Last season Real Madrid missed the EuroLeague Final Four for the first time since 2016, but its fans were proud of the team's fighting spirit in what was an injury-plagued season. Real hopes to stay healthy this season and fight for a ticket to Berlin 2022.
Real added depth and talent at point guard by bringing in Nigel Williams-Goss and Thomas Heurtel. Williams-Goss is an electric combo guard who can score in many ways due to his one-on-one skills, unlimited shooting range and great ability to read the game. Heurtel is a pass-first playmaker who can also pull the trigger from downtown. With so much talent around him, Heurtel should play a critical role in putting the ball in the right place. New team captain Sergio Llull has a high basketball IQ and can change any game with his energy and trademark crazy shots. Rudy Fernandez, one of the best defensive players in Europe, is also back to help in many ways. Llull and Fernandez's experience is vital for Coach Pablo Laso. Real has even more options at point guard with Carlos Alocen, a physical playmaker with great court sense, and up-and-coming talent Juan Nuñez. Adam Hanga can also play point guard and is also an elite defender and an experienced perimeter player with size and athleticism. Fabien Causeur adds poise, driving skills and deep shooting range to a deep, interesting backcourt.
Los Blancos also have a physical, strong frontcourt to balance the team. Walter Tavares has been chosen as the EuroLeague's Best Defender twice. He can change games with his blocked shots and intimidation and has also become an effective scorer with his jump hooks, floaters and, of course, finishes above the rim. Vincent Poirier is a similar player, a force of nature who rebounds well at both ends, blocks shots and scores in many ways around the basket and from mid-range. Fernandez, Alberto Abalde and Jeffery Taylor are set to share minutes at the small forward position. Abalde is a versatile player with great character, good driving skills and a clutch mentality. Taylor remains one of the best on-the-ball defensive players in the competition and is also an occasional three-point shooter with a team-first mindset. With Anthony Randolph still sidelined, Trey Thompkins and Guerschon Yabusele should see most of the playing time at the '4' position, with teenage stretch forward Tristan Vukcevic helping out. Yabusele is an all-around forward with range, size and post skills. Thompkins is an elite three-point shooter and a good rebounder who battles hard at both ends.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Walter Tavares is Real's undeniable leader and the biggest difference-maker in his team. He is entering his fifth EuroLeague campaign, all of them with Real. In the previous four, Tavares ranks first in blocked shots at 224, with Bryant Dunston of Anadolu Efes Istanbul a distant second at 137. He is also first in rebounds (854), eighth in PIR (1,820) and second in two-point shooting percentage (69.3% 2FG) over the last four years. Tavares won the EuroLeague title with Real in 2018, was chosen to the All-EuroLeague Second Team in 2019 and to the All-EuroLeague First Team last season. Slowly but steadily, Tavares keeps improving and he should be a EuroLeague MVP candidate in the coming season.
First and foremost, Real needs to stay healthy. Last season, only two players managed to take part in all 39 EuroLeague games. Coach Laso has one of the deepest teams in the competition, with multiple players at every position. Real has managed to put together a younger, more athletic, more versatile roster while keeping the core of players, featuring Llull, Fernandez, Thompkins, Taylor, Randolph and Causeur, that has been together for many years and won every possible title. Expect Real to bounce back, as it has all it takes to challenge for the EuroLeague title: a great coach, an incredible roster and, of course, the pride that comes with being the winningest team in continental basketball.