ALBA is back in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with renewed ambition and an interesting project that combines trust in its current stars and a lot of up-and-coming talent, handled by legendary head coach Aito Garcia Reneses. From player development to club structure to increasing connections in different basketball markets - on and off the court, ALBA looks to keep growing and expand its brand far beyond the German borders. ALBA only added three new players - Marcus Eriksson, Tyler Cavanaugh and Makai Mason - to a roster that reached the EuroCup Finals last season. The club re-signed its three main players: EuroCup MVP Luke Sikma, EuroCup Quarterfinals and Semifinals MVP Peyton Siva, and All-EuroCup forward Rokas Giedraitis. At age 30, Sikma will be ALBA's oldest player. Expect the team to hustle, run the floor and play attractive basketball.
Like last season, Siva will be Coach Garcia Reneses's floor general. A pass-first playmaker who likes to keep everyone involved, Siva is also a deadly shooter with unlimited range and very reliable in crunch time. After showcasing his skills in the EuroCup for three seasons, Siva is ready to compete against the best point guards in Europe. Stefan Peno, a young veteran at age 22, is Siva’s back-up. Peno is very creative and slowly, but steadily, has gained the confidence and stability required to be a reliable playmaker at both ends. Up-and-coming talent Jonas Mattisseck did well when given playing time last season and gives Aito more flexibility at point guard. Mason, Eriksson and Martin Herrmannsson will split minutes at shooting guard. Mason is a good three-point shooter who will start his professional career with ALBA. He will not hesitate to pull the trigger from downtown, just like Eriksson, one of the best catch-and-shoot scorers in Europe. His quick release and off-the-screen shooting skills make him a threat from all distances. Hermannsson is an interesting combo guard with good driving skills, shooting range and determination, the kind of player who always adds positive things. Physical swingman Kenneth Ogbe will see playing time in ALBA's run-and-gun system, too.
Rokas Giedraitis will see most of the minutes at small forward, with Niels Giffey, Eriksson and Ogbe offer a helping hand when needed. Giedraitis is a great all-around scorer, a fast, modern small forward with good athleticism and a winning mentality. Giffey is ALBA's glue guy, a player able to take care of many small details. He brings defense, intensity and commitment that cannot be seen in the stats. Giffey will play a big role, on and off the court, in his sixth season with the club. Just like last season, Sikma will be the team's leader; he is a versatile, all-around power forward who can pull the trigger from downtown, use his post moves to get easy points in the paint, play hard defense, crash the boards and keep everyone involved with his team-oriented game and positivity. Stretch power forward Tim Schneider and physical big man Johannes Thiemann will also have important roles in the frontcourt. Cavanaugh is an interesting addition. He is a solid rebounder with good shooting range. Landry Nnoko is back to power the boards, while intriguing prospect Kresimir Nikic will try to earn his playing time and if he proves worthy, Coach Garcia Reneses will not hesitate to put him on the court.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Peyton Siva has done nothing but improve, year after year, since he arrived in Berlin. Undersized at 1.82 meters, Siva has never been afraid of any challenge and is used to big responsibilities since his college days, when he led the University of Louisville to the 2013 NCAA Tournament championship as the team's starting playmaker. Last season, however, was Siva's best and not even two different injuries prevented him from posting great numbers in all competitions. Siva averaged 15.2 points on 50.6% three-point shooting and 7.9 assists in 14 EuroCup games and was particularly lethal in the quarterfinals against Unicaja Malaga (13.3 ppg., 8 apg.) and the semifinals against MoraBanc Andorra (19.5 ppg., 58.3% 3FG, 6 apg.). He showed his clutch skills in the finals when his driving layup took Game 2 to overtime and eventually allowed ALBA to tie the series. Siva is at the prime of his career, has his coach's full trust and a system that fits his playing style perfectly. This season is his chance to show if he is one of the best point guards in Europe.
ALBA makes up for its lack of EuroLeague experience with a returning core of players who have been together for several seasons. As always, Coach Garcia Reneses will be focused on his team playing the right way in the hope that it will be enough to be competitive at this level. ALBA has not been to the EuroLeague since the 2014-15 season, so it will play the competition for the first time under the new format with more games and even more intensity. Putting together a deep roster with a lot of fresh legs is a great move by the club, but it will need its three main players to step up. Siva, Sikma and Giedraitis combine for exactly zero EuroLeague games before this season and ALBA needs to turn that situation into a positive challenge. The talent, depth, fan base and willingness to play attractive basketball is there and, as with all newcomers, ALBA must be extremely hard to beat at home if it wants to compete for a EuroLeague Playoff spot. One thing is for certain: the mix of coaching expertise and young talent has worked well over the years and not just in Berlin. Underestimating ALBA would be a foolish thing to do.