By Stefan Djordjevic / email@example.com
The Basketball Champions League has featured many players with NBA experience over the years and it has been an increasingly popular destination for the elite names.
This year has been no exception and while there have been numerous additions over the summer, five of them, in particular, will steal slightly more attention. The players in question have NBA experience, some have already felt the European basketball but most of them will show their faces for the first time in the Basketball Champions League.
One such case was seen last season and it was the best-case scenario for Bonzie Colson who went on to win the MVP award. For this upcoming season, two clubs decided to bet on the NBA experience still unproven in BCL – Hapoel Jerusalem and Besiktas.
Thon Maker and Anthony Bennett will make their debuts in Hapoel’s jersey while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jordan Bone will do it with Besiktas.
For starters, one player who touched the top and was already a beacon among the BCL competitors – Norris Cole.
A well-known name both in the NBA – where he won two championships with LeBron James and the Miami Heat – and in Europe where he’s been playing for the past four years, going into his fifth.
Unicaja has joined the BCL this summer and as a debutant, the team will need as much experience as possible in the first season. And Norris Cole was the perfect addition in that direction.
Not only did Cole play for six years in the NBA, logging a total of 360 games, and winning two titles but he also went through basically all major competitions in Europe as well. He played in BCL as well back in 2018 for Sigidas Avellino, averaging 16.1 points, 6.4 assists, and 4.3 rebounds over ten games including a couple of 30+ performances early on.
Last season, Cole played for ASVEL, averaging 13.7 points in EuroLeague and helping the team win French League with a crucial performance in the Final.
Big things were expected from Thon Maker after he got picked up by the Milwaukee Bucks back in 2016 as the 10th overall pick. The 213 cm tall Sudanese-Australian center showed promise with his size coupled with agility, as well as surprisingly good ball-handling and outside shooting.
However, he never reached full potential and his role decreased, leaving him unsatisfied and now searching for his opportunity in Europe.
Next up, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and the 2017 EuroLeague champion with Fenerbahce – Anthony Bennett.
The Canadian power forward’s sole stint in Europe ended with a trophy but he saw limited playing time and much more will be expected from him in the upcoming campaign.
However, Bennett did have a two-year hiatus without a club and it remains to be seen how much he can give and if he’ll need more time to get back into rhythm.
Prior to joining Fenerbahce, Bennet logged 151 NBA games for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Toronto Raptors, and the Brooklyn Nets. He also had multiple G League runs with Agua Caliente Clippers being his last in the 2018-19 season when he averaged 12.2 points and 4.6 rebounds.
Bennett never justified getting picked up as No. 1 in 2013 but Hapoel’s sporting director Yotam Halperin is willing to bet on him. “We see great potential in Anthony and we are convinced that in the right situation, he can begin to realize the potential that lies within him.”
Besiktas is also putting some faith into former NBAers and both of their new additions will debut in BCL. Not only that, but they are both going into their first season outside the US.
The 26-year-old Hollis-Jefferson has played 319 NBA games since being drafted in 2015. He spent four years with the Brooklyn Nets after which he had stints with the Toronto Raptors and the Portland Trail Blazers.
He played 11 regular-season and five playoff games for the Balzers this year. His best season was 2017-18 with the Nets when he posted 13.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.
Making a backcourt-frontcourt duo is always worth it and Besiktas did just that with Jordan Bone and Hollis-Jefferson.
He was also active in the G League, where he played last season as well. Bone posted 11.5 points and 3.8 assists for the Delaware Blue Coats over 15 games.