The legendary OAKA hall in Athens opens it’s gates tonight for another EuroLeague season and Panathinaikos will face Fenerbahce, a great rivalry in European basketball.
Panathinaikos is the most successful EuroLeague team of the last 30 years, winning 6 titles in this period. The last few years however they couldn’t compete anymore with the best and this season seems to be the toughest for them in recent memory. A coaching change was made in the summer, last season’s EuroCup finalist Dimitris Priftis took charge of the team. They still have Ioannis Papapetrou, who is the clear leader of the team, Georgios Papagiannis is a solid rebounder, Nemanja Nedovic (when healthy ) is one of the best offensive talents in Europe. The Greek team also brought in a few American players with no prior EuroLeague experience, like Kendrick Perry, Daryl Macon or Jehyve Floyd. Still, I don’t see them having any chance to get to the playoffs this year.
They Greens lost to newcomers Monaco in the first round of the EuroLeague and also suffered an embarrassing defeat against Aris in the weekend, losing the second half of that game by a 29 point margin !
On the other side, Fenerbahce also had a turbulent summer, but they are in a much better position than PAO. Coach Igor Kokoskov left the team unexpectedly at the end of July, when the roster was already built and there was a big question if Fener can find a good replacement and if roster changes will be made by the new coach. Sasha Djordjevic got the job and so far it seems to be a great choice. He kept the summer signings made by Kokoskov ( Pierria Henry, Marial Shayok, Achille Polonara, Devin Booker ) and so far has a 2-0 record in the Turkish Super Lig and also won in the Round 1 of EuroLeague against Crvena Zvezda.
While Fener has also seen better days in the past few years, I think they are solid this year and should make the playoffs. Veterans Nando de Colo and Jan Vesely bring quality, experience and leadership and overall the team is well built.
All betting sites take Fener as the favourites for tonight’s game. PAO plays at home, but Fener has the better momentum and overall a better roster.