After a turbulent and luckless season plagued by injury problems, FC Barcelona Lassa has made wholesale changes in its bid to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2014. Georgios Bartzokas has been replaced in the coach's chair by Sito Alonso, who will aim to continue the success he enjoyed in leading Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz to last season's playoffs. Following Alonso to Palau Blaugrana is Adam Hanga, the EuroLeague's reigning Best Defender. The Hungarian headlines a long list of new recruits that include star passer Thomas Heurtel, fellow Frenchmen Adrien Moerman and Kevin Seraphin, plus Rakim Sanders and EuroLeague rookies Pierre Oriola and Phil Pressey.
One constant amid all the change at Barcelona is the competition's all-time leading scorer Juan Carlos Navarro, who is heading into his 17th EuroLeague season with plenty of company in a versatile backcourt. The offense will be given a new dimension by the endless energy and creativity of summer recruit Heurtel, who dished the league's joint second-highest number of assists last season and was named MVP for February while playing with Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Further dynamism will come from under-sized but hugely athletic newcomer Pressey, whose fast-paced play is sure to excite fans. Barcelona will also hope that the experienced and consistent Pau Ribas recovers from his latest injury – sustained on national team duty this summer – to take a fair share of the ball-handling duties. Alongside veteran leader Navarro, long-range shooting is provided by Petteri Koponen, while home-grown youngster Marc Garcia will aim to make the most of whatever chances come his way.
Barcelona's play inside the paint will continue to revolve around the wily skills of Ante Tomic, who is on schedule to reach 200 EuroLeague appearances before Christmas. Tomic's guile will be nicely complemented by the awesome athletic abilities of Hanga, whose all-action style makes him a major presence at the rim on both offense and defense. Tomic will receive support under the basket from Moerman, who ranked ninth in the league in defensive boards with Darussafaka last season, while fellow summer signing Oriola will aim to make an immediate mark after playing a significant role in Valencia's march to the EuroCup finals and the Spanish title. Scoring will be provided by another new arrival, Sanders, who averaged 12.5 points per game with Milan. After Tomic, the team's second-tallest player is Seraphin, who is making a long-awaited return to the competition following a handful of appearances for Baskonia six years ago. Aleksandar Vezenkov will look to make further strides after an impressive 2016-17 campaign, while the know-how of Victor Claver completes a deep and well-rounded roster.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Adam Hanga modestly claims that he was not a very good defensive player in his younger days, but the 28 year-old has certainly turned that around to become the winner of last season's Best Defender Award, as voted by EuroLeague coaches. Hanga's defensive excellence stems from his athleticism and his tireless work ethic, which also allow him to exert a considerable influence at the other end of the floor, too. He averaged 10.5 points for Baskonia last season and ranked second on the team in assists. His move to Barcelona offers one of the most explosive players in EuroLeague the opportunity to accept even more responsibility, and he is relishing the challenge.
After a frustrating season, it was inevitable that Barcelona would make sweeping changes as they looked to rebuild. The arrival of proven stars Hanga and Heurtel, along with the varied skill set of fellow new signings Moerman, Sanders, Seraphin and Pressey, has sparked cause for genuine optimism. Coach Alonso has a tough task in quickly moulding his reshaped squad into a cohesive unit, but playing four of its first six games at home provides an opportunity for the team to establish early momentum. If that happens, don't be surprised if Barcelona fully restores its traditional status among Europe's heavyweights.