We come off a sensational week in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague as Round 17 brought a lot of excitement with a lot of thrilling games. Anadolu Efes Istanbul and Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade were the first teams to play. Vasilije Micic scored 10 points in the final 2 minutes to lead Efes past Zvezda, 84-83. It was just the beginning of a great round of games that ended with an instant classic between FC Barcelona and UNICS Kazan. Barcelona rallied from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat UNICS 111-109 in overtime. An injury-plagued Real Madrid defeated CSKA Moscow in the Spanish capital; Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz played without three starters against FC Bayern Munich, but won anyway behind an inspired Wade Baldwin IV; and LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne edged Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul 84-82. Zenit St Petersburg beat Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv on a go-ahead triple by Billy Baron, Olympiacos Piraeus took the Greek Derby with great authority, and ALBA Berlin won at home.
That game between ASVEL and Fenerbahce was a tough one for the Turkish powerhouse, which lost Nando De Colo and Jan Vesely during the game due to injuries. Both De Colo and Vesely are sidelined long-term and I had both of them in my EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge lineup. Everybody else had good contributions: Nikola Mirotic of FC Barcelona was an excellent team captain, his teammate Rolands Smits delivered just as I thought he would, and I ended up scoring 151.55 fantasy points. That means I more or less kept my spot in the rankings, 326th overall. I am 10th in Spain and second in the Zenit St Petersburg league. Why did I choose Zenit, you may ask? When you register, you are forced to choose one team, and I picked Zenit because I had just come back from working with the team during Media Day.
As you probably know, four Round 18 games, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne vs. FC Bayern Munich, Olympiacos Piraeus vs. CSKA Moscow, AX Armani Exchange Milan vs. ALBA and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul vs. Real Madrid, have been postponed. Players from those postponed games remain eligible in Fantasy Challenge for this round – including those who are injured – and will receive their average score of the season so far. That also generates some opportunities in the market, such as Walter Tavares and Urban Klavzar of Real Madrid and ALBA Berlin’s Christ Koumadje. Tavares has an average score of 21.3, which is great for a center. Klavzar only played one game and therefore has a scoring average of 7.7 at just 4.1 credits. Koumadje is worth 10.05 points at a price of 4.9 credits. You can play it safe and go for these players, but I will try not to do that: I will take my chances with players who should be on the court in Round 18 – with one exception. To make my roster work, I am keeping Olympiacos Piraeus forward Sasha Vezenkov and his average of 17.84 points. For my three allowed trades, obviously, De Colo and Vesely have to go, being injured. The third one is Ognjen Jaramaz of Bayern because he won’t play and his average score (2.0) is very low.
I am also keeping my head coach from Xavi Pascual of Zenit, since there are not many options available. Zenit faces Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in the Serbian capital, but I think the Russian powerhouse should be very competitive. I am buying Georgios Papagiannis of Panathinaikos because I like his chances against Zalgiris Kaunas. I expect a low-scoring game, with a lot of rebounds, and Papagiannis should get a lot of those. I am also buying Mike James of AS Monaco because his team plays at home against Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv. He usually plays well against Maccabi. Finally, I am adding Austin Hollins of Zvezda, who plays against Zenit, his former team. That extra motivation should allow him to get good numbers, especially if Ognjen Dobric remains sidelined.
So without further ado, here is my Round 18 lineup, hopefully with all the players on the court.
Mike James, AS Monaco (15.3 credits) – James has been playing better lately, getting a PIR of 31 in each of his team’s last two games. I made him team captain because he plays on Wednesday.
Nicolas Laprovittola, FC Barcelona (9.7 credits) – ‘Lapro’ is averaging a PIR of 17.0 in December. Nick Calathes should be back soon but until then, Laprovittola will be on my team.
Sasha Vezenkov, Olympiacos Piraeus (13.0 credits) – Vezenkov stays even without a game to play. I will take his average of 17.84 points and move on happily.
Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona (17.8 credits) – His team is on a nine-game winning streak and Mirotic is delivering night in, night out. Unless James has a monster game, Mirotic is my go-to guy.
Georgios Papagiannis, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens (12.4 credits) – Not many top centers are available. I picked Papagiannis because of his size advantage against Zalgiris. Expecting a big game from him.
Nemanja Nedovic, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens (9.9 credits) – Nedovic is finding his rhythm and playing better and better lately. It is only a matter of time before he has a huge performance.
Leonidas Kaselakis, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens (4.5 credits) – Despite Panathinaikos’s loss in the Greek Derby, Kaselakis played well, finishing that game with a PIR of 7. One more week for him.
Marek Blazevic, Zalgiris Kaunas (4.5 credits) – Blazevic remains my main option as the backup center, at least until Koumadje returns. Not this week, however, as Blazevic stays.
Rolands Smits, FC Barcelona (6.1 credits) – Nigel Hayes-Davis is back, but Pierre Oriola is sidelined. Smits can play anywhere from small forward to center, so I expect him to keep doing well.
Austin Hollins, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (5.9 credits) – Hollins has started in his team’s last two games, but didn’t play well. He should step up against Zenit, his former team.
That’s all I have for Round 18. Wishing all the best to you, EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge managers, in 2022! Don’t forget that we still have a thrilling round of games in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague to finish 2021 in style, so make the most of it by doing your best in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge. Good luck!