Dominion Bilbao Basket had a busy off-season, changing six players and finding a new coach in Carles Duran, who reached the 7DAYS EuroCup quarterfinals with Valencia Basket in the 2014-15 season. Indeed, Bilbao added new players at all positions. It has fully renovated its backcourt with solid signings such as playmaker Jonathan Tabu, club legend Javi Salgado, swingman Miha Lapornik - all three with previous EuroCup experience - and scoring ace Scott Bamforth, who is. set to make his debut in the competition. Bilbao signed rock-solid center Micheal Eric as its new reference in the paint, but also brought in a couple of up-and-coming big men, Ivan Buva and Danilo Nikolic. Always competitive in the EuroCup, expect Bilbao to live up to its high standards.
Bilbao features two very different point guards, but Tabu is set to start and be its floor general. Right at the prime of his career, Tabu is an athletic playmaker with a high basketball IQ and great intensity at both ends. Salgado returns to Bilbao after six seasons elsewhere after he helped the team reach the EuroCup semifinals in 2009 and 2010. A great ballhandler and passer, very reliable in crunch time, Salgado is never afraid to take the last shot. Bamforth is set to provide the fireworks from downtown as the great scorer he is. Lapornik is also a relentless scorer with great aggressiveness who will perfectly complement Dejan Todorovic and Tobias Borg at both wings. Borg is a hard-nosed defender while Todorovic offers explosiveness and intensity off the bench.
The club may have made some changes, but its leaders remain the same: Alex Mumbru and Axel Hervelle. Both won the EuroCup with Real Madrid in 2007, are entering their eighth seasons in Bilbao. Mumbru is a versatile forward who seems to improve his level every season. He uses his extremely high basketball IQ, ballhandling and post skills to beat his opponents in one-on-one situations and is always there to provide leadership and know-how. Hervelle is a great rebounder who can pull the trigger from downtown and is never short on intensity or aggressiveness. Eric can also clean the boards, block shots and intimidate on defense, plus he's effective offensively. Buva signed a three-year deal and hopes to return that confidence by becoming a big threat in the low post. Expect him to use his post skills and determination to dominate the paint. Nikolic offers versatility and deep range, giving Coach Duran a little bit of everything.
PLAYER TO WATCH
After earning a solid reputation as a team player and relentless worker, it is time for Bamforth to showcase his skills in the EuroCup. Above all, Bamforth is a solid scorer, both coming off screens and creating his own shot. A surprisingly good rebounder for a player his size and weight, Bamforth is a silent leader, extremely coachable, who will not be afraid to get the ball and take big shots in crunch time. At age 27, Bamforth is right at the prime of his career and ready to prove his value in his biggest challenge ever, namely being able to shine in a highly-demanding competition such as the EuroCup.
Bilbao has been extremely strong at home in EuroCup action throughout the years. Indeed, Bilbao has won 28 of its 37 home games and will need that kind of strength at Bilbao Arena in order to be successful again. Bilbao plays four of its first six games in front of its fans, which could give the team a cushion when tougher times come. Three of its last four games will be on the road against well-known, powerful teams such as ALBA Berlin, Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius and Khimki Moscow Region. If Bilbao does its homework, the pressure will not be on in those final, decisive games.