Valencia Basket, embarking on its fifth Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season, maintains the same philosophy that allowed the club to win the 7DAYS EuroCup title last season, namely putting together a long roster in which every player can contribute at any time. Valencia kept its coach, Jaume Ponsarnau, and most of its core players, such as Sam Van Rossom, Bojan Dubljevic, Fernando San Emeterio and Mike Tobey, but added five new faces to make the team even better. As such, Vanja Marinkovic and Jordan Loyd will provide the fireworks from the three-point line; Brock Motum is a solid addition at power forward; Maurice Ndour brings athleticism, size and experience under the rims; and Quino Colom steps in as Valencia's starting point guard to show why he is one of the most-accomplished playmakers in continental basketball. Expect Valencia to be very competitive from the start of the season.
Valencia has three very good point guards, all very different from each other, giving Coach Ponsarnau plenty of options. Colom has an extremely high basketball IQ with outstanding passing skills, especially in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations, which he reads like few others. An old-school point guard, he will try to make Valencia play at the right rhythm at all times. Van Rossom is more experienced and a better shooter. Unselfish and determined, Van Rossom will be a go-to guy in crunch time. Guillem Vives is a very good defensive guard, ready to offer intensity and court sense to the mix. Marinkovic arrives to do what he does best – shooting the ball off screens and finding his own ways to score. An above-the-average defender due to his size and athleticism, Marinkovic will make his EuroLeague debut with Valencia after starting his career with Partizan. Loyd offers his scoring skills at the shooting guard position but will also contribute on defense. Expect him to have a critical role. Alberto Abalde is able to play in all perimeter positions due to his ballhandling, creativity, size and versatility, creating mismatches on offense.
Joan Sastre, Fernando San Emeterio and Aaron Doornekamp will split minutes at small forward. A former All-EuroLeague selection, San Emeterio has outstanding driving skills and great determination to take difficult shots, especially in crunch time. Sastre is a great defensive player, with strong, quick legs and long arms to collect steals and deflect passes. He can also be deadly from downtown, especially from the corners. Doornekamp can play at both forwards and has a strong, aggressive, blue-collar mentality. Ndour and Dubljevic will be Valencia's main frontcourt references. Ndour is a great athlete with good shooting range and valuable experience. Dubljevic is a special player who has made his professional home in Valencia. He is able to hit three-point shots, especially from the top of the key, or beat his defender with his smooth post moves, highlighted by a deadly jump hook. Motum adds deep range, know-how and toughness at power forward. Tobey is a good rebounder and a good finisher both in the paint and from mid-range while Louis Labeyrie offers mobility, size, great timing for blocks, and great intensity overall.
PLAYER TO WATCH
A lot of Valencia's chances to do well this season will depend on Colom's performance. In his only EuroLeague season – with UNICS Kazan three years ago – Colom averaged 11.3 points, 5.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 25 games. A 2017-18 All-EuroCup First Team selection, Colom now has another chance to test his passing skills, court sense and determination against some of the best point guards in Europe. He really knows how to run an offense, finding the best options for a shooter to get an open look or a big man to play one-on-one in the low post. If neither is the best choice, Colom can always find an easy layup. At age 30, he is in the prime of his career and the competition from Van Rossom and Vives will only benefit him in the long run. If Colom is able to run the show at the highest level, Valencia will have very good chances to have a truly special EuroLeague season.
On one hand, Valencia does not have a real superstar. Its most important player would be Dubljevic, a EuroCup legend and that competition's top scorer and rebounder, but he has just 32 games of EuroLeague experience. On the other hand, Valencia has 14 players ready to contribute, so it is well-protected against injuries or new players not adjusting well. That depth is set to pay off in the short run as Valencia plays six of its first 10 games at home in Pabellon Fuente de San Luis – affectionately known as "La Fonteta" – where its outstanding crowd will be critical. Valencia fans how to put pressure on the opponents; it is no surprise that the club was undefeated in its home court in the EuroCup last season. Depth, intensity and wild home fans are usually a winning combination. If Coach Ponsarnau finds the way to use all 14 players to the maximum effect and define the right roles, Valencia will be ready to win a lot of games, enough to challenge for a playoffs spot.