Spanish basketball is back!
Two-time defending champions Real Madrid face Unicaja on Friday, giving us our first glimpse of regular-season ACB action (20:00 CET, 2 pm ET). Two more games follow on Saturday and Week 1 wraps up with five games on Sunday.
With the season about to tip-off, let’s dive into some preseason predictions.
Facundo Campazzo – PG, Murcia
Love for The People’s Champ went global this summer after his excellent performance at the Rio Olympics.
He dropped 33 points and 11 assists in a classic 2OT win over rival Brazil, then tap-danced his way through the Team USA defense. He finished the tournament 7th in scoring (15.8 PPG), 4th in assists (5.8 per game) and 1st in steals (2.8 per game).
None of this was surprising to ACB fans, who watched Campazzo hesitation-dribble teams to death last season with Murcia. Now in his 2nd year with the team, I expect Campazzo to dominate opposing backcourts on his way to MVP honors.
G – Facundo Campazzo (Murcia) – I think he’ll lead the league in assists, finish in the top 10 in scoring and help Murcia earn a 2nd-straight playoff berth this season. NBA buzz will follow.
G – Sergio Llull (Real Madrid) – Llull has more responsibility than ever with Sergio Rodriguez returning to the NBA. He should finish in the top 5 in assists, the top 10 in scoring and lead Real Madrid to a 1st-place finish.
SF – Adam Hanga (Baskonia) – The best small forward in Spain and maybe all of Europe. He’s a great wing defender, he protects the rim, he finishes fastbreaks and Baskonia has been using him as a pick-and-roll ball-handler in the preseason. This will be a big year for Hanga after he broke out in 2014-15.
PF – Bojan Dubljevic (Valencia) – A dominant low-post scorer with range out to the 3-point line and maybe the best beard in the league following Chacho’s departure. If he can stay healthy, I’m expecting a monster season from Dubljevic.
C – Ante Tomic (Barcelona) – This was the most difficult decision for me. You could plug 3 or 4 other centers in here and make a strong argument, but when Tomic is playing with confidence, he’s a top-2 center in Spain. Since Gustavo Ayon has more competition for minutes on his own team, I’m going with the Croatian here.
G – Tyrese Rice (Barcelona) – Rice was Barca’s top signing this summer, giving them an elite 1-on-1 scorer. He is well-known for torching Real Madrid in the 2014 EuroLeague Final 4, and he wasted no time in beating down Los Blancos again. He scored a smooth 30 points, while also dishing 6 assists, in Barca’s 99-93 SuperCopa win vs. Madrid last week. Rice is my pick to lead the league scoring and I wouldn’t be surprised if he adds another MVP trophy to his collection.
G – Bo McCalebb (Gran Canaria) – Another top-tier scorer, McCalebb has already led Gran Canaria to their first trophy in club history. He had 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in a 79-59 win over Barca in Saturday’s SuperCopa final. Look for him to help a talented Granca squad earn another top-5 finish this season.
G – Kyle Fogg (Unicaja) – Unicaja made some big signings this summer and Fogg is at the top of the list. After leading the Finnish league in scoring in 2014, he did the same in the much more competitive German league last year. With his scoring ability and killer instinct, he’ll become a household name among Spanish basketball fans this season.
PF/C – Anthony Randolph (Real Madrid) – After making All-EuroLeague 2nd-Team last season, Randolph is bringing his unique skill set to the Spanish capital. With his size, shooting and athleticism, he has the potential to be the best player in Europe. It helps that he already has some success against Barca, dropping 28 points on them in last year’s EuroLeague playoffs.
C – Gustavo Ayon (Real Madrid) – Ayon was an MVP candidate last season, dominating teams from the low post in the best year of his career. He’s one of the top scorers and rebounders in Europe, and I expect him to have another great season despite the surplus of bodies in Madrid’s frontcourt.
Tyrese Rice – PG, Barca
A lot of great options here: Rice, McCalebb, Fogg, Randolph, Victor Claver, Shane Larkin, Roddy Beaubois, Dejan Musli, etc. I’m going with Rice, who will be the best scorer on a top-2 team.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo – SF/PF, Andorra
Giannis’ older brother is an elite athlete at the Euro level and he should have a good debut season with Andorra. In just two preseason games, Thanasis had enough dunks and weakside blocks to make the highlight reel above. He’ll have to beat Campazzo and Hanga for this award, but I’m expecting Antetokounmpo to be a regular in the Top Plays of the Week.
Best U22 Player
Luka Doncic – PG/SG Real Madrid
Madrid’s 17-year-old Wonderboy is progressing at a terrifying rate. He’s an amazing passer, good shooter, relentless competitor and he can play three positions (4 when he gets stronger). He’s not even draft-eligible until 2018, but he’s a guaranteed lottery pick and could potentially go in the top 5.
With Sergio Rodriguez gone, Doncic will have much more responsibility this season. I’m expecting him to shine in his increased role and — bold prediction alert — drop the first ACB triple-double since Fran Vazquez in 2007.