After ending a two-year playoff drought last season, Barcelona seems determined to go at least one step further this time around. To do so, Barcelona reloaded and did not skimp. In the backcourt, former All-EuroLeague First Team guard Malcolm Delaney and two-time EuroLeague champion Cory Higgins bring talent, experience and explosive scoring; Delaney was second in the league in scoring when he last played in the EuroLeague, 2015-16, and Higgins was the league’s second-best scorer last season with CSKA Moscow. The club also brought back former EuroLeague Rising Star Alex Abrines, who spent the last three seasons in the NBA and is now ready to take on an even more prominent role than when he left. But that's not all, because Barcelona also signed a pair of star big men in Brandon Davies, a member of the All-EuroLeague First Team last season, and Nikola Mirotic in what was arguably the biggest signing in the offseason. Mirotic arrives directly from the NBA to become a focal point on a team that was his archrival when he played for Real Madrid.
The first thing that arose from the Barcelona's backcourt over the summer was the bad news from France when starting point guard Thomas Heurtel suffered a knee injury that will keep him sidelined for much of the regular season. Heurtel was one of the team's biggest contributors last season, but Barcelona did not stand pat and picked up Malcolm Delaney, who led Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar's historic Final Four run - including a five-game playoff series victory over Barcelona - in 2016. Delaney is not the only former All-EuroLeague point guard on the roster; Kevin Pangos led Zalgiris Kaunas to the Final Four two years ago before joining Barcelona last season. This new campaign should see him rise to a leadership spot within the team. Pau Ribas, who won the Basketball World Cup with the Spanish national team earlier this month, started 11 games for Barcelona last season and has experience and knowledge of the team in the hardest moments. Higgins comes off a stellar season with CSKA with 14.9 points to lead the team to the EuroLeague title. If he adapts to his new city fast, Barcelona will be a title candidate from the get-go. Abrines is also expected to be one of the main players on a star-studded roster. He had a secondary role with Juan Carlos Navarro in the team, but since the legend retired, Abrines will have now a major opportunity to show that he can be the floor leader that Barcelona needs. Former EuroLeague Best Defender Adam Hanga will provide his usual intensity and experience on both ends of the court and he will team up on the wings with Kyle Kuric and his fearsome accuracy from long range, forming a versatile duo that completes an extraordinary perimeter rotation.
The Barcelona frontcourt does not take a backseat under any circumstances. Davies arrives from Zalgiris eager to show why he is considered to be one the best centers in the EuroLeague; last season he averaged 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds to earn his maiden All-EuroLeague trophy. He will be joined by Mirotic, who arrives from the NBA with all eyes on him. His signing shocked the market and now Barcelona fans will expect him to bring his talent to full potential with his new team. Mirotic will re-unite in the paint with his former Real teammate Ante Tomic, who has become a staple in Barcelona. They form a fearsome tandem in the paint, which will only be even more deadly with Davies. Pierre Oriola and Victor Claver, who joined Ribas on the World-Cup-winning side, are players who have gelled perfectly with the team, the club, the city and the fans. Finally, Rolands Smits and big man Artem Pustovyi will be at the end of a deep and talented roster to contribute their respective talents when needed, just confirming that Barcelona's roster for 2019-20 is as strong as ever.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Barcelona will enjoy many stars in its roster this season, but it cannot be denied that all eyes will be on Nikola Mirotic from the first round. Mirotic was the EuroLeague Rising Star in back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012 and a member of the All-EuroLeague Second Team in 2013 and 2014, all with Real Madrid. He was one of the biggest talents ever raised in Los Blancos' youth system and he made his move to the NBA in 2014. In that competition, he played with Chicago, New Orleans and Milwaukee before Barcelona made a splash in the market when it announced his addition to the team after five seasons in the States. Now, Mirotic returns to the EuroLeague with an aura of megastar that he will have to prove from the very beginning. Barcelona fans are demanding and they will surely be pleased to have a former Real player for in their ranks, but they will also make it clear if they do not approve of what they see on the court. Mirotic has proven his talent time and again and his basketball abilities are unquestioned, but he's probably under the biggest scrutiny of his career, so that will be a new situation that he will have to deal with.
It's obvious that, after returning to the playoffs last season, Barcelona wants to go all the way this season and to do that, the Catalan club put together a roster that could be considered one of the most intimidating ever in the league. Indeed, there have not been many new signings, but the ones who have arrived are big and Coach Svetislav Pesic will have to find a way to find the balance that makes the team click from the very beginning. If this Barcelona team runs smoothly from the first rounds, expect to see a title candidate out of the gate. Last season was a step in the right direction and now everyone in Barcelona has two words in mind: Final Four. However, the road to the event is longer and harder than ever, so Barcelona will be wise to take it round by round, especially with the new players coming together.