For the first piece of our “European Quarterfinals Team Previews” series we are happy to be hosting Edin Memić (aka @AttackTheRack) and Yuval Barak (of EuroLeague Fans United) who share with us comments and observations about the matchup between Darüşşafaka Spor Kulübü and KK Budućnost Voli Podgorica – in both text and audio!
Darüşşafaka Spor Kulübü
Darüşşafaka counts as one of the contenders to win the EuroCup — they played last season in the EuroLeague playoffs and were eliminated by Real Madrid. Since then, most of the team’s players and the main sponsor left, and the budget decreased by a lot. However, they managed to keep Scottie Wilbekin who’s one of the best guards in the competition, and also EuroLeague champ and former Cavaliers coach David Blatt who, is no doubt the best coach in the EuroCup.
Darüşşafaka is the second best defensive team in the competition with 71.31 points scored against them (only Lokomotiv Kuban has better defense with 69.13 pts against them per game). One of the key factors for this fantastic defensive quality is none other than Howard Sant-Roos, who has the second best defensive rating in the EuroCup (94.5 points per 100 positions). The Cuban star also leads the competition with 2.25 steals per game
Sant-Roos is probably the key player for coach Blatt in this game — he is the one who should stop Budućnost star Nikola Ivanović defensively. Sant-Roos is also a key for the Daçka offense, as he leads the team in offensive rating (127 pts per 100 positions) and second on the team on assists with 4.3 per game — really good for a wing player. He also has an overall 18.9 PER .
Another major key for Darüşşafaka, especially on the offensive side, is Scottie Wilbekin. He is the third best scorer of the competition with 16.58 pts per game and has an overall 21.4 PER. He hits 2.67 three pointers per game. Not only that, he counts as a very versatile offensive player and one of the best guards in the competition. Budućnost doesn’t seems to have anyone who can stop Wilbekin defensively — Gibson might be able to stop him a little bit, but the Daçka wing players (Sant-Roos & Bell) will be able to punish Budućnost’s defense.
Darüşşafaka is the more athletic team, the better defensive team, and the better offensive team. To top it off, it has a better coach. All of these factors should add-up to help Daçka to win this playoff series and advance to the semifinals. My bet is on a 2-0 series win.
KK Budućnost Voli Podgorica
When you think of basketball in Montenegro, one of the first things that comes to mind are talented big men — the kind who usually make their mark on top teams in Europe and even the NBA. Some of those big men also make an impact playing for the best team in Montenegro, Budućnost Voli from Podgorica.
While still figuring out how to win in the Adriatic League, as well as dominating in domestic competitions, the Budućnost EuroCup campaigns in the last 5 years have left a lot to be desired. Last season, when the team finished winless in the 2nd best European club competition, was the equivalent of hitting rock bottom. It was obvious that something needed to change, and management decided to take a new approach — giving young Montenegrin players, helped by a few season vets, a platform to showcase their talent and compete in the Adriatic League and EuroCup. It turned out to be the right move, as was hiring Aleksandar Džikić as the team’s new head coach.
Before the season started, nobody gave Budućnost great chances of making it to the EuroCup quarterfinals or even competing for the Adriatic League title (Crvena Zvezda and Cedevita were locks to meet in the final series). The roster looked starless and ordinary, and Budućnost struggled to find a long-term coaching solution for years, dealing with the departure of Dejan Radonjić who went to Zvezda to later win three Adriatic league titles in a row and make EL playoffs. But coach Džikić really made an impression early and turned some heads this season, while leading Budućnost to one of their most successful seasons in team history — plus taking some big scalps along the way.
Budućnost is led by 2 guards, Gordić and Ivanović, who bring different styles of play and share ball handling duties (and sometimes even play together thanks to their ability to make plays on and off the ball). They lead the team in scoring and make the offense flow. They are surrounded by shooters and bigs who can either roll to the basket or stretch the floor all the way to the 3-point line.
Budućnost showed resilience this season, something they failed to do in the recent past. They caught an injury bug early and still haven’t completely got rid of it. Several players missed up to the month of action to injuries and few of them were sidelined for some important games. However, the rest of the team tried to make up for their absence. The latest issue was their center and low-post option Filip Barović who will miss rest of the season because of a foot injury. Budućnost brought seasoned EuroLeague vet and ex-Barcelona and Efes forward Justin Doellman late in the season to further strengthen their frontcourt due to these mounting injury issues.
For Budućnost, the Darüşşafaka series comes in the middle of a four-games-in-nine-days stretch. Playing against David Blatt’s Darüşşafaka will be one of the toughest challenges Budućnost will face this season. The team is stacked with athletic 2-way players who can smother any offense and punish every defensive mistake that their opponent makes. Darüşşafaka is built to compete with everyone and is an obviously strong contender for the EuroCup trophy. All that, plus the team is led by one of the brightest coaching minds in the world, who will most likely end up coaching an NBA team next season. But Budućnost showed this season that they are a tough nut to crack, and gave other EuroCup contenders they faced this season (Bayern and Lokomotiv Kuban) a run for their money. The stakes are high for both teams and, while Darüşşafaka is the clear-cut favorite in this series, the team from Podgorica will try to beat the odds once again.
Text edited by: Nick Flynt