Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade will have many new faces in its uniform for the coming Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season and it all starts on the sidelines with Coach Sasa Obradovic, who returned to his hometown to the bench of the team with which he grew up. Zvezda will have a new-look backcourt with the arrival of guards Langston Hall, Corey Walden and Jordan Loyd as well as homegrown youngster Aleksa Uskokovic. A pair of returnees to the club are veteran sharpshooter Marko Simonovic and swingman Aleksa Radanov. Center Duop Reath completes the list of Zvezda's summer signings.
Crvena Zvezda will have a revamped backcourt where Walden and Hall are expected to run the show. Both point guards will be making their EuroLeague debuts after making noise in the 7DAYS EuroCup last season. Hall is a pass-first point guard, while Walden is a playmaker with the ability to take over games. Zvezda's go-to guy, however, is expected to be Jordan Loyd, a prolific scorer who finds ways to get buckets and can do it in bunches. Uskokovic is a young point guard who will be using each minute on the floor to gain much-needed experience, something two fan favorites - Simonovic and team captain Branko Lazic - have in abundance. Simonovic is a dangerous sharpshooter who uses his 2.02-meter frame to contribute on the glass, while Lazic is a premier defender and a true team leader as the club's record holder in games played. Dejan Davidovac, another guard in a forward's body at 2.02 meters, completes Zvezda's backcourt with his versatility and has proven on more than one occasion in the past to be tough to match up.
Zvezda does not lack size on the perimeter and it will certainly not lack size closer to the baskets, either. Athletic small forward and tough defender Ognjen Dobric is the only frontcourt player below 2.05 meters in height. A lot will be expected from 22-year old power forward Borisa Simanic, a former Adidas NEXT Generation Tournament Finals MVP whose athleticism, length and long-range shooting have been a bigger factor each year since he turned pro. Another power forward is Marko Jagodic Kuridza, who plays closer to the basket and is a veteran with the strength to battle against opposing big bodies. At center, Zvezda has a former EuroLeague champ in Ognjen Kuzmic as well as rookie Duop Reath. Kuzmic is hungry to show his injuries are finally a thing of the past for him, as he looks to return to his old form when he was one of the best big men in the competition. Reath, on the other hand, hopes to use his size to make an impact in his first season under the EuroLeague rims.
Player to watch
Jordan Loyd did not get exactly all he wanted from his first EuroLeague season with Valencia Basket. In a campaign interrupted by injuries that forced him to miss 10 games, Loyd had his ups and downs, but still scored 17 or more points six times despite spending more than 30 minutes on the floor only once during the entire season. With his ability to get to the rim and also knock down threes - he shot 42.9% from long range last season, Loyd will not only be one of Zvezda's most dangerous offensive players, but he is also one of the most capable scorers in the league. With a year of EuroLeague experience under his belt, Zvezda will need Loyd to showcase what he can do offensively and he can't wait to get started.
No matter what roster and pre-season ambition Crvena Zvezda had in the past, it always found a way to be a competitive team and battle for a playoff spot. There is no reason to believe it will be any different this time around. Compared to last season, Zvezda's roster got younger, but it still has plenty of much needed EuroLeague experience. With Coach Obradovic on the bench, have no doubt Zvezda will be a defensive-minded team that will stay true to its tradition of using high-energy plus its size and athleticism to its advantage. With such traits, Zvezda has all the tools to be a playoff contender once again.