Olympiacos Piraeus starts the 2021-22 season with a few new additions who know the competition well. With those fresh faces joining a talented cast, the Reds will target their first playoff appearance since 2018.
Newcomer Thomas Walkup and EuroLeague star Kostas Sloukas are set to share the point guard duties now that club legend Vassilis Spanoulis has retired. Walkup is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the competition due to his size, anticipation and high basketball IQ. Sloukas is deadly in clutch time as well as from the free-throw line and gets his teammates involved with his passing skills. He is also dangerous as a spot-up shooter. Shaquielle McKissic is a force of nature, an explosive player with great physicality and outstanding energy. He can change any game with his fast-break dunks, steals and penetration skills. Tyler Dorsey joins the Reds to open the floor with his outside shooting. Adding him gives Olympiacos an extra scoring punch and makes the Reds more unpredictable on offense. Giannoulis Larentzakis is tough on defense and effective on offense. Top prospect Alexandros Nikolaidis and combo guard Michalis Lountzis are in the fight for playing time, too.
Olympiacos opted to keep its core of big men, led by new team captain and EuroLeague superstar Georgios Printezis. As always, Printezis provides mid-range shooting, highlighted by his trademark floater - with either hand, hustle and a world of basketball smarts. Expect him to be on the court when the game is on the line. Hassan Martin is an athletic player best-known for finishing around the rim and powering the offensive glass for second-chance opportunities. Moustapha Fall has a rare combination of size, coordination and quickness and should make Olympiacos stronger at both ends. Martin ranked second in two-point shooting (72.0%) in the EuroLeague last season and Fall was fifth (70.1%). Kostas Papanikolaou only played 14 EuroLeague games last season but is back serving as the ultimate team player: experienced, committed and able to do many things on the court. Sasha Vezenkov led the team in scoring last season (11.5 ppg.) thanks to his supreme inside-outside skills. Livio Jean-Charles is a solid rebounder who can pull the trigger from deep range. Vasileios Christidis, eager to make his EuroLeague debut, completes a deep frontcourt.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Sasha Vezenkov comes off a career-best season in which he showcased his many skills. Vezenkov uses his versatility to beat his defenders; he's too big for most small forwards and too quick for most power forwards. Coach Georgios Bartzokas knows him better than anyone and can rely on him to play a major role. That confidence is translated into numbers, too: Vezenkov made 43.0% of his three-point shots, taking 4.4 per game, and sank 88.7% of his free throw attempts. He helped on the boards (5.4 rpg.) and ranked seventh in defensive rebounds per 40 minutes (7.0), proving that he is much more than just a sharpshooter. At age 26, Vezenkov is about to enter the prime of his career and does it in a perfect environment, in a club where he feels comfortable and with a coach who fully trusts him.
Olympiacos had a promising start to the 2020-21 season when it won five of its opening eight games and finished strong with a 5-2 record in its last seven contests. A seven-game losing streak from late January to early March, however, terminated the Reds' chances to lock down a playoffs spot. Finding more consistency is a primary goal and to that end, Olympiacos has looked for experienced players to avoid such problems. Walkup, Dorsey and Fall know the competition well and adjusting to a core of players – Sloukas, Papanikolaou, Printezis, Vezenkov – who have worked together nicely for the best part of the last decade is critical for Olympiacos's success.