By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Once again, Eurohoops is keeping the tradition of ranking the domestic Leagues in Europe, in a season that on the opposite sides of the spectrum there are interesting developments compared to last season. The pandemic seems to be a thing of the past, but there’s an ongoing war in Europe that puts the VTB United League on the sideline.
With no teams in European competitions, only Russian clubs, and a lot of questions about the future, VTB can’t be ranked or compared to the other European leagues, becoming an oddity for this season.
It’s obvious after all, with the possible exception of Zenit St. Petersburg, that most Russian teams are spending a lot less money than they used to and money was after all the main allure of this league.
On the other hand, finally, something is moving in the UK with the BBL abolishing the salary cap and the London Lions signing established players like Kostas Koufos and Sam Dekker. Still, there’s a long way to go and the same applies to the BNXT League experiment that combines the leagues of Belgium and the Netherlands, but so far without really spectacular results.
That makes the Polish Energa Basket Liga appear for the first time in the rankings – since VTB is missing – and more leagues automatically have moved up a place with one exception, Greece, that practically lost a spot, while Italian Serie A is closing fast to the Turkish BSL, even if this close distance is not visible on the ranking, which is the following.
- ACB Liga Endesa – Spain (-)
- BSL – Turkey (+1)
- Lega Basket Serie A– Italy (+1)
- Betclic ELITE ProA – France (+1)
- Easy credit BBL -Germany (+1)
- Adriatic League (+2)
- HEBA Basket League – Greece (-)
- Winner’s League – Israel (+1)
- LKL – Lithuania (+1)
- Energa Basket Liga – Poland (-)
Spanish basketball is thriving on every level, Eurobasket 2022 was one more proof and that’s also a reflection of the level of the Spanish league. Just think how many players were part of the national team and had meaningful contributions without having a contract with Barcelona or Real Madrid. That’s pretty much what you need to know about the playing level. And of course, ACB remains a top-notch organization compared to every other domestic league in Europe and the league includes four EuroLeague teams this year, double the number from any other country.
Turkey’s economic problems are reflected also in the league BUT Anadolu Efes and Fenerbahce are not really affected. Efes is the back-t0-back EuroLeague champions, Galatarasay is on the rise, and considering the popularity of the club that’s great news for the league, while local powers like Karsiyaka remain steady and ready to challenge everyone. Yes, Turkey is not what it used to be five years ago, but it’s still one of the best places outside ACB to play in domestic competitions.
3. Serie A
And that brings us to Italy, which finally has again two EuroLeague teams in Milan and Virtus Bologna and steadily emerges as one of the top places to be. With VTB out and Turkey’s middle class not having the money they used to, Italy is once again the “trendy” league with a lot of teams that can be dangerous to anyone. Practically the league has almost caught up with the BSL. Plus it continues to be a stepping stone in the career of many players who can prove that they should have a shot at the EuroLeague level after a good season in mid-level Italian clubs.
France also has two EuroLeague teams in ASVEL and Monaco, which has the money to be a real contender on every level. Beyond that, it remains a very balanced league that at least until recently lacked the ability to spark real national interest as was evident with last season’s television rights paradox, and also suffered the Orthez-project mess. Having said that, especially this season France which constantly provides NBA-level talent has the opportunity to test things and grow, because of Victor Wembanyama. The biggest NBA prospect in the world will compete only in the French league this season as a member of Metropolitans 92, so the league will get some of his spotlights.
This is also the home of two EuroLeague clubs in Bayern and ALBA, a league with great parity, financially solid, and suffering on an even bigger scale from the same issue that France has. There’s enough local interest, but the popularity of the league at a national level is still a footnote. As the German federation president Ingo Weiss admitted in the Eurobasket 2022 recap press conference: “We have a rule in Germany: First soccer, second soccer, third soccer, fourth soccer… When we are talking about the places after 10, we are always in a small competition with handball, volleyball, and ice-hockey”.
6. Adriatic League
On the contrary, here the interest is huge with Partizan and Crvena Zvezda being back in the EuroLeague, Cedevita-Olimpija getting more and more solid and despite the big issues that the organization has to face, as was evident in the finals, this is the only league that made a two-spot jump forward. Yes, ABA is benefited from the Partizan vs Crvena Zvezda rivalry, but on the other hand, this has to do more with the Greek League…
There are two EuroLeague clubs here too, Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, Greece loves basketball but things are not rosy. Panathinaikos is still trying to return to old glories with limited resources, while the league as a whole has a tone of issues, starting with AEK and the record number of 24 bans the club currently has and ending up with a 12-team format for the second straight year, meaning fewer clubs than the six leagues above them in the rankings. One of the craziest stories of last year, which didn’t get much coverage outside Greece, was that the main financial backer of Ionikos BC suddenly disappeared, and the same thing happened with the money that the club provided as a guarantee to play in the league…
8. Winner’s League
In theory, not even having Maccabi Tel Aviv in the finals last year, proved that this league has more to give. And yes, champion Hapoel Holon is creating its own legacy during the past few years. Still, Israel is Maccabi‘s country, the interest in basketball is totally related to the local powerhouse and the rest of the league mainly remains a farm for US talent to test the European waters and make a move elsewhere. This is also a 12-team league.
Like it happens with Maccabi Tel Aviv, here’s Zalgiris country. And the fact that last year Zalgiris didn’t make it to the Finals as it happened with Maccabi, says a lot more about those two EuroLeague core clubs, than anything else. Still, the LKL is turning 30, and they finally also got 12 teams for the first time, rising their number from 11 last year, Rytas Vilnius, the defending champs, has shown some real promise for the future, but this is a country of three million and the local market has an obvious limit, despite their huge love for basketball.
10. Energa Basket Liga
Well, hello Poland! This is the first time that this league is included in the Eurohoops Top 10, the main reason remains the absence of VTB, however, there’s more to that. Poland doesn’t have a team in the EuroLeague – not in the VTB as was the case last year – but it has the reigning champions Slask Wroclaw competing in the EuroCup and runner-up Legia Warszaw in the Basketball Champions League. Plus, they can take advantage of the interest sparked by the Polish national team’s run in the Eurobasket and they are hosting part of Eurobasket 2025. So, don’t be surprised if they stay at this Top10 for long.