It was a very, very exciting week in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. It featured one of the most exciting games of the season, in which Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens and Zalgiris Kaunas battled for 45 minutes. Kevin Pangos gave Zalgiris the lead with 4.7 seconds left in overtime, but Nick Calathes had enough time to get the ball, race downcourt and hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer, 94-93. Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv scored 111 points against AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan, something it hadn't done since its glory days in the mid-2000s, when Sarunas Jasikevicius, Anthony Parker and Nikola Vujcic ran the show. Valencia Basket topped Khimki Moscow Region 85-83 despite losing two more players - Bojan Dubljevic before the game and Sam Van Rossom in the second half, which is amazing. Janis Timma gave Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz a good-as-gold road win in Malaga with the game-winning basket and three other teams - Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul, CSKA Moscow and Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade - won at home. Half of the games were decided by 4 points or less, which is always great. The more exciting, the better for all of us.
As for the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge, my team did pretty well. I cannot really complain; Nando De Colo of CSKA was a perfect choice as team captain, because he was the highest scorer in my squad. Everyone had double-digit fantasy points for Gancedato expect for one player. I got 181.7 points and climbed a few spots in the standings to rank 311st overall, which is pretty good. I hope I can keep things rolling in the near future, but before I tell you what I will do with my team before Round 21, here are some interesting tips:
1. JAMES AUGUSTINE, UNICAJA MALAGA - Augustine comes off a big game in the Spanish League with 14 points and 9 rebounds in 24 minutes for an index rating of 19. He plays against his former team, Khimki Moscow Region, where he played for many years, and already had a PIR of 31 against them this season.
2. WALTER TAVARES, REAL MADRID - Madrid won four games in January and in all of them, Tavares had a PIR of 20 or higher. This weekend, Tavares had 13 points and 11 rebounds in a home win in the Spanish League. If Tavares shines, Madrid wins - and the team is winning very, very often.
3. AARON WHITE, ZALGIRIS KAUNAS - If Paulius Jankunas remains sidelined - he didn't play in the Lithuanian League this weekend - White will see extra playing time. In 32 minutes against Panathinaikos last week, White had 17 points, 8 rebounds and a PIR of 24.
4. VLADIMIR STIMAC, ANADOLU EFES ISTANBUL - Good news for Stimac; he has started to play alongside Bryant Dunston again. They shared playing time in the Turkish League this weekend and Stimac had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Time to bring him back?
5. NORRIS COLE, MACCABI FOX TEL AVIV - Cole is now Maccabi's on-court leader. He had a PIR of 27 in his team's road win in Milan and followed that with another solid performance (16 points, 22 PIR) in the Israeli League. As he said in the EuroLeague commercial: show some respect!
So, what do I do with my team? As I told you last week, there are five players - Nando De Colo, Luka Doncic, Toko Shengelia, Nick Calathes and Alexey Shved - that most teams have. Not having one of those if he has a bad game will benefit a lot, but if it the other way around, it may penalize you. By having De Colo, Doncic, Calathes and Shved, you block the way for any other guard like Cole, Brad Wanamaker, Taylor Rochestie, Sergio Rodriguez, Thomas Heurtel, Nemanja Nedovic and so many more, because with those four players, you can only buy forwards and centers. Being aware of this, I am holding on to all of them this week. I believe the game between CSKA and Real Madrid will be high-scoring and one of the best this season. With Kevin Jones gone, Shengelia will see more playing time. Shved plays at home and Calathes almost had a triple-double the last time he played in Bamberg. Therefore, I could only trade three players. One of them will be Jan Vesely, who plays on the road against always-difficult Olympiacos Piraeus. Another one will be Chris Singleton, as Panathinaikos plays on the road and he didn't have a great game in Bamberg last season. As for Will Clyburn, I am keeping him, but I am selling backup center Jake Cohen to get more money to use on my starters.
Who do I buy, then? Well, I am getting Viny Okouo of Unicaja in Cohen's spot just because he is a good prospect. Following my own advice, I am buying Augustine because he already played well against Khimki and should do it again despite the Russian powerhouse's overwhelming athleticism. Then I am buying Aaron White of Zalgiris to replace Singleton, with a warning. If Zalgiris confirms that Paulius Jankunas will be ready to play, I will replace him with Edgaras Ulanovas, who should also have a good game at small forward.
So, Gancedato looks like this before Round 21:
Luka Doncic, Real Madrid (PG) - Luka seems to be healthy and ready to go. When he is at his best physical level, he rarely disappoints, even against a tough team like CSKA.
Nando De Colo, CSKA Moscow (SG) - The January MVP comes off a great game against Brose and should have another one against Madrid - great opponent, playing at home, what's not to like?
Will Clyburn, CSKA Moscow (SF) - He faces two very experienced defenders in Rudy Fernandez and Jeffery Taylor, but Clyburn should bring out his best version against Madrid.
Toko Shengelia, Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (PF) - With backup power forward Jones gone, Shengelia will see more and more playing time, starting with his team's home game against Zvezda.
James Augustine, Unicaja Malaga (C) - Had a good game against Khimki earlier on this season and comes off a solid game in the Spanish League. Augustine will be ready for another big battle.
Alexey Shved, Khimki Moscow Region (G) - He had 28 points against Unicaja in Malaga, taking 17 three-point shots. If he has a more effective shooting night, Shved could just have an insane PIR.
Aaron White, Zalgiris Kaunas (F) - Provisionally, I am choosing White only if Jankunas remains sidelined. If not, I will switch to Ulanovas. Zalgiris all the way, in any case!
Nick Calathes, Panathinaikos SuperFoods Athens (U) - He had a monster game in Bamberg last season and a very good game against Brose this season. Nick, I hereby name you team captain for the first time!
BENCH: Vassilis Toliopoulos (Olympiacos), Egehan Arna and Melih Mahmutoglou (Fenerbahce), Viny Okouo (Unicaja)
That's all I have this week! Have a great time with both the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge.
UPDATE: Looks like Luka Doncic will play but he is not in his best condition due to a sprained ankle.
I don't want to take any chances. I am replacing him with Errick McCollum, as Valencia has travelled to Istanbul without its four point guards, which is unprecedented. I can only wish Valencia the best of luck with its many, many injuries. I am also keeping Jake Cohen on the bench to free one trade to let Doncic go. Good luck, Fantasy Challenge users!