Last season's Turkish Airlines EuroLeague runner-up, Fenerbahce Istanbul, came within seconds of winning it all last season, so it only made sense to keep the crew together. Accordingly, Coach Zeljko Obradovic's squad will have just two new faces. Swingman James Nunnally arrives to take over the role of Ricky Hickman, who is now in Milan, while center Ahmet Duverioglu will bolster the frontcourt off the bench. Seventeen-year-old talent Ahmet Can Duran was also promoted from the Fenerbahce junior team, but may not have an immediate impact at the senior level.
Coach Obradovic can sleep quietly knowing that the basketballs on his team are in good hands. The likely starting tandem of Bobby Dixon and Bogdan Bogdanovic is among the very best in the competition with both players serving as top-level passers and scorers. Two-time EuroLeague champion Kostas Sloukas completes the point guard rotation. Melih Mahmutoglu's uncanny outside shooting changed plenty of games last season and could do the same once again. Nunnally was last season's Italian League MVP and could prove to be an impact player at small forward. Reserve guard Berk Ugurlu held his own in limited minutes last season and may take another step forward in his second EuroLeague campaign.
All-EuroLeague First Team big man Jan Vesely is flanked by a pair of All-EuroLeague Second Teamers in forward Luigi Datome and center Ekpe Udoh to make an intimidating frontline for the Turkish champs. Datome is not only an elite shooter, but can play either forward spot, thus allowing Coach Obradovic opportunities to choose a small, quick lineup. Vesely and Udoh make up the best shot-blocking tandem in the league and are both threats to dunk whenever they get the ball near the basket. Veteran Pero Antic is an ideal complement to Vesely or Udoh since he stretches the floor with his shooting. The versatile Nikola Kalinic makes his presence known on defense, but is a heady player who exploits openings on the attack, too. Baris Hersek, young Egehan Arna and Duverioglu provide Coach Obradovic with extensive options off the bench.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Now 24 years old, Bogdan Bogdanovic is a prime weapon for Fenerbahce, but he may have an advantage over his fellow star teammates. On one of the league's most-talented squads, Bogdanovic will be at the center of the action. Bogdanovic could be involved in nearly every offensive play for his team whether its feeding the big men inside and the shooters in the corners or running the pick-and-roll or backdoor cuts to get his own points. He is an elite shooter and an intense competitor, too, which means Fenerbahce fans can expect fireworks – and opponents can expect danger – whenever he walks on the court. Bogdanovic is already a bona fide EuroLeague star, but if he takes another step forward in the 2016-17 campaign, it will be a year to remember.
Fenerbahce starts the season in a good place; it has almost all of its team back from last season and all but two players are younger than 30. So there is youth and experience, a winning atmosphere and hunger to go one step beyond last season. Still it will be important to send an early message to the rest of Europe that this team is ready to challenge for the crown. One way to do that will be by winning road games and Fenerbahce has that chance early in November with back-to-back road games at Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz and Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv just five days apart. Victories on those tough courts will firmly establish Fenerbahce as a title-contender.