Welcome to a new edition of the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge! There have been some changes and I am going to try to explain you what's new and good about it. I have been running the game for the last 13 years, but DraftKings and FanHub have taken over to make it more attractive, with a lot of new features and, in general, a better game! I will still have some impact on the game – for instance, I set all the players prices, but from now on, DraftKings and FanHub will be running the show and making Fantasy Challenge better than ever. There will be new prizes, but the biggest one remains the same - and it is oh, so good! The regular season winner will be our very own VIP guest at the 2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Belgrade, Serbia, with two VIP tickets, four nights at the headquarters hotel and on-court access to the trophy ceremony. It is a unique prize that money can't buy; only a few people are allowed to enter the court once the EuroLeague champion is crowned.
What's new? A lot! From now on, each and every EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge team must feature 12 players. Only eight of them will play, however, the starters. Only if a starter does not play due to injury, coach's decision or any other circumstance, a bench player will step in to replace him. That means more protection against injuries, one of the features most Fantasy Challenge players demanded in the past. It also brings in a whole new strategy: should we all spend all our money on starters, or should we have good backup players ready just in case? I have decided to do a little bit of both, spending most of the money - yes, euros, no credits anymore - on starters, but trying to get good backup players whose value can go up as soon as possible.
Also new this season, and a critical issue: the team captain! He will get double points, and that will be very, very important. Those users who managed to name team captain as the weekly MVP will get a significant advantage - especially if the best player in the round is an unexpected one! There is also a vice captain, but just in case the captain does not play for whatever reason. There are some player restrictions, too. Each team must feature a player at each position - point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center, plus a guard, a forward and a utility player, which can be in any position whatsoever.
For the first time, the game will also include head-to-head private leagues! You can invite your friends to play against you. A random calendar will be determined and you will face a friend every week. The winner gets a win and the player with the most wins at the end of the season wins the private league. It doesn't matter if you have a great team and your friend arrives in bad shape - if he gets a better score than you in that particular week, he gets the win! Of course, we are also keeping our classic private leagues, which have been essential to the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge since it all started before the 2004-05 season.
It all makes for a brand new, exciting Fantasy Challenge. Anything can happen from now on and I am ready for the big challenge. I changed my team name from Meet the Boss to Gancedato because I am not the boss anymore. I published an article on EuroLeague.net last week about which players are most appealing at the start of the season and of course, I am going to stick to it as much as I can. Every week, I will be telling you about which players are hot, which players should be dropped and why I picked this and that player. So far, I am going to tell you why I chose both my starting lineup and bench players. I think a good team starts with a solid point guard and an equally strong center. I really believe Taylor Rochestie is set to play a major role in trying to get Crvena Zvezda as close to the playoffs as possible, so to me, he is the best playmaker available right now. Just this weekend, Rochestie had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in an Adriatic League game, so that makes me not only pick him, but name him my team captain, too. As for my starting center, I am choosing Anthony Randolph of Real Madrid, who has been unstoppable until now. Usually, players in their second season with a strong team tend to do really well, and that is Randolph's case. He will be guarded by arguably the most similar player in his position all around Europe, Derrick Brown, but I still think Randolph will have an excellent game against Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
After that, it is important to pick all my other starters to get a bit more flexibility at the guard, forward and utility positions. At shooting guard, I am taking Erick Green of Valencia Basket, hands down. Anyone following the Spanish League will agree that Green has been just unstoppable until now. It is not just the many points he scored, but also his great shot selection. Green was the Spanish SuperCup MVP, too, and I am definitely buying him. At small forward, I am taking Will Clyburn of CSKA Moscow, my most expensive player at the start of the season. Clyburn is playing a big role for CSKA and I am definitely expecting a high-scoring showdown against AX Armani Exchange Milan, one in which a lot of players will get to high performance index ratings. At power forward, I am going with Luka Mitrovic of Brose Bamberg, who has been seeing a lot of playing time in the German League, his price (€820,000) is very affordable and not only is he scoring, but also rebounding really well. Head coach Andrea Trinchieri always makes the most out of players like him, and I expect Mitrovic to have a very good season.
Moving on to guard... I have been watching a lot of domestic basketball lately and noticed Kevin Pangos of Zalgiris Kaunas has been sensational until now. Last Sunday, he had a huge performance against rival Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius - 19 points and an index rating of 24, and Pangos also played well against Juventus Utena (17 points, 23 PIR in 20 minutes) so buying him is only a logical choice. At forward, since Valencia Basket is having injury problems at the wings - Fernando San Emeterio and Antoine Diot may not be ready, Alberto Abalde just came back, I am picking Joan Sastre, who has been unbelievably solid so far. Sastre can do a little bit of everything, which makes him a good Fantasy Challenge player, too. At utility, I am going for one of the players I recommended in last week's article: Anthony Gill of Khimki Moscow Region! I think he is a mismatch against Valencia's power forwards, plus he keeps doing well. Gill needed just 16 minutes to get an index rating of 13 this weekend.
I don't have a lot of money for backup players, but I know two of them that I really want. One of them is Maodo Lo of Brose Bamberg, whose increased role in the team makes him a steal in Fantasy Challenge this week. Minimum price (€470,000) and maximum performance (11.2 ppg., 3.0 apg., 16 PIR in four German League games until now). I also want Brandon Davies of Zalgiris no matter what. I really like this player, plus he adjusting well to the team, in which he should be playing a big role. He already had three games with an index rating of 20 or better in the Lithuanian League, so Davies is being very productive despite averaging less than 20 minutes per game. I need two more players and this time, they need to be super cheap, but good. I decided to take Ilimane Diop at center, because his rebounds, blocked shots and very effective mid-range jumpers make him a good Fantasy Challenge choice. He is playing well, too, averaging 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in three Spanish League games with Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz. Finally, I am getting Melih Mahmutoglou of Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul as utility. Remember, according to the rules, the backup utility player will only play if the starting utility misses the game, so this is the spot in which I decided to spend less money. Still, I am getting a good player like Mahmutoglou, so I won't complain.
So Gancedato looks like this before Round 1:
Taylor Rochestie (PG, captain), Erick Green (SG, vice captain), Will Clyburn (SF), Luka Mitrovic (PF), Anthony Randolph (C), Kevin Pangos (G), Joan Sastre (F) and Anthony Gill (U)
Maodo Lo (G), Brandon Davies (F), Ilimane Diop (C), Melih Mahmutoglou (U)
So, that's all I have before this round. I will be back every week telling you all about my team, which players are recommended and which you should avoid in that particular week. One of the great things about our EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge is that a player only needs to perform well in order to be considered as a good choice. I have a reputation for having slow starts at the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge, but at the same time, I am sure I have a pretty good team this time around. Be sure to join private leagues, both classic and head-to-head, to make it even more fun. Good luck, EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge users!