Murcia is a slightly odd team, almost as if they scrambled to make a roster work after it was meant for a different set of players… Which is exactly what happened. The backbone of this squad is similar to last year’s team: athletic but slightly rigid big men like Delma and Tumba hold together a team composed of a bunch of effort guys with just enough shooting to worry the opposition.
What’s the difference? Facundo Campazzo. The Argentinian point guard, for all his deficits, was responsible for the bulk of Murcia’s offensive creation. He could manufacture open looks for Murcia’s shooters on the wing, or feed bigs both popping to the three point line or rolling to the rim. Having lost Campazzo to Real Madrid over the summer, Murcia attempted to regroup by handing the reins over to Clevin Hannah, an ACB vet having enjoyed previous stints at Joventut and Bilbao Basket, and Charlon Kloof, a bouncy and somewhat chaotic swingman who led his team to the Macedonian League last season and earned MVP honours on the way.
Murcia sits 11th in the ACB and is below 0.500 for the season. They live at the free throw line, with several players who are more than able to create contact on their way to the rim using sheer athleticism (Kloof, Solo) or crafty fakes (Urtasun, Hannah). They still have Benite, one of the better shooters in Europe, who can gun an opposing team out of a game in a variety of ways. Sadiel Rojas remains one of the most thoroughly intense and annoying defenders on the block. They have added Augusto Cesar Lima, a fringe EuroLeague-level player who might give them that athletic edge they lacked at the center position.
It doesn’t flow quite as nicely, nor is it as pretty as it was last year. But Murcia will give Tenerife a run for their money. Tenerife’s dynamic duo of Ponitka and Davin White will have face a challenging backcourt defense with Sadiel Rojas and Brad Oleson between them and the rim. Whoever wins that four-man duel will likely take the series.
Last year’s champions, Tenerife live off of the production of two of their players: Mateusz Ponitka and Davin White.
The 24-year-old Ponitka is well known in European basketball circles. Indeed, his signing with Tenerife was a surprise — earlier rumours this past summer had placed him at Euroleague clubs like Baskonia or Žalgiris after shining in the BCL last year for Pınar Karşıyaka. His scoring capabilities are on full display at this level. Whether on the fastbreak, where his athleticism can shine in the open court, or in the half court, his scoring arsenal is enviable. He can post-up smaller or even like-sized wings, but he can also run pick-and-rolls as a secondary creator, or spot up and attack closeouts on the wing. Ponitka is averaging upwards of 10 points per game in a fairly egalitarian system, and averages a +11 in only 22 minutes — astounding numbers even for an accomplished performer like him.
Davin White, a classic American globetrotting journeyman, has found a nice spot in Tenerife. At the ripe age of 36, White comes off the bench to provide an endless supply of pick-and-roll creativity. He might take a few questionable shots here and there, but he shoulders quite a large offensive burden for a Tenerife team that can surround him with capable finishers inside (Tobey) and solid shooters on the perimeter (Beirán, Abromaitis, a newly-arrived Vasileiadis).
Although lacking a degree of toughness without stalwart Nico Richotti, the immortal Fran Vázquez still provides a physical edge with his never-ending wingspan and sneakily accurate timing. He also gives them a very solid rim-protector who can erase everyone else’s mistakes on the perimeter and patrol the paint while making his customary mid-range jumpers and finishing a couple pick-and-rolls inside.
Overall, I believe that Murcia, while a solid team with a group of established veterans, might be unable to contain Ponitka — arguably the best player in this series; even if Sadiel Rojas is a pest, Ponitka’s bag of tricks seems too deep for Murcia’s wingmen. And even if Tenerife might not have the best defensive personnel, Murcia’s limitations when creating offense should limit the amount of damage they can cause to the defending champions on the other end of the court.
Text edited by: Nick Flynt