A New Start
The start of the 2023-24 Euroleague season is just around the corner (Oct. 5th and 6th) and so is a new era for FC Bayern Basketball in Munich, the Pablo Laso era. The Spanish coach arrived in Munich this summer after taking a season off and previously spending 11 years (2011 to 2022) with Real Madrid, winning the Euroleague twice.
Previous coach Andrea Trinchieri and Bayern parted ways after 3 seasons, where the Italian led Munich to the Euroleague playoffs twice, both times taking his club to a deciding 5th game in the quarterfinals (vs Milano in 2021 and vs Barcelona in 2022) but eventually falling just short of the Euroleague Final Four each time.
This past season Bayern finished just 15th in Euroleague (11-23 record) and took a step backwards in Europe´s elite competition. The club made changes to the roster and built a team that looks deep and exciting on paper. Our team at AGS took a close look at new arrivals, their pre-season games against Virtus Bologna and Red Star Belgrade and will give an outlook on their potential rotation for next season.
Key New Arrivals
Leandro Bolmaro, G, 6-7
The Argentinian spent last season between the Utah Jazz (14 Games) and Lenovo Tenerife in ACB. He has previous European experience, playing with FC Barcelona from 2018-2021. Leandro is a tall guard and an all-rounder. He handles the ball well, makes plays for others and is a decent 3-point shooter. Bolmaro can also defend multiple positions and is also a very good transition player that will push the pace and get out quickly on the fast break.
Sylvain Francisco, G, 6´1
The French National Team player arrives from Peristeri in Greece where he was coached by legendary player Vassilis Spanoulis. In the Basketball Champions League he averaged 16.2 PTs, 2.1 REBs & 5.8 ASTs. He is very quick and shifty with the ball, can create his own shot and finds his teammates at a very good rate. Sylvain played for France at the Fiba Basketball World Cup.
Carsen Edwards, G, 6´0
Edwards had his first European experience last season with Fenerbahce where he averaged 13.3 PTs, 2.0 REBs & 2.1 ASTs in the Turkish League. Built more like an NFL running back than a Basketball player, his physical appearance is what stands out first. Carsen can score in bunches and shoot the ball extremely well. He played in the NBA for the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons where he appeared in a combined 72 games before making the step over to Europe last season. He will add scoring and creating and is someone that any defense has to keep a close eye on at all times.
Devin Booker, C, 6´9
The big man needs no introduction to Bayern fans as he played there before from 2016-19, winning two BBL Championships and a German cup trophy. After stints in Khimki Moscow and Fenerbahce he now returns back to Munich to improve their front court. Devin is a versatile and athletic big who can also make 3-point shots and is always a threat around the rim.
Serge Ibaka, PF/C, 6´10
Bayern´s final and most high profile signing. Ibaka comes to Munich with an astonishing resume of an NBA Championship (2019 with the Toronto Raptors), 3 NBA All-Defensive First Team selections and career averages of 12 PTs, 7.1 REBs & 1.9 BLKs in 919 NBA games (697 starts). In his last NBA stint with the Bucks he played just 16 games this past season and decided to make the step back across the Atlantic to the Euroleague. In the 2011-12 lockout shortened NBA season he played with Real Madrid under now Bayern Coach Pablo Laso for some time. Serge is a very athletic and physical big, though now a bit older (34 years) his ability to make mid-range jumpers and 3-pointers (NBA Career average of 35.9% with 614 makes) will help him ease back into the European style of play and will give Bayern an immense boost of quality and experience.
Pre Season Games vs Bologna and Red Star
Bayern won both games against Euroleague competitors in a tournament hosted in Munich. In the semi final they beat Virtus Bologna (76-73) and in the final they won another close game against Red Star (84-82). It has to be mentioned that their team was far from complete in those games, missing German World Champions Andreas Obst, Isaac Bonga and Niels Giffey as well as the injured Vladimir Lucic and Freddie Gillespie. New Arrival Serge Ibaka also didn´t play yet.
Against Bologna, Coach Laso saw a fast paced offense, led by all-rounder Leandro Bolmaro (8 Rebounds, 7 Assists) and a hot shooting Carsen Edwards (21 PTS). Devin Booker also had a really nice game with 16 PTs and 5 REBs. Lots of their young players and prospects saw minutes as well and it was a good test.
In the Final against Red Star it took a comeback to win the game. Led by Sylvain Francisco at PG (13 PTs, 6 ASTs) as Leandro Bolmaro sat this one out. Carsen Edwards once again shined in his scoring role (20 PTs) along with Devin Booker (18 PTs, 8 REBs) and once again plenty of minutes for the younger players.
It was clear from those games that Devin Booker is back at full force in Munich, Carsen Edwards was unleashed and had more freedom than last season with Fenerbahce as well as Francisco and Bolmaro giving the team very different looks at the PG position.
Bayern built a deep roster with lots of quality as every Euroleague team nowadays had to do, due to the long season and potential injury threats that loom along the way. It will take some time to get things fully up and running as the 3 German National Team players arrived just shortly before the season will start, and so did Serge Ibaka.
With Vladimir Lucic and Freddie Gillespie still injured, they will also have to wait until their roster is back at full strength. Getting back to the Playoffs or at least making the Play-In Tournament will be a realistic goal for Bayern this season. A top 6 finish and direct qualification for the playoffs could be seen as a surprise, considering the strength of other clubs in Euroleague but is also something that can be achievable if things click right away.
Sylvain Francisco and Leandro Bolmaro will handle most of the point guard and play-making duties. Carsen Edwards was used mostly off the bench as instant offense in their latest pre-season games with top defender Nick Weiler-Babb starting. Here it will be interesting to see how things shake out once the season starts. With sharp shooter Andi Obst back in the mix now there is no shortage of options and lineups to built for Coach Laso.
With regular starter Vladimir Lucic still injured it will likely be Niels Giffey or Isaac Bonga starting at the 3 for the start of the season with the option to also shift Nick Weiler-Babb up to the small forward to have more creating and ball-handling on the court. Bolmaro can be an interesting option here as well with his size at 6´7 and being able to defend multiple positions.
With Freddie Gillespie still injured as their starting center from last season it could likely be Devin Booker and Serge Ibaka starting. Elias Harris and Niklas Wimberg will handle back-up duties along with Danko Brankovic as well as the option to play smaller with Giffey or Bonga at the 4 in certain lineups.