I come off another good week in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge, which would have been a very mediocre one if it weren’t for my right choice of captain. Shane Larkin of Anadolu Efes had a performance index rating of 53, which was the highest PIR in the EuroLeague since late 2004. Efes beat FC Bayern Munich, so make it 58.3 fantasy points! If you had the luck to have Larkin as team captain, that was good for 116.6 fantasy points, a record for any player.
And guess who had Larkin as team captain? Yes, I did! I had a player with a PIR of -1 (Alex Renfroe of Zenit St Petersburg) and another with a PIR of 0 (Paul Zipser of Bayern), but still managed to amass 203.3 points, good enough to rank 3,744th in Round 11 and climb to the 6,300th place in the standings. I am in my best Fantasy Challenge moment so far this season, making money, getting points and I still have with 23 regular season rounds ahead of me. But there are always ways to improve your team and that is what I will try to do in Round 12.
So I have to make the most out of my three trades available, with some surprising moves. First and foremost, I am selling Nikola Milutinov of Olympiacos Piraeus, who had a fantasy score of 33 last week. “Why?!?!?” I hear you ask. Well, I expect the game between Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and Olympiacos, the first Greek derby of the season, a very highly anticipated showdown to be a low-scoring, physical battle between two Turkish Airlines EuroLeague giants. I don’t expect any player in that game to have a monster performance, so Milutinov is leaving my team. I need to trade Zipser to make money for the player I want to buy to replace Milutinov. Selling him and Martin Hermannsson of ALBA Berlin gives me enough money to execute my plan before Round 12.
So, I need three new players. I truly believe that Zenit St Petersburg will win its first home game of the season and therefore, not only am I keeping Renfroe, but also signing center Gustavo Ayon – a two-time EuroLeague champion – for less than 2 million. Its opponent, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, heavily relies on Tonye Jekiri, and Ayon is in good shape and has enough experience to win this battle under the baskets. I am buying Pierria Henry of KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz only because the team’s other point guard, Luca Vildoza, is questionable. Jayson Granger will be sidelined for several months, too, so Henry will probably play close to 30 minutes against Efes. And he always does a little bit of everything to bring his PIR to decent numbers. Last but not least, I am buying Gabriel Deck of Real Madrid, who has been terrific in the last couple of weeks and plays against a team he knows well, Valencia Basket. His versatility and all-around game allow him to collect a good PIR in many different ways.
I think it looks good and I have not made many mistakes lately. Needless to say, Larkin stays as team captain. Gancedato looks like this before Round 12:
Facu Campazzo, Real Madrid (PG) – Sergio Llull may remain sidelined, but Real is deep at the point guard position. Campazzo will keep leading his team from the point guard spot. A must-have player right now.
Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul (SG) – Comes off a truly historic performance, one for the ages, and returns to Vitoria-Gasteiz to face his former team in an arena where he lost the EuroLeague championship game. Motivation? Oh, yes.
Gabriel Deck, Real Madrid (SF) – In the last two games, Deck has averaged 16.0 points and 9.5 rebounds, playing in the low post, facing the basket, powering the boards and being truly effective at both ends.
Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona (PF) – It is a good week for Mirotic; he must step up after his team’s 29-point loss against CSKA and Khimki plays a fast-paced brand of basketball that suits him well. Recommended.
Gustavo Ayon, Zenit St Petersburg (C) – Comes off a double-double against his former team, Real. Zenit is deep need of its first-ever EuroLeague home win and Ayon wants to make it happen. Right here, right now.
Alex Renfroe, Zenit St Petersburg (G) – Yes, he comes off an underwhelming game against Real, but I believe in Renfroe thanks to his deep shooting range, many assists and incredible ability to power the boards. Two Zenit players? It is risky.
Shavon Shields, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz (F) – I still think that without Patito Garino, Shields will see more responsibilities. He will have to show a lot of character against first-placed Efes.
Pierria Henry, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz (U) – Baskonia may be without Vildoza, which means Henry will see all the playing time in the world at point guard – and then some. He’s on a one-week trial, of course.
That’s all I have this week. Keep an eye on the Greek derby for extra fun but don’t forget there are eight more EuroLeague games and something special can happen in any of them. Good luck in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge!