Heading into the new Euroleague season the two time Euroleague Champions (2021 & 2022) are coming off an off-season that saw some very important changes but also kept a lot of their roster intact.
Long time head coach Ergin Ataman (was with Efes from 2017 to 2023) left for Panathinaikos and Efes replaced him with Erdem Can who arrived from Turk Telekom Ankara, where he reached the Eurocup Final last season but lost against Gran Canaria.
Can was a longtime assistant at Fenerbahce (2012 to 21) where he worked under Zeljko Obradovic for multiple seasons, as well as spending the 21-22 season with the Utah Jazz in the NBA as an assistant coach. The 42 year old is now tasked with leading Efes back to the playoffs, which they failed to accomplish in Ataman´s last season, finishing just 17-17 and in 11th place in 2022-23.
Efes was able to keep 6 of their 9 best scorers from last season, giving them a core that is already very familiar with each other. The biggest departure was Vasilije Micic (2nd best scorer for Efes, 16 PPG) who made the long awaited step to the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Center Bryant Dunston also left Efes after 8 seasons with the club and joined Virtus Bologna. Amath M´Baye who scored 7 PPG for Efes last season departed and signed with CSKA Moscow in Russia.
Their aforementioned core remained intact with Will Clyburn (16.6 PTs), Shane Larkin (11.9 PTs), Rodrique Beaubois (10.8 PTs), Elijah Bryant (8.5 PTs), Ante Zicic (7.7 PTs) and Tibor Pleiss (6.7 PTs) all returning to Istanbul to form a group that has a lot of Euroleague and winning experience.
Key New Arrivals
Darius Thompson, G, 6-4
Thompson arrives from Baskonia where he was outstanding last season. He averaged 12.6 PTs, 3.2 REBs and led the Euroleague in Assists with 6.7 as well as finishing 2nd in Steals with 1.7 per game. Darius is a strong and athletic guard who has a good mix of attacking the basket and outside shooting, where he hit 38.4% of his 3-pointers last season. He is also very efficient around the basket and shot 55.8% on 2-pointers which is very impressive for a guard. He will be tasked to lead the offense alongside Shane Larkin.
Dogus Ozdemiroglu, G, 6´3
The 27 year old spent the last 6 seasons with Darussafaka where he played in different international competitions (Eurocup, Euroleague and BCL). Last season he averaged 12.2 PPG, 4.8 REBs and 4.7 ASTs along with 2.2 STLs per game, showing his overall versatility. Dogus is an all-rounder on both ends and plays with great intensity. Last season he had problems with his 3-point shooting (just 22.4% in BCL) and turned the ball over a bit too much (2.8 TOs) but he will give Efes scoring, playmaking and good defense in his minutes on the court.
Erkan Yilmaz, G/F 6´4
The forward followed his coach Erdem Can from Turk Telekom to Anadolu Efes in the summer. Yilmaz averaged 6.7 PTs, 4.4 REBs, 2.6 ASTs and 1.6 STLs in Eurocup last season while playing around 21 minutes per game. Erkan can play both as a guard and forward and is very athletic, finishing strong around the rim. The all-rounder is a glue guy and type of player who will do a lot of little things, with a versatile skill-set. He can finish at the rim, make shots from the outside, defend and also is a solid rebounder and passer that doesn’t need many plays called for him to be effective.
Derek Willis, F, 6´9
Willis arrives from Umana Reyer Venezia in Italy where he averaged 12.9 PTs, 5 REBs and 1.1 ASTs in Eurocup last season. He can play both SF and PF and is another player that doesn’t need the ball to be effective. A very good 3pt shooter (47.5%), Derek is also athletic enough to roll to the basket and finish well at the rim (58.8% on 2s). He can shoot from mid-range as well and is also very good at the foul line (90.5%) and a player that limits his mistakes (just 1 Turnover per game). He will give Efes shooting and rebounding while fitting nicely into the offense.
Tyrique Jones, C, 6´9
The big man also follows coach Erdem Can from Turk Telekom to Anadolu Efes. Jones was selected to the All-Eurocup 2nd team last season with averages of 12.7 PTs and 8 REBs. A very athletic and physical big man who is a tremendous lob threat and plays with a high motor. Tyrique is also a capable passer and someone who does a lot of little things on the floor, averaging 1.2 STLs and 0.8 BLks. He also gives his team decent rim protection. Offensively a lot of his scoring comes around the rim or at the free throw line where he can still improve (shot 60.3% last season on FTs).
Ercan Osmani, PF/C, 6´9
The 25 year old arrives from Darussafaka where he played in BCL last season for around 25 mins per game. Ercan averaged 10.1 PTs, 6.5 REBs along with 1 AST, 0.8 BLKs and 1.5 STLs. His lanky and slender frame allows him to play both the 4 and 5 positions and he uses it with a nice inside-outside game. He can shoot the 3, drive to the basket or operate as a roll man towards the rim. Osmani rebounds well and is also a solid help defender who has a knack for getting steals and blocks.
As we mentioned in our other previews, all Euroleague teams are building deep rosters to withstand the long season both in their domestic league and Euroleague. Including the playoffs it can add up to over 80 games per season. Efes has also built a roster that could see a rotation of 13 or more players.
On paper the team looks like a contender for the Playoffs (the top 6 teams make it directly, 7-10 in the standings go into the play-in tournament) but so do over 10 other teams in Euroleague. For every team things have to click and go the right way in a very competitive season that it shapes up to become. Efes has the quality, a deep rotation to cover injuries and also an advantage of their 6 returning players, to make another run at the Playoffs.
Potentially their strongest position. Efes is loaded here with Shane Larkin and Darius Thompson potentially starting at the 1-2 and then having the luxury to bring Beaubois, Bryant, Ozdemiroglu and late addition Justus Hollatz off the bench. They can play small and quick or add size with Bryant, Hollatz or Ozdemiroglu together or alongside Larkin or Thompson. Whoever is on the court can create their own shots or set up teammates and defending this Efes guard rotation won´t be an easy task for any defense.
Will Clyburn returns as the 3rd best scorer in Euroleague last season and will be starting at the 3 alongside potentially Derek Willis at the 4, who can stretch the floor and is a nice utility forward. Clyburn gives coach Can a lot of ball handling and scoring from the wing and is a threat for a big game any given night. Erkan Yilmaz will get back-up minutes at the 3 with the option to also shift Elijah Bryant or Ozdemiroglu up a slot or even go small without Clyburn in certain line-ups and play with 3 guards.
Efes has an interesting mix of styles in their big man rotation which once again allows coach Can to mix things up a lot during games. Tyrique Jones can start an as athletic, undersized and fast center or Ante Zicic as a traditional post up option. The opportunities don´t end there as Tibor Pleiss can stretch the floor as a 7´3 giant who also blocks shots and with Ercan Osmani filling in as a versatile back up for both big positions. Another option can be playing very small with Clyburn at the 4 and Willis at the 5 to potentially switch a lot on defense and be unpredictable on both ends.