Round 21 was amazing and truly had a little bit of everything, including two game-winning shots. Anthony Gill's buzzer-beating tip-in lifted Khimki Moscow Region past Unicaja Malaga, 68-66, and a mid-range jumper by Dairis Bertans gave AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milano a road win at FC Barcelona Lassa, 81-83. Olympiacos Piraeus played a terrific first quarter against defending champion Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul and ended up with a 25-point win. It was the kind of first quarter that should worry every other top team in the league - great physicality, a lot of patience in offense and above all, Vassilis Spanoulis at his best, no less. In arguably the biggest game in this round, CSKA Moscow topped Real Madrid 93-87. CSKA led by 22 points at the end of the first quarter; Madrid rallied, but could not complete the comeback. CSKA had six scorers in double digits, led by former Madrid playmaker Sergio Rodriguez. It was a good week for home teams; only Barcelona lost in front of its fans. Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz, Brose Bamberg (beating Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens by 21 points!), Zalgiris Kaunas and Anadolu Efes Istanbul all won at home. Zalgiris got its 13th win and Kevin Pangos got his third points-assists double-double.
My team, Gancedato, did great! Nick Calathes was a perfect captain, my last-minute substitution worked well because Errick McCollum had a huge game against Valencia Basket, and pretty much everyone performed well. I ranked 447th this week and reached the top 200 in the standings. Yes, I am 191st overall, less than 100 points away from a Top 20 finish. Everyone who has followed this column for many years knows that my teams are late bloomers and always do better as the competition goes on. What people certainly could not expect - because it just never happened before - is that I would have a strong start. I am pretty confident about my team's chances next week, but first, let's recommend some players.
1. KEVIN PANGOS, ZALGIRIS - Zalgiris signed Beno Udrih, but Pangos remains his team's first option at point guard. He has had an index rating of 16 or better in each of his last six EuroLeague games, reaching 23 last week. The calendar helps; Zalgiris plays three of its next four games at home.
2. RODRIGUE BEAUBOIS, BASKONIA VITORIA GASTEIZ - It is a golden rule in this game: when a shooter finds his rhythm, you have to sign him. Beaubois had 25 points in 22 minutes against Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, and scored 24 in 19 minutes against Barcelona this weekend. On fire!
3. AUGUSTINE RUBIT, BROSE BAMBERG - Comes off an MVP performance – 26 points, 34 PIR in less than 22 minutes – against Panathinaikos. It could be a turning point for a solid player this season before his team faces difficult Fenerbahce.
4. JONAH BOLDEN, MACCABI FOX TEL AVIV - Bolden showed everyone what he is capable of with extended playing time, getting 12 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in 32 minutes against Zalgiris. He should keep his personal momentum going against Barcelona.
5. BRAD WANAMAKER, FENERBAHCE DOGUS ISTANBUL - Fener comes off an ugly road loss and Wanamaker plays against his former team. It is a good combination - a star player motivated on a day in which his team must bounce back in front of its fans, don't you think?
It’s time to shake things up at Gancedato. Even though McCollum played a great game, I don't see his matchup against Unicaja with good eyes. Coach Joan Plaza can turn to two good defensive stoppers, Ray McCallum and Alberto Diaz, to stop him, so I am going to sell him. At the same time, it is never easy to be guarded by the best shot blocker in the competition, Bryant Dunston, so I am thanking James Augustine for a very solid performance and selling him. Finally, I am selling Edgaras Ulanovas because he will be guarded by Tyler Honeycutt, who is a mismatch like no other in the EuroLeague. Ulanovas is a very smart player and he will find ways to beat Honeycutt one-on-one, but as a general rule, now that Tyler is back, I won't have a small forward who plays against Khimki on my team. Honeycutt blocks shots, outrebounds everyone and challenges everyone with his physical skills.
That was easy. Let's see who I get now. No surprise here, I am bringing back Luka Doncic of Real Madrid. In some rounds, I will risk a bit by taking out one of the best five players in the game. In some rounds, I just won't do it and this is one of them. Following my own, advice, I am going to buy Honeycutt. In his only visit to Zalgirio Arena as a Khimki player, Honeycutt had 10 points, 17 rebounds and 4 steals, essentially driving everybody crazy. He is a very up-and-down player but at the same time, he is playing really well lately, and I have to take risks to keep climbing in the overall standings. Again, no big risks taken at center, as I am taking the best-ranked of them all, Jan Vesely of Fenerbahce. I expect Fener to bounce back and that could be good news for the Czech Helicopter - a nickname I coined and which I am very proud of.
So Gancedato looks like this before Round 22, right after a one-week break in everyone's favorite competition - the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague:
Luka Doncic, Real Madrid (PG) - No injury problems means no doubt about it when it comes to Luka. A tough game - against Olympiacos - is always welcomed as a challenge.
Nando De Colo, CSKA Moscow (SG) - CSKA visits Valencia, where Nando played for three seasons. His wife is from Valencia, too. Team captain, no question about it!
Will Clyburn, CSKA Moscow (SF) - There are no small forwards as solid as him, so Clyburn remains a very interesting choice at the position. He’s a great rebounder and that always helps.
Toko Shengelia, Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (PF) - Baskonia decided not to sign anyone to replace Kevin Jones. That means more quality playing time - and more PIR - for Toko. Great!
Jan Vesely, Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul (C) - Fenerbahce needs a good game to please its fans and keep challenging for the top spots. Expect Vesely to step up big, as always.
Alexey Shved, Khimki Moscow Region (G) - Non-stop scorer, unstoppable when on fire, and also helping out in other categories; Shved had 3 rebounds, 4 assists last week.
Tyler Honeycutt, Khimki Moscow Region (F) - Hard to go wrong with a player of his caliber, able to rebound non-stop, block shots and collect steals. He seems to be in great shape, too.
Nick Calathes, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (U) - He dished 14 assists against Baskonia earlier this season. I expect Calathes to be just as deadly in the teams' rematch in Athens.
So, that's all from me this week. Enjoy the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games, keep an eye on the 7DAYS EuroCup for some more quality basketball and don't forget to make your trades in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge. Good luck!