With the NBA coming next week, Real Madrid's basketball team deserves some attention as well. The team confirmed their qualification for the Euroleague's Top 16 as leaders of their group. This group was arguably the hardest one in the whole competition as it was composed by the likes of Armani Milan, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Partizan Belgrade.
In this morning's game against Assignia Manresa, Real Madrid got an easy win with a final result of 83-61. Rudy Fernández left to meet the Denver Nuggets last week, and his return to Real Madrid this season doesn't seem likely, but with the addition of Kyle Singler and the recovery of Velickovic from his last injury, Laso's team might be just fine.Everybody thought Jaycee Carroll was going to replace Rudy Fernández, but Coach Pablo Laso has given newcomer and forward Kyle Singler a chance in the Shooting Guard position. The former Duke Blue Devil will probably start the games from the bench as soon as Martynas Pocius recovers from his injury.
Sergio Llull and Sergio Rodríguez are stepping up their game as point guards, and the team is looking more and more comfortable with every game. But the player that is really taking on the scoring role that Fernández had is power forward Nikola Mirotic. In last week's victory against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team managed to be the only team leading the group. Mirotic scored 26 points with 4/5 three pointers in just the first half.
Every Euroleague fan knows what this young player (he is only 20-years-old) is capable of. If you had to compare him with an NBA player, the choice would clearly be Dirk Nowitzki. Of course, the German is a better player right now, but Mirotic shows a maturity that is unusual at his age. He knows when to shoot the ball or when he needs to draw a foul and go to the free-throw line.
The Spanish player (he was born in Serbia, but he plays for Spain) was drafted to the Chicago Bulls' 23rd pick in last year's draft. If he had waited one or two more years to enter the draft, he could've literally busted the top 10.
Real Madrid will surely miss Rudy Fernández in clutch time, but Jaycee Carroll is enjoying his sixth man role right now. He has improved his game a lot since the beginning of the season, but he still has something more to prove as he was the Liga ACB top scorer in the last two seasons.
Carlos Súarez and Ante Tomic are not playing as well as last year. The Spanish forward is not showing his rebounding capability that reminded me of Carmelo Anthony's playing. Tomic, who was awarded last year's Spanish League best team, has become the victim of Laso's run and gun system. He needs an slower tempo to shine, but he has the talent to be one of the best centers in Europe.
The team still needs to improve its reading of the game. There are times when it is better to slow things down a bit and let Tomic, Suárez and Reyes have the chance to score in the free-throw line, rather than having a bad shot selection, but Laso's team is looking better, so the sky might be the limit.
I encourage you all to watch Real Madrid Basketball games; European basketball is better than an NBA fan might think. To stay informed, follow MM Basketball on twitter, Like our Facebook page, and subscribe to the MM podcast on itunes.