The first half of the regular season has come to an end and the player who have dominated the competition until now showed once again that talent, and not age, matters in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Luka Doncic led Real Madrid to a 77-79 road win against reigning champion Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists. The fact that he had 33 points against Olympiacos Piraeus says it all; not only is Doncic is dominating, but he is even better against the best defensive teams in the competition. Unicaja Malaga is on fire and Giorgi Shermadini had his best game of the season in his team's road win against Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. Of course, that is bad news for everyone else, as Unicaja is on a four-game winning streak. Valencia Basket finally snapped its losing streak after 10 consecutive losses by battling injuries to defeat Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens. Zalgiris Kaunas won its fifth consecutive game and Paulius Jankunas has been crowned as the competition's MVP for December. Well deserved!
Truth is, Jankunas did not have a great game in terms of the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge. Neither did James Augustine of Unicaja or did Alexey Shved of Khimki Moscow Region, who just had an okay game. Even so, I scored 172.2 points and am now ranked 684th overall. Not bad, but it could have been much better with the right big men and especially the right team captain. Anyway, at least I am up there, not far away from the top spots.
And now, as always, let me recommend you five players for next week.
1. DERRICK BROWN, ANADOLU EFES ISTANBUL - Everything has changed since head coach Ergin Ataman joined Efes. I recommended Errick McCollum last week and still think he will be a top Fantasy Challenge player from now on. This week, I can see Derrick Brown will play a major role for Efes. Ataman loves versatile forwards and in that sense, Brown is as good as it gets in the EuroLeague, and already proved it against Brose Bamberg.
2. DEJAN MUSLI, BROSE BAMBERG - Problems at center? Worry no more. Still very cheap, Musli debuted with 25 minutes and 9 rebounds for Brose last week and he is expected to see a lot of playing time going forward. He had time to adjust to the team and played well in the German League. It is time for Musli to show what a great player he is. Don't forget that he was chosen to the All-EuroCup First Team last season.
3. ANTE TOMIC, FC BARCELONA LASSA - A new rotation is taking shape in Barcelona. Tomic and Juan Carlos Navarro went from little used to really important again. Tomic is the kind of player who will give you a decent index rating with extended playing time: points, rebounds, even blocks. Keep an eye on him as his playing time goes up.
4. GIORGI SHERMADINI, UNICAJA MALAGA - He arrived as arguably the most important signing for Unicaja and finally proved his value against Maccabi - 15 points and 9 rebounds in 15 minutes. Finally in shape, Shermadini can produce for Unicaja: he rarely misses, is a terrific free throw shooter, rebounds well at both ends and blocks a lot of shots.
5. ERICK GREEN, VALENCIA BASKET - Remember him? He was killing EVERYBODY at the start of the season, but scouting took its toll and Green lost track a little bit, in terms of scoring and fantasy value. With both Joan Sastre and Fernando San Emeterio sidelined, Green will be Valencia's main perimeter weapon, and more shots could lead to a better PIR, too.
So, time to make some trades on Gancedato, my team. I am selling Jankunas because he underperformed in Round 15 and plays on the road against tough Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade this week. I am also selling Augustine because Shermadini is stepping up and they split minutes at center. I am also getting rid of McCollum for one week only because Efes plays against Panathinaikos on the road and I expect head Coach Xavi Pascual to have a specific game plan against him.
I am buying Brown, no question. I see Ataman trusts him and he is a terrific player ready to make the difference in the second half of the season. I am also buying Musli. There are many good options at center this week - Tomic, Shermadini, Chris Singleton, Bojan Dubljevic, Jamel McLean, but I am choosing Musli because he is highly motivated and matches up pretty well against Khimki. I can pick any player I want at the utility spot, and I was close to going with McLean of Olympiacos, because he plays against his former team, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan, and that is always an extra motivation. However when I saw the Nick Calathes returned to action for Panathinaikos in the Greek League over the weekend, I decied I wanted him now.
So, Gancedato looks like this before Round 16:
Luka Doncic, Real Madrid (PG) - He almost had a triple double against the reigning EuroLeague champs. Do you really think I would sell him? I am making him captain!
Nando De Colo, CSKA Moscow (SG) - CSKA plays on the road against Barcelona and will need its best players to step up. And he is CSKA's best player, right?
Will Clyburn, CSKA Moscow (SF) - On his way up again. Clyburn played well against Baskonia and should keep his personal momentum going against Barcelona.
Toko Shengelia, Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (PF) - He has been on fire lately. I don't have any reason to change here, even against mighty Fenerbahce.
Dejan Musli, Brose Bamberg (C) - Back in the EuroLeague with a different team and extended playing time, Musli has a unique chance to prove his great value.
Alexey Shved, Khimki Moscow Region (G) - He’s cooled off a bit lately, but Shved could catch fire against anyone, anywhere. He can be as unstoppable as anyone.
Derrick Brown, Anadolu Efes Istanbul (F) - He had a fantastic performance against Brose and most important, he has his coach's trust. I expect good things from him.
Nick Calathes, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (U) - The last time he played Efes, Calathes missed a triple-double by 1 rebound. Now is the time to get him.
BENCH: Vassilis Toliopoulos, Olympiacos Piraeus (G), Egehan Arna (F) and Melih Mahmutoglou (U), Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul and Jake Cohen, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (C).
I would like to wish you all the best in 2018, EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge fans! Let's enjoy a great Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season as we keep having a lot of fun with our favorite on-line game!