Fenerbahce Istanbul returns to the competition with legendary coach Zeljko Obradovic and a core of players who worked splendidly together in recent years, leading the club to three consecutive Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Games. There are just two major additions to the roster. Big man Joffrey Lauvergne returns to the EuroLeague for the first time since 2014, ready to play a big role in a very deep, versatile frontcourt. Talented point guard Tyler Ennis is set to make his EuroLeague debut with intensity and determination. Their first goal will be adjusting to the well-oiled basketball machine of Coach Obradovic and to add enough extra skill to take Fenerbahce a step further than its runner-up finish last season.
Ennis will play a critical role in this team due to his defensive skills. He anticipates well, reads passing lanes for steals and is a good on-the-ball defender, too. On offense, Ennis shares the ball well, so his passing skills will be important to a team with so many good shooters. Ali Muhammed is an experienced playmaker, never afraid to take big shots, whose intensity and deep range are always welcome. Kostas Sloukas is one of the team's leader, a combo guard who is very reliable in crunch time, able to score in many ways with unlimited range. A smart player with really high basketball IQ, Sloukas rarely makes mistakes and looks for his fourth EuroLeague title this season. Three-point shooter Melih Mahmutoglu and glue guy Sinan Guler are experienced, reliable role players always ready to help the team. Marko Guduric is an outstanding shooter who can score in many ways and, at age 23, has a lot of room for improvement. Expect Guduric to get more responsibilities than ever this season.
Nikola Kalinic and Luigi Datome will split playing time at small forward, but will also play together often. Kalinic – strong, athletic and with great determination – is one of the best on-the-ball defenders at his position and always gives his best in big games. After an injury-troubled season, he is set to showcase his best basketball. Datome is an excellent shooter, whether off screens or creating his own opportunities. Very fast for a player his size, Datome is deadly both from downtown (44.1% 3FG in 142 career games) and the free throw line (91%). Lauvergne is an athletic big man who can dominate at rebounding and runs the floor well. He joins the team ub the prime of his career, and will be a perfect complement for both Nicolo Melli and Jan Vesely. Melli is a stretch power forward to can also play at the "five" position due to his size and post skills. A tremendous shooter, Melli will open the floor for others to attack the basket. Vesely is extremely athletic and very reliable under the rims, an attacker who likes to finish plays with ferocious dunks. He rebounds really well at both ends, has improved from the free throw line (from 55.7% to 70.7% in one year), and has been chosen to the All-EuroLeague First Team twice in three years. Luxury reserve Ahmet Duverioglu offers Fenerbahce post skills, size and efficiency. He led the EuroLeague in two-point shooting (70.9%) last season.
Tyler Ennis - Fenerbahce Istanbul preseason (photo Fenerbahce) - EB18
PLAYER TO WATCH:
As always since he joined the team, a lot of Fenerbahce's chances will depend on Sloukas. At age 28, Sloukas has been to six EuroLeague championship games, winning half of them. No player in Europe has his combination of youth and experience, and Sloukas has been increasing his role on his current team each season, improving in every aspect of the game. Expect him to be Obradovic's first choice in a do-or-die situation, because Sloukas is a clutch player who can hit a critical shot, but also keep his cool to find an open teammate for a better option, too. Sloukas is a deadly free throw shooter (87.1% in 188 games) and a specialist in putting victories on ice from the foul line. With his best years ahead of him, Sloukas is nothing but a EuroLeague superstar and a natural-born winner.
By keeping most of its roster and the same coach, Fenerbahce had made sure the team will be very competitive from the start of the season. Its two additions allow the team to be very ambitious, too, and everyone should consider Fenerbahce as one of the top candidates to lift the trophy at the end of the season. It has the complete package – good point guards, experienced wing players and a very dynamic frontcourt that gives Coach Obradovic a lot of options. As always, Obradovic is expected to be the difference-maker, making the right choices during games to get enough advantages to win most of them. Fenerbahce fans will be everywhere – not just in Istanbul – to support the team, which will also be a plus for the Turkish powerhouse.