By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
One year ago Eurohoops has posted its European domestic leagues ranking, a piece considered controversial by some – specially because of a translation mistake in Lithuania about growth prospects – but also an accurate portrayal of the European landscape.
The general aspects of every league didn’t changed much after a year, however we have to give credit to VTB league credit for making big steps forward and also report about the crisis that proves to be an opportunity in Greece. Keeping in mind the criteria presented last year – not just talent, but also organization, financial resources and fan interest – here’s this season’s Eurohoops ranking and the explanation behind it.
1. Spain – Liga Endesa (-)
2. Germany – Beko BBL (-)
3. Turkey – TBL (-)
4. VTB United league (+2)
5. France – ProA (-1)
6. Italy – Legabasket (-1)
7. Greece – Heba (+2)
8. Adriatic league – ABA (-1)
9. Lithuania – LKL (-1)
10. Israel – Lotto League (-)
Despite its problems, that have to do mainly with the financial crisis – and threatened even the presentation of the new season with a workers protest – Spain still has the best domestic league in Europe. Real Madrid and Barcelona are still among the top five teams in the old continent, we expect an even better Unicaja, Valencia is strong, but there are some cracks in the image of the league, as Bilbao has taken some serious steps back and Valliadolid was facing until recently grace financial trouble.
The most rapidly growing league in Europe is getting more and more into the spotlight and Bayern Munich is a big factor for this occurrence. Like it or not, big clubs with legendary football teams can be the driving force into creating buzz and general public interest for a basketball league. It was proven in Turkey, Spain and Greece and the rumors about other football clubs in Germany considering creating ambitious basketball projects is good news. Add to that modern arenas, investment into youth programs and top notch marketing.
Basketball in Turkey is buzzing, Fenerbahce/ Ulker is leading the revolution and the league is expected to be stronger than ever at least in the battle for the top. Even in the cases where money is spend more carefully, like in Anadolu Efes after letting go on the summer stars Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic, there is know how about creating a strong unit. Add to that tremendous fan interest and you can understand why the future seems bright for that league
VTB United league
Last year we ranked the Russian PBL, but VTB is now considered the “main” league for most countries of the former USSR and the PBL games in most cases are glorified practices for the top teams. VTB – despite losing Zalgiris Kaunas – has some of the strongest clubs in Europe in its ranks, has a lot of money to spend and that’s why it jumped two position up in the ranking. However in comparison to the other top leagues in Europe, VTB has by far the worst fan attendance and public interest. Many games are played in half empty gyms and even CSKA Moscow can’t be proud about its limited fan base.
A really balanced and financially transparent league will be benefited by the triumph of the French national team in the recent Eurobasket. The fact that a team like Nanterre got the title proves that anyone can dream big in France and the talent pool of young players is always intriguing even for NBA franchises. What is missing and can help the league get even better? Well, if PSG wants to create a basketball section, then we can see also in France the “Bayern” effect.
The heart of the champion – and Bobby Brown – proved that was enough for Siena some months ago, however this year the Italian league lost many of its stars who got bigger contracts elsewhere, half of Siena is now wearing EA7 Armani colors and miracle teams like Varese, Sassari, Cantu and Roma will have a hard time keeping their competitiveness level. That been said, despite the country’s economic difficulties which are affecting also the clubs, the level of the league is still high and can be considered equal to France’s more financially stable LNB.
The Greek league has two great teams, champion Panathinaikos and Euroleague champion Olympiacos, a good one in Panionios and a lot of clubs that are trying to get things in order. The good news is that their effort is having some results. PAOK will try to show this in Eurocup, Rethymnon and Apollon Patron are point of references in the league outside Athens and Thesaloniki, while Aris is trying to resurrect its past glories by investing into young players. It’s the crisis effect, but more and more teams are investing to local talent. Add to this a new TV rights deal that gave some financial breathing room and that’s what we can call progress and a two places climbing.
The Adriatic league is still a work in progress, Serbian teams seem to dominate it, while Slovenia is getting a back seat and Croatia has its own financial woes. Like VTB league and Euroleague, this regional league will be implemeting in the upcoming season the new FIBA rules, still the fact that traditional powers’ – like Split, Zadar or even Cibona – main concern is their economic troubles is not good news. That doesn’t mean that Adriatic league is not a competitive tournament where surprise teams can emerge like last season’s Igokea.
Basically a two teams league with no one being able to really challenge Zalgiris Kaunas and Lietuvos Rytas. That’s the case in other countries, like in Greece, but the level of the rest of the competition is at least mediocre, the talent pool is not that big, since top Lithuanian players get shipped at early age to Europe or the NBA and what is ultimately left is the passion of the country about basketball and the finals.
Don’t get fooled by last season’s Maccabi Haifa triumph (which lost its star Gal Mekel to Dallas Mavericks). Maccabi Tel Aviv is still the team to beat and the fact that Amare Stoudemire and tech entrepreneur Ori Allon are investing in Hapoel Jerusalem can’t change the establishment easily. It’s an American friendly league, but local talent is at best mediocre and the only interest is if someone can challenge Maccabi Tel Aviv in the final.