• Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight weekly feature. With Summer League action over and most of the free agent transactions complete I thought this would be a good time to educate our readers about the status of the European basketball world since, for the last 15 years, the NBA has been receiving a heavy dose of players from overseas every year.

    The Basics

    In the first part of this feature this week I will be breaking down the different types of leagues that teams participate in every year. And what you basically need to know is that every club in Europe competes in at least two different types of organizations. The national leagues (e.g. Barcelona plays in the Spanish league, called Liga ACB) with teams from the same country and the transnational leagues like EuroLeague, where teams from different countries travel back and forth and play each other every week in home or away games. This translates to a minimum of two games per week and even though this might not seem as intense as the level of the NBA (with a minimum of 82 games and up to four games per week) the top teams really end up playing more or less some 70 games on a tight schedule that runs from October until April that often ends in June, with grueling travel across the continent and daily practices.

    The EuroLeague

    EuroLeague is the Europe-wide top-tier level professional basketball club competition that has long established itself as the benchmark for basketball outside the NBA. Organized since 2000 by EuroLeague Basketball, a private entity with shareholders from the 11 founding members and a neutral commissioner, the league is so financially stable that approximately 100 players are making as much or more money than the bottom 100 players in the NBA.

    Who participates in the EuroLeague: 16 teams overall that include the champions of the top European national domestic leagues, along with some of the traditional powerhouses from the most important national domestic leagues, all playing  in a tournament system that leads to a Final Four (similar to the NCAA). 11 out of the 16 openings are held by licensed clubs that have long-term contracts with EuroLeague Basketball and are members of the Shareholders Executive Board. These eleven licensed clubs are:

    Olympiacos BC and Panathinaikos BC from Greece

    Maccabi Tel Aviv from Israel

    Olimpia Milano from Italy

    BC Žalgiris from Lithuania

    CSKA Moscow from Russia

    FC Barcelona, Baskonia and Real Madrid from Spain

    Anadolu Efes SK and Fenerbahçe Basketball from Turkey

    The remaining five spots are awarded to associated clubs that receive annual licenses with one place going to the winner of the previous season’s European-wide second-tier level league, the EuroCup, and the remaining four to a combination of European national domestic league winners and wild cards. For the 2018-2019 season these teams will be:

    Darüşşafaka SK of Turkey (winner of the EuroCup)

    KK Budućnost of Montenegro

    FC Bayern Munich of Germany

    CB Gran Canaria of Spain and

    BC Khimki of Russia

    The number of teams that have taken part in the modern era of the EuroLeague comes to 83, originating from 19 different countries, while 2,700 players have honored the competition with their presence. The following have been the most successful. (source: Eurohoop)

    League format: 16 teams, which each play each other twice, once at home and once away, in a regular season format totaling 30 games. The top eight teams at the end of the regular season advance to the playoffs, which are held as four individual best-of-five series. The higher-placed team in the regular season standings of each playoff matchup has home-court advantage, playing three out of the five games at home. The winners of each of the four playoff series advance to the Final Four, which is held at a different location every year.

    Style of Play: European leagues are filled with veterans and former NBA draft picks while young players, despite possessing great talent, often struggle to earn minutes (Kristaps Porzingis, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert didn’t even play in the EuroLeague). It’s a very structured environment with complex offensive and defensive schemes that emphasize team play rather than individual talent. Most American players fail to recognize this aspect of the contest even though they are extremely talented and can make a difference on both sides of the floor. On the other side, the ones that do embrace this kind of play end up staying in the league for many years with lucrative contracts. Mike Batiste, the former Grizzly, had a tremendous run with Panathinaikos a few years ago and is being considered as one of the most successful American-born players to end up making a career in Europe.

    An ongoing battle between FIBA and EuroLeague

    While EuroLeague has been running the most successful league in Europe, FIBA, the International Basketball Federation which consists of an association of national organizations, also wants a piece of the pie and the two sides are currently in a unprecedented legal battle.

    The root cause of this feud is a dispute over which entity gets to organize the national events and the dispute has already been litigated before a state court in Germany while both have filed complaints before the European Commission in which they accuse one another of anti-competitive behavior.

    While FIBA has failed to establish its own top national-wide league (like the EuroLeague), it still controls what’s arguably the biggest event of all in Europe, the EuroBasket, an international basketball competition that is contested biannually by the senior men’s national teams. Lately, FIBA has been trying to leverage their way into a power position by deciding not to align to the EuroLeague match calendar for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifying windows in November 2017 and February 2018, which led to many EuroLeague players being unable to play for their national teams.

    The current feud reminds me of the long battle between American Football League and the established National Football League in the 60’s and I expect for them to merge at some point in the future as there are currently too many leagues to support the size of the European market.

    The EuroCup

    EuroCup Basketball is the second-tier, European-wide professional basketball club competition that has been organized by EuroLeague Basketball since 2002. The winner of EuroCup each season qualifies for the next edition of the EuroLeague, assuming they do not already qualify through domestic performance.

    Who participates in the EuroCup: Clubs qualify for the competition based on their performance in their domestic leagues competitions except from clubs from the Adriatic League (ABA) which qualify for the competition based on their performance there, and not their domestic leagues.

    Specifically, the current state of the EuroCup includes the following participants:

    3 highest-placed teams from the Adriatic League (ABA)

    3 highest-placed teams from Russia

    3 highest-placed teams from Spain

    2 highest-placed teams from France

    2 highest-placed teams from Germany

    2 highest-placed teams from Italy

    2 highest-placed teams from Turkey

    1 highest-placed team from Greece

    1 highest-placed team from Lithuania

    1 highest-placed team from Poland

    2 finalists from Basketball Champions League

    2 wild cards

    Unfortunately, politics play a major role and some teams often choose to ignore an invitation for the EuroCup and instead play in another European-wide league organized by FIBA and not EuroLeague Basketball. Greece, for example, has repeatedly snubbed the invitation extended to them by EuroLeague in recent years opting for the lesser Basketball Champions League instead.

    League format: The 24 clubs are placed in six groups and begin the regular season with each team playing two games (home-and-away) against every other team in its group. At the end of the regular season, the top 16 teams (two from each group) advance to the next round in four-team groups. The group winners and runners-up then advance to the third phase, the playoffs, with best-of-three series persistently until the Finals that feature the two remaining series winners in a best-of-three series with home advantage belonging to the best-placed team in the Top 16.

    Style of Play: Even though the EuroCup is not as glamorous as the EuroLeague, it still attracts top talent as it’s the safest avenue for teams to advance to the top-tier organization. Unfortunately, the lack of sponsors creates a rather uncompetitive environment as teams who can spend are able to compete for the two tickets that league to the EuroLeague while the rest are just placeholder teams.

    FIBA Basketball Champions League

    The Basketball Champions League (BCL) is an annual professional basketball club competition organized by FIBA.

    Who participates in the BCL: Clubs mainly qualify for the competition based on their performance in their national leagues and cup competitions, but this is not the only deciding factor, as sometimes clubs which did not finish in the highest place also get in. For example, even though AEK Athens won the BCL last year and could have opted for the EuroCup instead, the team decided to remain in the same league.

    A total of 56 teams from 28 countries will participate in the 2018–19 Basketball Champions League with the most prominent ones being:

    Le Mans Sarthe and SIG Strasbourg from France (1st and 3rd respectively in last year’s French LNB Pro A league)

    PAOK and AEK Athens from Greece (3rd and 5th respectively in last year’s Greek Basketball League)

    MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, Brose Bamberg and Telekom Baskets Bonn from Germany (3rd, 4th and 5th respectively in last year’s German Bundesliga) and many more.

    League format: The tournament begins with a regular season of 32 teams, divided into four groups. Teams from the same country may not be drawn into groups together, while each team meets the others in its group in home and away games. The top four teams from each group then progress to the playoffs while the fifth and sixth-place teams enter the FIBA Europe Cup, the next tier league organized by FIBA.

    In the round of 16, the winning team from one group plays against the fourth-place team from another group and the runner-up from one group plays against the third-placed team from another group, while teams from the same country again may not be drawn against each other. For the quarterfinals, the series winners between the winning teams and fourth-place teams play against the series winners between the runners-up and third-place teams. From the quarterfinals onward, the draw is entirely random and is played in a neutral venue with the playoffs being played in a two-legged format, with the exception of the Final Four.

    Style of Play: In 2017, FIBA agreed to adopt eligibility rules, forcing the clubs to have at least five home-grown players in rosters of 11 or 12 players, or at least four, if the team has less players. The point is to try and make this contest a development league on top of the competition level that it offers but this translates to a level of play that is clearly a downgrade compared to the EuroLeague and the EuroCup. Obviously, revenues from the EuroCup and the BCL can’t be compared with the EuroLeague in which 16 teams share 30 or more million euros per season. This leads to the EuroLeague champion receiving more money than all the EuroCup or all the Basketball Champions League teams combined.

    FIBA Europe Cup

    Last but not least, the FIBA Europe Cup is an annual professional basketball club competition organized since 2015 by FIBA for eligible European basketball clubs.

    Who participates in the FIBA Europe Cup: Teams also qualify for the competition based on their performance in their national leagues and cup competitions, although this is not the sole deciding factor and politics again play a major role on who gets in the lesser tournament.

    League format: The 32 teams are drawn into eight groups of four, where a maximum of two clubs from the same country can be in the same group. In each group, teams play against each other home and away games. The group winners and runners-up advance to the second round, while the third and fourth-place teams are eliminated. For the playoffs, the winning team and runner-up from each group joins with the fifth and sixth-place teams dropped from the Basketball Champions League regular season and play in a two-legged format. The Finals are played in either a Final Four tournament format or with a two-legged series.

    Style of Play: This is where the competition level drops significantly as the FIBA Europe Cup attracts lower level clubs who only participate in order to get exposed to a far more competitive league than their own national leagues. Top leagues like Liga ACB from Spain and the Greek Basketball League do not participate in this tournament, showing a lack of interest for the fourth-tier organization in Europe. Still it’s a nice hub for teams trying to develop young talent.

    Thank you for reading this article and please feel free to contact me on Twitter @philysstar if you are looking to learn more about European leagues. Make sure to check us out next week on the second part of this mini feature where I will be ranking the individual national leagues. Stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.

Fantasy News

  • Gorgui Dieng - C - Minnesota Timberwolves

    ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that league sources indicate that the Timberwolves prefer to package Jimmy Butler with Gorgui Dieng and the $48 million he’s owed over the next three years.

    Dieng was routinely pulling in top-60 value in 9-cat before Taj Gibson vame to town so a trade to a better situation might do him some good. We’re sure there will be a lot more updates on the Jimmy Butler situation so stay tuned.

    Source: ESPN

  • Tyler Ulis - G - Golden State Warriors

    The Golden State Warriors have signed Tyler Ulis to an Exhibit 10 deal according to Anthony Slater at The Althletic.

    ESPN’s Marc J. Spears also reported that Ulis chose the Warriors over the Rockets and the Kings. Ulis will get to join the team for training camp and the Exhibit 10 deal offers a little more protection from the Warriors’ end, but it’s hard to see how Ulis will fit in their plans. If he sticks, he won’t have any fantasy value barring an injury, and if he ends up getting waived we’ll have to see if he signs with the Dubbs’ G-League squad or pursues other opportunities.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter

  • Emeka Okafor - C - Philadelphia Sixers

    The Philadelphia Sixers have signed Emeka Okafor to a training camp deal one day before the start of camp.

    Even if the ancient Okafor manages to stick on the roster, he shouldn’t be anything more than a veteran presence.

    Source: Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic - G - Sacramento Kings

    The Sacramento Kings have announced that Bogdan Bogdanovic will have an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee on Monday.

    There was no time-table given but these usually have a recovery of 4-to-6 weeks. There should be an update after the surgery on Monday but it looks like Bogi will miss the beginning of the season. As we previously reported, this is the same left knee that he had surgery on earlier this summer to repair a slight medial meniscus tear. Two surgeries in the span of a few months doesn't sound good and this'll be a big red flag come draft time. It's good news for Buddy Hield however.

    Source: Marc J Spears on Twitter

  • Jimmy Butler - G - Minnesota Timberwolves

    Woj is reporting that despite rebuffs from Minnesota’s front office regarding Jimmy Butler, owner Glen Taylor informed participants of the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting that Butler is indeed available and that they should contact him personally if necessary.

    Wow. It looks like things are escalating behind the scenes with Taylor and Thibodeau issuing opposing directives regarding disgruntled Jimmy Butler. It seems like Butler is close to being moved and Thibs could be next to follow him out the door.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • DeAnthony Melton - G - Phoenix Suns

    The Phoenix Suns have signed newly obtained De’Anthony Melton to a two-year, $2.3 million rookie deal.

    The Suns obtained Melton from the Rockets for Ryan Anderson and Brandon Knight earlier this summer so this signing was always going to happen at some point. With Devin Booker (hand) probably out to start the season and not a whole lot of options to start at point guard, Melton could be a nice surprise. We’ll have to see what the preseason brings.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Adam Silver - Commissioner - Invalid Team

    The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved three changes to the rule book for this season dealing with resetting the shot-clock on an offensive rebound, simplifying the clear path rules and expanding the definition of a “hostile act.”

    The first tweak is that the shot-clock will reset reset to 14 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of the usual 24 seconds. The second change is to the clear-path rule- now, it is defined as a personal foul against any offensive player during his team’s transition scoring opportunity so refs won’t have to determine if the defender was in front of the ball or not, or if the defender beat the offensive player to the frontcourt. The last chance will be expanding the definition of a “hostile act” to allow for additional replay for off-ball or other altercations.

    Source: NBC Sports

  • Markelle Fultz - G - Philadelphia Sixers

    Markelle Fultz denied having the “yips” last season and said his struggles shooting the ball were due to his shoulder injury.

    This is the opposite of what shooting guru Drew Hanlen said over the summer when he asserted that Fultz had the “yips” and “completely forgot how to shoot.” We’re thinking as a young player, Fultz probably wants to protect his ego and maybe his image- despite recent headway made in the NBA dealing with mental health issues, nobody wants to admit to being psychologically ‘soft.’ At this stage it’s rather irrelevant as to why; we just want to see if Fultz can shoot it or not. Preseason games start soon and we’ll have the popcorn ready.

    Source: Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News

  • Jimmy Butler - G - Minnesota Timberwolves

    According to Jon Krawczynski at The Athletic, Jimmy Butler might not show up to training camp if he isn't traded.

    We previously relayed Woj's report that the Wolves were not planning to trade Butler so it looks like both parties are ratcheting up their rhetoric before the season starts. Butler is a notoriously stubborn guy as is coach Thibs so we'll see who wins this head-butting battle. The writing's on the wall for Butler's time in Minnesota, so it's only a matter of when. Tom Thibodeau could be following him out the door as owner Glenn Taylor has been dissatisfied with his old-school tactics.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Carmelo Anthony - F - Houston Rockets

    Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he wants wants Carmelo Anthony on the floor when P.J. Tucker is off, and vice versa because he sees them both as power forwards.

    It was widely assumed that Melo and Tucker would start together but now it appear to not be the case so maybe James Ennis is the starter at the 3. We’ll have to see how his rotation shakes out and if Melo’s staggered minutes coincide with Chris Paul’s. Either way, Melo looks to have a decreased role on offense as James Harden and Chris Paul control the offense.

    Source: Kelly Iko on Twitter