Following their early exit in the BBL playoffs last season, ALBA Berlin began a wholesale reset of its roster, which had remained intact YoY after the club successfully won its 3rd consecutive league title in 2022.
The intense off-season for head coach Israel Gonzalez and Sport Director Himar Ojeda includes the re-signing of key holdovers from their recent teams, Louis Olinde and Johannes Thiemann, the 3rd/4th best scorers in the Euroleague, and the renewing of contracts for “local” rotation players Yanni Wetzell, Malte Delow, and Tim Schneider.
To complement their core, Berlin was able to sign seven import players (as of now), and looks to have formalized their roster in preparation for what hopes to be a bounce-back season both in the BBL and Euroleague.
So, how did ALBA, whose most recent era of success is highlighted by the presence of legendary coach Aito Garcia Reneses, foundational players Niels Giffey (14-21), and Peyton Siva (16-22) need to be so aggressive this off-season?
For Berlin, success in recent years became a balancing act, as playing well in Europe´s elite competition garnered unwanted attention from other top teams interested in their players.
Maodo Lo signed with Milano, Jaleen Smith left for Virtus Bologna, Tamir Blatt went home to play for Maccabi Tel-Aviv, and before August, ALBA had lost their main guards. Two additional summer departures included Yovel Zoosman, who signed with Hapoel Jerusalem, and Ben Lammers, who joined Gran Canaria.
The most impactful player transition was club stalwart and fan favorite Luke Sikma, who moved on to Olympiakos after six seasons in Berlin after being a primary contributor during their championship run.
With such high (and important) turnover, team management was forced to reset and replace 52 points per game in the Euroleague (of the 80.1 per game scored), while building a team that could regain dominance in the BBL.
Matteo Spagnolo, G, 6´4: The Italian national team player joins from Trento where he averaged 11.8 PTs, 3.6 REBs and 4.3 ASTs in Eurocup.
At just 20 years old, the tall guard has good passing vision and gets to the basket where he prefers to operate. There is a lot of upside and making the step up to Euroleague will benefit both Matteo and Alba.
Sterling Brown, G, 6´6: A strong and athletic wing who brings quite the experience to Berlin.
Brown, who has played in 268 NBA games spent the majority of last season in the G-League with the Raptors 905 where he averaged 15.7 PTs, 7.2 REBs, 4.8 ASTs, and displayed a diverse skill-set.
Ziga Samar, PG, 6´6: On loan to Hamburg last season, competing in both the BBL and EuroCup, averaging 9.8 PTs, 2.8 REBs and 6.1 ASTs, the young Slovenian has great passing vision and size for a PG with alot of upside at just 22.
Matt Thomas, SG, 6´5: A veteran in Europe who also has plenty of NBA experience (126 games), and last played for Panathinaikos where he appeared in 10 Euroleague games, averaging 8.1 PTs, 2 REBs, while shooting 40.5% from the 3pt line.
The 29-year-old is a shooter and scorer who the defense has to respect at all times.
Justin Bean, PF, 6´7: The forward spent 4 seasons at Utah State where he had a great senior year in 21-22 (17.4 PTs, 9.9 REBs and 2.6 ASTs) before playing his rookie season in the G-League with the Memphis Hustle.
In ~27 mins/game, Bean scored 10.2 PTs and grabbed 7 REBs, while displaying his ability to pass the ball, which will be important as he is considered the replacement for Luke Sikma.
For this BBL season, Berlin's primary objective will be a return to prominence in Germany, finishing the regular season as a top seed to enjoy homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. Given their recent successes, making it back to the BBL Finals and playing for the championship is the standard in their domestic league.
When considering Euroleague play, Alba will be fun to watch and competitive with expectations that are less exaggerated. Staying in the hunt for the play-in tournament is realistic and something Berlin will strive for as they compete in the new and expanded Euroleague format.
The experience of Matt Thomas and Sterling Brown adds a nice veteran element alongside the young guards Spagnolo and Samar. Expect German Malte Delow to also make another step forward in his development. Foward Gabriele Prodica can help at the 2 position as well. Spagnolo and Samar will focus on playmaking and sharing the ball while Thomas and Brown are the main scorers.
Brown and Procida will take center stage here along with Louis Olinde. This group has size, and versatility on both ends and can make shots. Justin Bean can help out from the 4 as well, if needed. Olinde can be shifted up to the 4 in quicker and more athletic lineups to be able to switch more on defense.
Bean will likely start at the 4 with no real back-up right now other than Tim Schneider. At the Center position, Alba has depth in Yanni Wetzell, Johannes Thiemann and Christ Koumadje, who is the only real traditional center on the roster. Wetzell and Thiemann can help at the 4 with their mobility and Thiemann also has shown that he can shoot the 3 at a decent rate.