Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar did not advance past the 2019-20 7DAYS EuroCup Regular Season, which was one of the most unexpected results in the competition last season. The Russian powerhouse has made sure to put another competitive roster to bounce back right away, led by two-time EuroCup winning coach Evgeny Pashutin. Lokomotiv brought in two new players expected to play major roles and promoted a Russian prospect ready to compete hard for valuable playing time. Shooting guard Jordan Crawford and shot-blocking machine Reggie Lynch are set to be two of Lokomotiv's leaders this season. Vladislav Emchenko has been promoted from the club's second team. Lokomotiv otherwise decided to rely on the core of players that ranked third in the VTB United League regular season before the competition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No other team will be more motivated to do well right away. Expect Lokomotiv to be tough from Day One.
Mantas Kalnietis and Will Cummings are expected to continue sharing the point guard duties. Kalnietis is an experienced playmaker with a high basketball IQ. At age 34, Kalnietis may have lost some explosiveness, but he has gained court sense and improved his passing skills and shooting percentages. Cummings is another reliable option at point guard. He's a great ballhandler and on-the-ball defender and uses his speed to be dangerous in transition. Both of them have won the EuroCup in the past and know what it takes to be successful at this level. Crawford is an excellent one-on-one scorer due to his off-the-dribble skills and quick first step. He has been a top-class scorer everywhere he has played, including the NBA (12.2 ppg in 281 career games). Grigory Motovilov is a combo guard looking to earn more playing time this season, just like Emchenko, a good defensive player able to help in many ways.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Johnny O'Bryant are set to see most of the playing time at the forward spots. Kuzminskas is a nightmare matchup at small forward due to his rare combination of size, mobility, athleticism and coordination. At age 30, Kuzminskas is at the prime of his career and ready to prove it. O'Bryant is a modern power forward with unlimited shooting range, great athleticism, rebounding skills and determination. Stanislav Ilnitskiy is a versatile forward and an intense defender ready to help off the bench. He is an effective scorer, too. Alan Williams is Lokomotiv's first choice at center. He led the EuroCup Regular Season in rebounding (9.1 rpg.) and can be expected to keep crashing the boards and remain effective in the paint. Lynch is an outstanding shot-blocker with great timing and huge upside. He can change any game with his defense. Valeriy Kalinov gives Coach Pashutin another option at center in case of foul trouble.
PLAYER TO WATCH
In his second season in Krasnodar, it is time for Kuzminskas to fulfill his potential and prove he is one of the best players in European basketball. He has worked hard to try to make the most of being a natural mismatch, going to the low post when guarded by a small player and attacking the basket against nigger opponents. Consistency was always an issue, but Kuzminskas found it in Krasnodar and is expected to play a leading role in this team. He scored in double digits in 13 of his 14 VTB United League games with Lokomotiv last season, averaging 14.7 points on excellent shooting percentages (40.4% 3FG, 88.7% FT) and a performance index rating of 14.9. Experienced and ready, he has found his signature shot - the corner three-pointer - and keeps showcasing all the great skills that allowed him to play for some of the best teams in Europe. Keep an eye on him, as he is ready to take Lokomotiv deep in the EuroCup this season.
Lokomotiv is on a mission in the 2020-21 season to bring the team back to its usual standards. With a pair of experienced playmakers, a great scorer, two versatile forwards like no others in the competition, two rock-solid rebounders and shot blockers around the basket, and a head coach who has been on the podium before - Pashutin won the EuroCup with UNICS Kazan in 2011 and Lokomotiv in 2013, Lokomotiv should have a successful season and fight for its second crown in the competition. What happened last season should be seen as an aberration, as the team performed well after that. Still, its recent experience will make Lokomotiv more cautious, taking one game at a time. If Lokomotiv can take last season's experience as a lesson learned, the sky is the limit for Coach Pashutin's team.