Not much, which is always a good thing. Real Madrid has always had a reputation for keeping together a core of players who played well together for many years. Felipe Reyes and Sergio Llull have been in the club for over a decade. Reyes is his 16th season with the club and Llull is starting his 14th. Most of the players have been with the team for at least five seasons and head coach Pablo Laso joined Los Blancos in 2011. So it is no surprise that Real didn’t go through many roster changes. Real brought in Carlos Alocen after a season on loan with his former squad, Casademont Zaragoza, and signed versatile swingman Alberto Abalde. When the 2019-20 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Real was on a seven-game winning streak and had lifted the Spanish Copa del Rey. Expect Los Blancos to pick up where they left off and be as competitive as ever.
Real remains one of the deepest teams at the point guard spot. Facu Campazzo comes off a career-best season in which he ranked second in the EuroLeague in assists (7.1 apg.). He provides leadership, on-the-ball defense, outstanding court vision and character. Llull, the 2016-17 EuroLeague MVP, is the team’s heart and soul. His long-range shooting, high basketball IQ and commitment to his jersey make him a fan-favorite in the Spanish capital. Nico Laprovittola is a top-notch passer and an ace at driving to the basket. Still a teenager, Alocen is a physical and talented guard who will surprise a lot of EuroLeague fans with his determination and poise. Jaycee Carroll will have a critical role on offense. A legendary catch-and-shoot scorer, Carroll will be his team’s go-to guy on offense when he is on the court. Fabien Causeur returns to provide his penetration skills, strong defense and team-oriented game. Defensive stopper and three-point specialist Jeffery Taylor will see playing time at both the ‘2’ and the ‘3’ spots.
Taylor, Abalde and Rudy Fernandez will share most of the minutes at the small forward position. Abalde is a strong opponent to face at both ends. His ballhandling, character and willingness to learn are perfect for an ambitious club like Real. Fernandez is one of the smartest players in basketball, a terrific defender coming off the weak side, and a great scorer due to his talent, experience and knack to step up in clutch situations. Gabriel Deck will use his quick hands, feel for the game and versatility to help Real at both forward spots. Anthony Randolph, Real’s top scorer in the EuroLeague last season (13.7 ppg.) brings a unique combination of shooting range, size and athleticism to beat his defenders in many ways. Trey Thompkins is also a terrific three-point shooter with great post skills who gives Real plenty of options at power forward. Center Edy Tavares is a defensive wall due to his size, long arms and outstanding timing and he has also developed into a dangerous scorer around the basket with his mid-range shooting. The 18-year-old Usman Garuba is set to see more playing time as he learns even more from club legend Reyes, the EuroLeague’s all-time leading offensive rebounder.
PLAYER TO WATCH
All eyes will be on Abalde as it is his first season with the club. A EuroLeague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament winner with Joventut Badalona, Abalde earned MVP honors in the 2013 tournament in London, England. He signed a long-term deal with Valencia Basket, which included playing the 2016-17 season for Joventut on loan. After a great season, he made his EuroLeague debut in the 2017-18 campaign. A series of point guard injuries gave him an opportunity to play several times at that spot that season, giving him the chance to become a more versatile player. He averaged 7.6 points and nailed 28 of 54 three-pointers (51.9%) clip, which ranked third in the competition. Abalde went on to help Valencia win the 2018-19 7DAYS EuroCup title and returned to the EuroLeague last season. He has a great combination of size, athleticism, mobility, basketball IQ and determination. Abalde never hides in crunch time and at age 24 is set to be a great player for many years.
Ever since Coach Laso joined the team, Real has been back where it belongs among the very elite of European basketball. In his nine seasons with the club, Laso has led Real to five Spanish League crowns, six Spanish Copa del Reys and five Spanish SuperCups. He took Los Blancos to six Final Fours out of the maximum eight, reached four championship games and lifted the trophy in both 2015 and 2018. Add the 2015 Intercontinental Cup and Laso has led Real to 19 official titles in nine years. Real will have the same goals of competing for every title out there. It will take a lot of patience and even more work, but Real is full of players who know what it takes to lift trophies and everybody will be focused to keep writing more brilliant pages in the club’s history books. After all, this is no ordinary club: it is arguably the most successful one in European sports history.