to play in Euroleague. Ukraine is also getting ready to hold EuroBasket 2015. It's clear to see that Ukrainian basketball has been on the rise and it's going to be interesting to see if this short-term success turns into a bright long-term future.

4. Will Blake Schilb prove that 2012-13 season was no fluke?

Blake Schilb's last season with Elan Chalon and his debut in the Euroleague was nothing less than remarkable. Schilb averaged MVP-worthy numbers, 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game and was unsurprisingly selected as a replacement for Igor Rakocevic in Crvena Zvezda. Now Schilb has a chance to demonstrate that the 2012-13 season was not an aberration and he's capable of putting MVP numbers on a daily basis.

5. Can you buy chemistry?

This is the question CSKA Moscow head coach Ettore Messina heard from RealGM last season. The coach answered, saying "choosing the right people is very important and maybe sometimes you have to sacrifice a little bit in terms of talent." However, CSKA didn't sacrifice any talent this offseason and did what seemed to be hardly possible - adding three more quality players to their roster. Kyle Hines, Jeremy Pargo and Vitaly Fridzon are the newest members of CSKA, which again has the most talent among all Euroleague teams.

6. How far can guards-based EA7 Emporio Armani Milan go?

EA7 Emporio Armani Milan has at least one reason to be happy at the beginning of the season. The Italian team likely has one of the strongest second lines in the league, made of Curtis Jerrells, Alessandro Gentile, David Moss and Keith Langford. Similar to theItalian national team, EA7 Emporio Armani's game will be based on guards, but how far this one-side basketball could take them?

7. Will FC Barcelona outrun Real?

Despite winning the Spanish cup, last season's FC Barcelona performance was worse than its main rival Real in both Euroleague and Spanish league. However, FC Barcelona added more strength to its roster by signing Maciej Lampe, Nachbar and young star Kostas Papanikolaou. FC Barcelona has one of the most versatile squads in Euroleague, but is it going to be enough to outperform their main rival Real?

8. How long will Bayern stay in Euroleague?

For the second consecutive year, one of the wild cards was granted to a German team due to Euroleague intentions to spread its league there in near future. It's the second push for Bayern made by Euroleague as a team from Munich has already received a wild card to play in Eurocup back in 2011. So far Bayern was granted with presents that might end soon and in order to stay in Euroleague for a bit longer Bayern will have to find ways to end Brose Basket's domination back in Germany.

9. Is Obradovic the game changer Fenerbahce Ulker needed?

New coach of Fenerbahce Ulker Zeljko Obradovic had a negative Euroleague win-loss balance only once in his career. During the 2003-04 season, Panathinaikos won 45 percent of their games, while the team which was taken over by Obradovic was far behind this point. Fenerbahce managed to win only 29 percent of all Euroleague games they played last season. Will Obradovic be able to turn Fenerbahce Ulker's ship around and avoid the worst win-loss record in his coaching career?

10. How high will Carlos Arroyo be ranked in the MVP race?

After a break of five years, Carlos Arroyo is back in the Euroleague. Arroyo, who once was unstoppable with Maccabi Tel Aviv, averaging 14.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 2008-09, should be considered one of the main candidates to win MVP. Despite being 34, Arroyo averaged similar numbers in FIBA American championship and proved that he still has enough left in the tank to stay productive.

11. How long it will take to see a French team in Top 16?

It has been six years since a team from France made it to the Top 16 stage. The French national team has been dominant over the last three years, while 2007's Pau-Orthez was the last team from France to make it out of the Euroleague group. 

12. Will Laboral Kutxa miss the playoffs for the second time in the past ten years?

In the past nine years, Laboral Kutxa was one of the most stable European basketball clubs and had eight playoffs appearances during that time. But Laboral Kutxa couldn't find equal replacements this offseason for Lampe and Nemanja Bjelica, who departed to FC Barcelona and Fenerbahce Ulker, respectively. Making another playoffs appearance will become a huge challenge for new coach Sergio Scariolo.

13. Did Olympiakos make a mistake in letting Matynas Gecevicius go?

After getting back to Lithuania in just his third official game with Lietuvos Rytas, Martynas Gecevicius made eight three-pointers in a single game and repeated his career record. Gecevicius, who spent the past two seasons sitting on the bench of Olympiakos Piraeus and winning two Euroleague titles, will have a chance to prove he's still a top-notch shooter as he was before joining Olympiakos.

14. Can Marcus Williams fill the hole left by Nick Calathes?

Nick Calathes was undoubtedly the main player on last season's Eurocup winner Lokomotiv-Kuban team and the absence of the Greek guard will be felt. However, Lokomotiv-Kuban acquired one of the best Euroleague rookies of last season, Marcus Williams, in order to fill the hole left by Calathes. But will Williams be able to step up, improve his numbers and be as productive as Calathes was in 2012-13?

15. Is Tyrese Rice the next elite point guard of Euroleague?

Tyrece Rice's career has been steadily going up as he start with Artland Dragons, then moved to Lietuvos Rytas, then spent a season with Bayern and has now joined Euroleague powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv. Rice was dominant at EuroBasket 2013 while playing for Montenegro, averaging 16.8 points and 4 assists. All the signs show that Rice is about to establish himself as one of the elite European guards.

16. Who will become the next Bobby Brown for Montepaschi Siena?

When it seemed that Montepaschi was about to collapse, Bobby Brown carried the team on his back and almost took Montepaschi all the way to the playoffs. Now as Brown has signed in China, Montepaschi is in need to find another player to build around. Montepaschi signed five American players - Taylor Rochestie, Joshua Carter, Spencer Nelson, Kim English and Erick Green - but there's still a question if anyone of these can perform anywhere close to Brown.

17. What are the chances of Olympiacos achieving a threepeat?

There hasn't been a single team since 1991 to win three Euroleague champion titles in a row. But Olympiacos, which already has two titles under its belt, is aiming to write their name in European basketball history one more time. As long Vassillis Spanoulis is a member of Olympiakos, everything seems possible, but what are the real odds for the Reds to pull off a threepeat in 2014?

18. Does patience lead to success?

Panathinaikos Athens was the only Euroleague team that was capable of bringing back their entire starting five during the offseason. MVP candidate Dimitris Diamantidis and the rest of the team were just one win away from the Final Four last season, but will Panathinaikos be able to use that experience and be solid in 2013-14?

19. How will Leo Westermann's draft stock change during the 2013-14 season?

The results of Partizan Belgrade will depend heavily on Leo Westermann's development and his ability to learn from the mistakes he was making last season. Dusko Vujocevic had great confidence in Westermann during the 2012-13 season by playing him a lot at the top level. Now it's the time to see what the 21-year-old Westermann learned and how he's going to improve his draft stocks prior to the 2014 NBA Draft.

20. Could this be Nikola Mirotic's last season in Europe?

The buzz surrounding Nikola Mirotic and his future in the NBA is growing and the upcoming summer will be the first real chance for the big man to join the elite league. Mirotic had two very solid Euroleague seasons and now he's in a situation where he can be one of the leaders in Real and also finish (at least for now) his Euroleague career on a high note.

21. What does Stelmet and Bayern have in common?

The answer is both Euroleague debutants acquired the core of their squads from former Euroleague teams of their home country. Stelmet signed Lukasz Koszarek (last season), Adam Hrycaniuk and Przemyslaw Zamojskim who all played for Asseco Prokom in 2012-13, while Bayern got Deon Thompson, Nihad Djedovic and Heiko Schaffartzik from Alba Berlin.

22. Will Alexis Ajinca return to the NBA?

Alexis Ajinca played only 71 games in the four seasons he spent in the NBA and rarely was used in games that mattered. However, Ajinca drew NBA scouts attention in Slovenia, where he was more than solid at EuroBasket 2013. The French big man averaged 9.1 points and 7.0 rebounds there and was a big help for Tony Parker on France way to the top. Ajinca will wear Strasbourg IG's jersey for the third consecutive year, therefore he should feel confident to be team's number one guy in Euroleague.

23. Can the losses of main players take Unicaja out of the Top 16?

Unicaja Malaga suffered biggest losses among all Euroleague teams, letting their four main scorers, Williams, Krunoslav Simon, Andy Panko and Luka Zoric leave. The big changes made Unicaja to a team that performance in 2013-14 is hard to predict. If other players will be able to step up, Unicaja will remain a competitive Euroleague team. While in the worst-case scenario, Unicaja can exit before the Top 16 stage for the first time since 2004-05.

24. Can Zalgiris avoid the injury bug?

This offseason, financial problems led Zalgiris to be unable to re-sign most of their players who dealt with injuries last season. Martynas Pocius missed more than half of games with Real due to leg injuries, as Paulius Jankunas and Tadas Klimavicius missed the biggest part of 2012-13 too. Ksistof Lavrinovic is still hurt and Robertas Javtokas has the longest history of injuries among all Zalgiris players. At this point, Zalgiris looks like a house of cards that can collapse at any time.

RealGM's 2012-13 Euroleague Awards

For the third consecutive year, RealGM presents the most outstanding players of Euroleague.

Victor Khryapa of CSKA Moscow is the winner of the RealGM Euroleague MVP award for the 2012-13 season. The 30-year-old forward has improved all of his main statistical numbers this season, averaging 10 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Khryapa has also helped his team, which holds a 23-5 record this season, to defeat Caja Laboral Vitoria in the playoffs to reach the Final Four.

For the second consecutive year, the RealGM Euroleague MVP award was given to a Russian player, as the winner of last season's prize was Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow.

The RealGM All-Euroleague First Team consists of Montepaschi's Bobby Brown and Olympiacos' Vassilis Spanoulis at guard, Khryapa and Maccabi's Shawn James at forward and CSKA's Nenad Krstic at center.

The RealGM All-Euroleague Second Team includes guards Jordan Farmar of Anadolu Efes and Zoran Planinic of Khimki, forwards Rudy Fernandez and Nikola Mirotic of Real and center Ante Tomic of Barcelona Regal.

Paul Davis of Khimki Moscow region is the winner of the Euroelague Rookie of the Year Award, while Aron Baynes (formerly of Union Olimpija before joining the San Antonio Spurs) was the RealGM pick to win the Most Improved Played Award.

Georgios Bartzokas of Olympiacos was named as the 2012-13 Euroleague Coach of the Year, while Kyle Hines (also from Olympiacos) is the winner of the 2012-13 Euroleague Sixth Man of the Year Award.

Euroleague MVP

Victor Khryapa (CSKA)

All-Euroleague 1st Team

Bobby Brown (Montepaschi): 18.8 points, 5.3 assists in 33 minutes

Vassilis Spanoulis (Olympiacos) - 14.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 30 minutes

Victor Khryapa (CSKA) - 10 points (45% 3FG), 7.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 28 minutes

Shawn James (Maccabi): 11.5 points (64% 2FG), 6.5 rebounds in 24 minutes  

Nenad Krstic (CSKA) - 13.6 points (63% 2FG), 4.6 rebounds in 24 minutes

All-Euroleague 2nd Team

Jordan Farmar (Anadolu Efes): 13.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 30 minutes

Zoran Planinic (Khimki): 12.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 31 minutes

Rudy Fernandez (Real): 13.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 27 minutes

Nikola Mirotic (Real): 11.7 points, 5.5 rebounds in 25 minutes

Ante Tomic (Barcelona Regal) - 11.5 points (63% 2FG), 6.3 rebounds in 23 minutes

Sixth Man Award

Kyle Hines (Olympiacos) - 9.1 points, 5.9 rebounds in 20 minutes

Most Improved Player Award

Aron Baynes (Union Olimpija) - 13.8 points, 9.8 rebounds in 26 minutes

Coach of the Year

Georgios Bartzokas (Olympiacos)

Rookie of the Year

Paul Davis (Khimki)

All-Rookie 1st Team

Paul Davis (Khimki) - 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds in 20 minutes

Ricky Hickman (Maccabi) - 13.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 29 minutes

Blake Schilb (Elan Chalon) - 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4 assists in 33 minutes

Marcus Williams (Unicaja) - 10.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 22 minutes

Shelden Williams (Elan Chalon) - 11.3 points, 7.6 rebounds in 23 minutes

All-Rookie 2nd Team

Drew Gordon (Partizan) - 9.1 points, 7.5 rebounds in 29 minutes

Lukasz Koszarek (Asseco Prokom) - 11.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4 assists in 30 minutes

Kelvin Rivers (Khimki) - 9.6 points, 2.7 rebounds in 26 minutes

Dashaun Wood (Alba) - 9.8 points, 2.5 assists in 24 minutes

Maik Zirbes (Brose Baskets) - 8.2 points, 5 rebounds in 20 minutes

Euroleague's Most Improved Players Of The 2012-13 Season

- All records and stats through Game 10 of Top-16.

1. Aron Baynes - Union Olimpija Ljubljana

2012-13 (Euroleague): 13.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 26 minutes

2011-12 (Greek League): 13.6 points, 8.7 rebounds in 28 minutes

In his Euroleague debut season three years ago, Aron Baynes averaged more fouls per game than rebounds and blocked shots combined. Baynes' first coach in Europe, Rimas Kurtinaitis said "if a Russian can teach a bear how to ride a bike, then we'll make something out Aron as well".

After spending two seasons in Germany, Greece and gaining experience playing in the Eurocup, Baynes got back to the strongest European competition as a mature and a decisive player. The Australian leads the league in rebounds (9.8 per game), averaged nearly a double-double this season and was influential on both ends of the floor. It didn't take long for Baynes to get noticed by the San Antonio Spurs, who bought out the 26-year-old center's contract with Union Olimpija.

2. Shawn James - Maccabi Tel Aviv

2012-13 (Euroleague): 11.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 23 minutes

2011-12 (Euroleague): 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds in 8 minutes

After the departure of Richard Hendrix and Sofoklis Schortsanitis, the 29-year-old Shawn James sought an opportunity to step up and become an impact player for Maccabi. James perfectly used this chance and had a breakout season as he became one of the most efficient players in the Euroleague.

James ranks 2nd in the league in blocks per 28 minutes (2.2), 2nd in field goals percentage (67.1) and 3rd in average performance index rating per 28 minutes (PIR, 22.1). The NCAA All-Time leader in blocks per game (6.5 in 2005-06), James continues to play strong in the Top 16 stage and has enough potential to carry Maccabi to the Top 8 by himself.

3. Nemanja Bjelica - Caja Laboral Vitoria

2012-13 (Euroleague): 10.8 points, 5.1 rebounds in 24 minutes

2011-12 (Euroleague): 4.8 points, 2.1 rebounds in 14 minutes

Nemanja Bjelica's transition from his previous team, Crvena Zvezda to Caja Laboral was not as smooth as expected. It took a while until Bjelica earned more playing time and finally proved himself to be one of the most talented European players.

The 25-year-old Bjelica doubled his main statistical numbers compared to last season and made at least one three-pointer in his last 12 Euroelague games. Also, the forward played his career-best game in the Euroleague against Cedevita this season, scoring 22 points (9-for-10 FG), grabbing three rebounds and dishing out three assists in 22 minutes of action. Bjelica, who often gets called the future star of the Serbian national team, has finally started to live up to expectations.

4. Curtis Jerrells - Besiktas Istanbul

2012-13 (Euroleague): 14.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 31 minutes

2011-12 (Euroleague): 8.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 21 minutes

Curtis Jerrells established himself as a Euroleague star in his third season overseas and proved he can lead a team in the strongest European competition. Playing under Erman Kunter, the former Baylor guard raised his value by becoming one of the best lefty point guards in Europe.

However, after succeeding in Europe, Jerells returned to the States, where he joined NBA D-League's Maine Red Claws and will try to draw attention from NBA teams. If things don't work out at home, many Euroleague team will surely want to sign Jerells.

5. Vladimir Lucic - Partizan Belgrade

2012-13 (Euroleague): 13.7 points, 4.8 rebounds in 33 minutes

2011-12 (Euroleague): 5.8 points, 2.4 rebounds in 22 minutes

No surprise, every year there must be at least one talents-making-machine Partizan player included in Euroleague most improved players list. No exception was made this season as 23-year-old Vladimir Lucic was ranked fifth.

Lucic is another product of Partizan basketball school, who is finally paying its dividend. After spending a year on Partizan bench, last season Lucic received a chance to become a member of the starting five. The Serbian talent was learning in a process rather than producing results, but this season Partizan got full return for all their trust in Lucic. The forward received most playing time among all Partizan players (33 MPG) and became the leader of the team.

6. Pietro Aradori - Mapooro Cantu

2012-13 (Euroleague): 15 points (57% 3FG), 4 rebounds in 30 minutes

2011-12 (Euroleague): 4.8 points, 2 rebounds in 10 minutes

Pietro Aradori made his name known in 2009-10, leading Biella in both Eurocup and Italian championship. However, since now, Aradori didn't have a chance to play a big role in Euroleague, as he previously was stuck on the bench twice with Armani Jeans and Montepaschi.

After leading the Italian national team, together with Danilo Gallinari, in qualification for EuroBasket 2013, Aradori had a very successful season in the Euroleague as well. The 24-year-old Aradori averaged 15 points per game and finished the season ranked 5th in terms of three-point shooting percentage (57%). A statement was made - Aradori might be a savior Italian basketball needs.

7. Jaka Blazic - Union Olimpija Ljubljana

2012-13 (Euroleague): 12.4 points, 4 rebounds in 20 minutes

2011-12 (Euroleague): 3.6 points, 2.4 rebounds in 14 minutes

A massive improvement of Jaka Blazic's game might be a huge surprise for European basketball fans, but those who followed Slovenian hoops closer have noticed changes a bit earlier. Blazic has been playing impressively since the second half of last season and smoothly carried his game to this Euroleague season.

Blazic, 22, is heading to his contract year with Union Olimpija and next season will have a chance to prove that this season wasn't a fluke and he's capable of putting big numbers consistently.

8. Ante Tomic - FC Regal Barcelona

2012-13 (Euroleague): 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 24 minutes

2011-12 (Euroleague): 6.7 points, 3.7 rebounds in 15 minutes

The reason why Ante Tomic is on this list is not the numbers he produces, which are similar to 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, or the results achieved by FC Regal Barcelona. No doubt, FC Regal Barcelona is currently the best team in Europe and Tomic is one of team's main strengths.

The consistency of Tomic in Euroleague Top 16 stage is the difference as the Croatian center constantly plays as an MVP on every game. Tomic became a game changer as he leads the Euroleague in plus-minus (+/-) rating with 13.1 points per 50 possessions. Tomic finished in double scoring figures in all ten Top 16 stage games so far and if the 25-year-old center maintains this pace, he has all the potential to be considered as a candidate to win MVP award in near future.

9. Mindaugas Kuzminskas - Zalgiris Kaunas

2012-13 (Euroleague): 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds in 12 minutes

2011-12 (Euroleague): 2.8 points, 1.3 rebounds in 8 minutes

Mindaugas Kuzminskas had been having a hard time getting playing time in the Euroleague, but when the opportunities arose, the 23-year-old forward was ready to strike and use them. In the second half of this season, Kuzminskas finally received a chance to show his skills on the big scene and those performances weren't left unnoticed.

Kuzminskas scored 15 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and finished the game with career-high 21 PIR against Unicaja. Last week Kuzminskas made more noise against Real as he registered career-high 16 points (7-for-7 FG) and attracted attention from Spanish teams, who will consider bringing Kuzminskas for the next season. In addition, with the departure of Tremmell Darden, Kuzminskas should receive more playing time in last four Top 16 games.

10. Kostas Papanikolaou - Olympiakos Piraeus

2012-13 (Euroleague): 8.5 points (50% 3FG), 4 rebounds in 22 minutes

2011-12 (Euroleague): 6.1 points (33% 3FG), 3.4 rebounds in 20 minutes

After spectacular performance in last year's Euroleague final, where Kostas Papanikolau scored 18 points (3-for-3 3FG) and helped Olympiakos win the Euroleague, the expectations for the 22-year-old forward were sky-high.

Papanikolau demonstrated impressive shooting range this year as he ranked 2nd in three-point shooting percentage in regular season (59%) and averaged 10.5 points per game in that period. The Greek talent has slowed down a bit in Top 16, but it's clear that Papanikolau's game steadily grows and the question how good Papanikolau can be remains unanswered.

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