The EuroLeague has returned with a bunch of crazy storylines from humiliating blowout in Round 1 (ASVEL -21, Anadolu Efes -16, Partizan Belgrade -15) to some exciting debuts, and BIG Magazine is back to nominate some of the talented hoopers we believe can have a breakout campaign.
Antonius Cleveland (Forward, Maccabi Tel Aviv): Cleveland is a relatively older EuroLeague rookie at 29 years of age, but he’s already bounced around between the NBA and Australia, and made his Euro-debut late last season joining Hapoel Eilat in the domestic Israeli League. Cleveland won’t be Maccabi’s top scorer, but he’s by far one of the more important, athletic, electric, and versatile players all around, and a big contender for Defensive Player of the Year after winning the award in Australia last season. He logged 4 points, 4 assists and 2 steals in his EuroLeague debut for Maccabi.
Shabazz Naiper (Guard, Red Star Belgrade): Naiper already played for Zenit St. Petersburg in the EuroLeague for a brief moment before he got injured. Late last season he joined EA7 Milano late in the season and rescued Ettore Messina. Naiper will be in Belgrade this season and he’s bound to become one of the better, higher averaging scoring guards in the league. He logged a game-high 21 points, shooting 66-62-100 percentages in a huge win over ASVEL.
Yam Madar (Point Guard, Fenerbahce): The reigning EuroLeague Rising Star is destined to make another huge step forward in his career. Madar, a 2020, 2nd Round NBA Draft Pick by the Boston Celtics, transferred from Serbia to Turkey this offseason. Madar was comfortable bolting to Fenerbahce because of his familiarity with Fener Assistant Coach Stefanos Dedas, who coached against the Israeli PG while serving as chief tactician of Hapoel Holon. In fact, Madar was Dedas’ 1st target to recruit the following offseason, but the deal couldn’t be materialized. Madar started the season smoking hot, setting a career-high 12 assists in the Turkish League, and he beat Scottie Wilbekin in a 3-Point Shootout during the annual media day. Madar is a better defender than both Wilbekin and Nick Calathes, and has more upside than both vet guards. If he leads the Turks back to the Final Four, it’s likely this could be his last season on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Jabari Parker (Forward, Barcelona): The former TOP NBA Lottery Pick is making his first steps outside the US. Parker lost his place in the NBA due to injuries and not living up to the potential/hype that came with him being a high draftee. Parker played almost a handful of Spanish ACB games, and while his numbers aren’t off the charts, he’s connecting on 50% 3-pointers, and logging almost 10 PPG. Parker has a learning curve to overcome, but has the potential and role to erupt and make a lot of noise in the EuroLeague. Parker made his EuroLeague debut against a tough, skilled, talented and deep opponent in Anadolu Efes, and showed promise contributing 10 points over 17 minutes, shooting 4-5 from 2-point range, alongside 3 rebounds.
Carsen Edwards (PG, Bayern Munich): Despite experiencing a terrible start to the German BBL season both individually and as a team, losing to EWE Oldenburg; Edwards has the abilities and motivation to lead the entire EuroLeague in scoring. He kicked off the Bundesliga campaign off real slow with 1-9 (11%) from beyond the arc, and 2-9 from within for a total of 3-18 over 35 minutes. Call it a learning curve if you’d like, because Edwards is a baller, and he’s going to be very exciting to watch. Fener last season had him on a leash and didn’t let him rock out because it was Scottie Wilbekin’s team. But in Munich, let’s see what Edwards does when he’s THE MAN running the show.
Ignas Brazdeikis (Forward, Olympiacos): Sasha Vezenkov OUT. Ignas Brazdeikis IN. Olympiacos might’ve lost the EuroLeague MVP and the glue-guy to their puzzle, but Ignas has the potential and talent to mold himself into the next best forward in the EuroLeague. He can shoot (52% 3s in the World Cup), although not consistent enough (29% in LKL and 31% in the EuroLeague last season); he is ultra-strong, he’s athletic, and he’s skilled. Ignas has to step up with his decision making and crash the boards more aggressively. He’s not a big creator either, but clearly being on three different NBA teams indicates that all the tools are there. Mentally, if he flips the switch and makes the step up, he can bump up his 2022-23 averages from 11.6 PPG to 15 PPG, and bring Olympiacos back to the Final Four.