We’re 11 games deep into the season already, and I do not think Johannes Voigtmann is overachieving. The skill set is there, and Baskonia does not have any other center that plays closer to the basket other than…Andrea Bargnani. Johannes should come as no surprise for a team that has made a habit out of excavating underground talent. The following three players, however, are overtly doing more than they are supposed to.
I liked Ataman’s roster from the beginning, even if Emir Preldžić was a part of it. Recruiting has been tremendous. Look at the versatility of Austin Daye, the variety of big men in this front line, or how nicely Blake Schilb and Jon Diebler complement each other. The problem laid (and still lies) on the perimeter. Justin Dentmon and Russ Smith were hardly anything close to whatever might be termed “floor general.” Someone had to take over, and giving the ball to Emir and Schilb was kind of a half-assed option. The former has been tested as a playmaker a few times before, and despite all of his skills, the result was quite disastrous. It was never quite Emir’s fault, but let’s not dig deep into the past.
So, at age 32, Sinan Güler has come to the forefront. Güler has already put his signature on two of three Galatasaray wins, against Olympiacos and Barcelona. He is averaging more minutes than ever (around 30), more points than ever (10.5) and more assists than ever (5.3). He is not shooting the ball too well, but who cares? He is setting up Ataman’s offense by creating basically through the pick and roll, finding equally the roll men, weakside shooters, and Jon Diebler behind the usual staggered-screens. He has been shooting threes and nailing them only when it really matters. This is not Sinan Güler, this is someone else.
Honeycutt was not bad for Khimki over the last two years. He was actually pretty good, doing quite a few things, fulfilling quite a bunch of duties. But, seriously, while watching him did it ever occur to you that he was that good of a player? Perhaps he is after all, but until more proof is available, his performance so far will be deemed an achievement beyond skills or prediction.
I mean, look, he is averaging three assists per game already, on a team that also has Thomas Heurtel and Bryce Cotton [ed. No more Cotton in Turkey as Anadolu Efes announced], on its roster. It is not easy to convince those two to get rid of the ball, let alone manage to also redistribute it to other teammates. But Honeycutt has been so far amazing at attacking closeouts, moving along the baseline, and opening fast break attacks, thus making defenses collapse around his movements and creating some extra offense for the rest of the up-tempo Efes group. Perasović‘s tactics no doubt suit him, but let us not forget that this is a small forward grabbing 8.5 rebounds and blocking 1.2 shots per game. That’s impressive, no matter who’s coaching or in what kind of style.
Honeycutt is athletic, mobile, a great help defender, and a pretty decent ball handler and shooter. That’s out-of-line with the overachieving we have seen so far. Against Barca, he finally came down to a familiar level.
Last year, nobody would have thought that Chris Singleton is a center, even though Euroleague is becoming famous for creating “bigs” out of “not-so-bigs.” Then Bartzokas came to Krasnodar and Anthony Randolph was injured. The newly recruited forward changed position, turned into a stretch-5, and became an instrumental part of Loko’s unforeseen success, right up to the 2016 Final Four. That was enough to get him a promotion at Panathinaikos, but how about his performance in his new job?
Let’s not compare scoring or rebounding averages, for the sake of playing-time differences. Instead, let’s have a look at shooting. With Bourousis underperforming and Gist being sidelined already for the last four games, Singleton is nailing jumper after jumper, no matter the distance. His 2-point field goal percentage has risen from 47% to 60.4%, and the respective number for 3-point shots from 31% to 40.7%. That is massive, and it is not supposed to happen on a team which is struggling to find any offensive balance whatsoever. Panathinaikos is throwing bricks to fans, but Singleton is just offensively wondrous.
This is unusual. If Pascual starts figuring (even more) things out, Bourou will be back with a vengeance, and Singleton will most likely regress to his mean. Or not.
By the way, what is happening to…
At the beginning of the season, Bargnani looked like he was going to be a blast. This is a former #1 draft pick, with some great years in the NBA, playing as a stretch five for the Toronto Raptors and later for the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Despite not being among the league’s best, the Italian always impacted his teams positively, at least before a string of injuries. Inherited fitness problems, however, should not have been a problem in a far less demanding environment, such as the Euroleague. Bargnani is, after all, only 31-years-old.
After a thunderous start against Efes and Žalgiris, Baskonia’s most acclaimed acquisition has gone mostly unnoticed. His pick-and-roll defense is Bourousis-like, while Alonso is not the kind of coach who is going to structure teamwork in a, Perasović-like, way to make up for it. Also, Bargnani is not grabbing any rebounds at all, just 2.7 per game. That was somewhat loosely predicted, but not to such an extent. Finally, offensively he is nothing close to the sky-high expectations that accompanied his signing. He remains limited to shooting mid-range jumpers and his contributions to ball movement are minimal.
So far, Baskonia has performed better when he is not on the floor. They are up 3-1 in his absence, and have come back against Bamberg when Alonso decided to take him off the floor. So, make that 4-1.This is not flattering, this is not Andrea Bargnani.