An incredible race in which seven playoff spots will be decided over the last 10% of 306 regular-season games makes for some difficult choices when it comes to managing a EuroLeague FabFive Challenge team, especially if yours is in the running for end-of-season prizes.
Incentivized playoffs-chaser or nothing-to-lose gunslinger? That is the question.
You have eliminated teams with nothing to lose playing each other in games that might not be as defensive-minded as usual. And you have the opposite, playoff aspirants who will be motivated to the max to lift their teams into the next phase. You also have the issue of a double-round week and teams looking to balance minutes for major players, although the first games for most teams are so crucial that it will likely be less of a calculation this week.
The take here is that even though we are already seeing the kind of playoffs-level defense that is hard to find in any elite league in the world, motivated scoring will win the day. As such, we are choosing five players for Round 32 whose teams are fighting to make the playoffs. In three of those cases, they are playing against de-incentivized teams that have been eliminated, which might make for some extra late-game scoring of the playoff-chasing team gets ahead.
Without further ado, here are some recommendations for choosing your FabFive Challenge team in the thick of this EuroLeague playoffs race:
Range 1 (0 to 3.99) – Tadas Sedekerskis of TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz has started much of the season but had three career highs, including 28 minutes played, in Round 21’s crucial win over AX Armani Exchange Milan. With his non-stop motor and with center Tonye Jekiri out long-term, Sedekerskis stands to keep seeing big minutes and opportunities, starting with a visit to Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Tuesday
Range 2 (4 to 7.99) – Fabien Causeur of Real Madrid had his highest-scoring game this season against Efes, 15 points in 16 minutes of a road win in Istanbul. Anadolu Efes Istanbul will certainly try to pile on points against scoring-challenged Real on Tuesday in the Spanish capital and someone will have to respond for the hosts. A veteran big-game player like Causeur should be a big part of that effort.
Range 3 (8 to 11.99) – Zalgiris’s late-game collapse against Maccabi negated a career-high 24 points for Nigel Hayes. Now on the brink of elimination, he and his teammates have no choice but to go down swinging when ALBA visits Kaunas. Hayes had his third-best scoring game ever, 18 points, against ALBA in Berlin as recently as December 29. Expect him to be primed to face the league’s second-most permissive defense (82.8 ppg. against) once again.
Range 4 (12 to 14.99) – With the team suspension of the EuroLeague’s leading scorer, Mike James, someone will have to pick up the slack for CSKA Moscow, and Toko Shengelia is a top candidate for that. He has averaged 16 points over four games even with James in the lineup. Zenit St Petersburg has the third-ranked points-against defense, but Shengelia is relentless, especially with a goal in sight like passage to the playoffs and home-court advantage after that.
Range 5 (15.0 or higher) – But what a player is doubly incentivized? Such is the case with Kevin Punter of AX Armani Exchange Milan, which needs to win just like all other top contenders in this crazy race, but who also is playing against his old team, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade. Punter is one of just eight players to score 27 points or more at least once this season. He is due for another heavy-lifting night of scoring and Milan can sure use it, too.
Make sure to follow every game of this remarkable playoffs race to enjoy the EuroLeague FabFive Challenge to the fullest!