By Lefteris Moutis / firstname.lastname@example.org
Fenerbahce is the team with the best record in the Euroleague this season and Jan Vesely’s injury came at the worst possible moment. Will it affect them on their way to Berlin? Eurohoops.net answers the debate.
The participation of Zeljko Obradovic’s team in last year’s Final Four in Madrid was the first in the history of the club, but revealed what would follow if they continued to walk on the same paths.
This season has been developing ideally for Fenerbahce, since three weeks before the end of the Top 16 they have the best record in wins (18-3), they’ve secured their participation in the playoffs from early on, and last week they secured the home court advantage mathematically as well.
The story was unfolding according to the scenario that Zeljko Obradovic had drawn up since the summer, but Jan Vesely’s injury, which will keep him out of the action for the next six weeks, changes everything for Fenerbahce. Will the team manage to overcome this and qualify for the Final Four without the Czech?
Fenerbahce will not manage to overcome his absence
If we take a cold, hard look at Jan Vesely’s stats, we’ll see that he’s the team’s third best scorer (12 points), best rebounder (7 on average), he’s third in steals (0,9 per game) and third in playing time (28:10). A player with these kinds of numbers is very difficult to be replaced by a top team without the right for a signing in late March.
However, the Czech’s role is even more important when one takes a look at his advanced stats. According to those, he’s the third best player of his team when he’s on the court (Fener wins by 7 points) and even though he’s not a guard to have the ball in his hands more, he’s third in the USG/G index which shows the number of possessions that he gets when he’s on the court.
He’s formed an excellent partnership with Ekpe Udoh, playing with him or instead of him in the frontline, and Fenerbahce gets 38% of their points from this frontline. It’s a fact that the approach has to change, since no other player on the roster has Vesely’s features, as he has an excellent contribution in defense too thanks to his speed, his long limbs and his smartness in the placement of his body.
Vesely’s athleticism allows him to mark every opponent and so, now, the defensive approach has to change. Fenerbahce’s numerically small roster limits the options. Zots preferred a roster of 9-10 players (only ten players have played more than 7 minutes in the Euroleague) and Vesely’s misfortune could cost them dearly.
Fenerbahce will overcome his absence
Zeljko Obradovic has already started working with his players in order to fill the void he has left. Ekpe Udoh is going to have an even more important role, Pero Antic will be upgraded and will be covering both positions of the frontline, trying to open up the rival defenses with his long range shooting, Luigi Datome will be playing more as a power forward and Baris Hercek will get more playing time.
There are players on the roster and they’ve already undertaken their roles, even in a shorter period of time. The Euroleague playoffs start on April 12 and these three weeks can be the appropriate testing ground for a different Fenerbahce to appear, one that’s as effective as the team that was impressing in most of its games until recently.
Conclusion: They will be affected considerably, but they have time to adjust
The challenge for Fenerbahce to qualify for the Final Four without Jan Vesely is huge. His move to the frontline, his partnership with Udoh and his contribution in every area of the game cannot be replaced immediately. However, absences always bring teams together and everyone who needs to, steps up in order to fill the void that’s been created.
So far, Vesely’s injury looks like a sharp knife that’s started to bleed Fenerbahce. Zeljko Obradovic and his players have three weeks and enough games still ahead of them (in the Euroleague and the Turkish championship) work and become a new team that will function ideally without Vesely as well without bleeding.