Here are the players expected to change the face of their teams and the League.
Move: Sacramento Kings to CSKA
NBA stats*: 42 games, 3.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks, 47.7% field goals, 41.7% free throws
Claim to fame: Koufos spent 11 seasons in the best league in the world. His best season came in 2012-13 with the Denver Nuggets, when he averaged 8.0 points and 6.9 rebounds in 81 games. Insiders have reported that Koufos will be the highest-paid American player in European basketball history. The ex-Kings big man is 30 years old, the optimum age for someone at his position. Koufos is not looking to simply collect a check in Moscow. Players with his resume are rare in the Old World.
What’s different: CSKA has been a guard-centric team for years. Fans and experts have long said the Army Men needed someone with serious size in the paint to be complete. During the 2019 offseason, the Red and Blue were finally able to plug that hole. The departures of Sergio Rodriguez, Nando De Colo and Cory Higgins coupled with multiple big man signings (Koufos is joined by Johannes Voigtmann) means a shift in identity: CSKA will now be a force on the glass and more active under the basket on offense.
Move: Zenit to Khimki
VTB League stats*: 18 games, 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.6 blocks, 41.8% from the field, 39.1% 3-pointers, 84.6% free throws
Eurocup stats*: 9 games, 16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.1 blocks, 47.6% field goals, 42.2% 3-pointers, 97.1% free throws
Claim to fame: Selected #19 in the NBA Draft, he’s one of a few Russians to play in the NBA. He can win games single-handedly, has a deadly outside shot and is only 25.
What’s different: For years, the League has watched Alexey Shved and Sergey Karasev battle for the title of most talented Russian. The match-up was always the headline when Khimki and Zenit played. Now the duel has become a duo. The two most dangerous Russian snipers have joined forces in Moscow Region. Khimki opponents will no longer be able to focus exclusively on stopping Shved. Karasev clearly needed a change of scenery. After playing for his dad for years, he appeared uncomfortable at the club following the elder Karasev’s departure. His new challenge should encourage his development and help him reach his full potential.
Move: Andorra to Zenit
Spanish league stats*: 33 games, 8.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 37.9% field goals, 34.8% 3-pointers, 76.1% free throws
Eurocup stats*: 20 games, 12.1 points, 1.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 46.6% field goals, 43.1% 3-pointers, 80.4% free throws
Claim to fame: Albicy is a tested French national team point guard and Eurocup star. Last season he reached the tournament semifinals with Andorra and finished with the most assists in the competition. Andrew is also known for his defense, ranking among the league leaders in steals no matter where he plays.
What’s different: Zenit has had issues at the point guard position in recent years, which has affected the team’s play. Everyone remembers the short stints for Brandon Jennings and Nicolas Laprovittola and subsequent scramble to find replacements. After signing Albicy as well as Dmitry Khvostov and Alex Renfroe, St. Petersburg finally has some solid depth at playmaker. It’s a new day for Zenit fans.
Move: Kalev to PARMA
VTB League stats*: 21 games, 19.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks, 62.6% field goals, 84.1% free throws
Estonian-Latvian league stats*: 20 games, 14.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, 60.0% field goals, 81.9% free throws
Claim to fame: A former 76er during Sam Hinkie’s famous Process in Philadelphia, Moultrie caught fire last season in Kalev, leading the team to its first-ever postseason appearance. Moultrie averaged 19.4 points and 7.2 rebounds, finishing with a League-best 22.0 efficiency rating.
What’s different: In May, PARMA announced that the club’s budget would increase by 150% next season, along with a big increase in expectations. The club’s first signings show nothing has changed. Perm, which has typically relied on homegrown talent and cheap NCAA players, is bringing in its first veteran star. This is a big step up for Perm.
Artem Zabelin should also make a big impact at the club. He’s coming off a career year, which included an All-Star appearance and Russian national team invite. Players like him did not previously sign at PARMA.
Move: Maccabi Tel-Aviv to UNICS
Israeli league stats*: 37 games, 8.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.1 blocks, 69.4% field goals, 50.7% free throws
EuroLeague stats*: 30 games, 7.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.1 blocks, 66.4% field goals, 62.5% free throws
Claim to fame: Tyus is an experienced EuroLeague warrior, including a title in 2014. The experienced center is known as an elite defender and has a reputation for soaring above the rim.
What’s different: Dimitris Priftis’ UNICS is an attractive, smart team that competes for championships. But the club has yet to break through to the next level under the Greek coach. After bringing back most of its core, Kazan has added big names in Tyus and Vangelis Mantzaris (8 seasons at Olympiacos and 2 EuroLeague titles). The hope is to raise the team’s championship DNA to such a high level that anything short of a finals appearance would be a shock.
Move: Oldenburg to Lokomotiv-Kuban
German league stats*: 37 games, 21.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.1 blocks, 50.7% field goals, 36.9% 3-pointers, 82.8% free throws
Claim to fame: Cummings was named the 2018-19 Bundesliga regular-season MVP and made an All-Star appearance. His team finished in second place, ultimately reaching the playoff semifinals.
What’s different: Lokomotiv is taking its time in free agency this summer. Cummings was the first long-awaited signing and will take over point guard duties. The American is known for his scoring ability, which will impact Krasnodar’s next moves on the market. New head coach Luca Banchi announced that the playmaker is a perfect fit in his system and vice-president Ginas Rutkauskas noted that the American’s potential is unlimited. Cummings’ presence should be a breath of fresh air at the club, which last season lacked fire and a will to win.
Move: Real to Zenit
Spanish league stats*: 35 games, 7.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.6 blocks, 67.5% field goals, 61.0% free throws
Euroleague stats*: 31 games, 8.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks, 66.9% field goals, 54.2% free throws
Claim to fame: The former NBA player has spent the last five years at Real Madrid, where he won two EuroLeague titles and finished twice on the EuroLeague Second Team. Despite his age (34), Ayon brings enormous experience, locker room presence and plenty of ability at both ends of the floor. The star veteran averaged 8.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists in the EuroLeague last season.
What’s different: Zenit will debut in the EuroLeague this season. But the club has yet to go crazy in free agency. Head coach Joan Plaza, who joined the team mid-season, is clearly looking to build the club in his image. Having spent most of his career in Spain, he’s focused on bringing in proven talent from one of Europe’s top leagues: Albicy, Renfroe, Colton Iverson and Tim Abromaitis have all spent time in Spain. But with Ayon, they now have a bona fide European star. The four-time Spanish champion will be the face of the club and could help lead St. Petersburg to new heights both in Europe and domestically while drawing big crowds.
* 2018-19 season stats