heavyweight in France but still a novice in Europe, where do you place Monaco compared to the teams in the Final Four?

Qualified for the Euroleague Final Four for the first time in their history, AS Monaco, who face Olympiakos on Friday, still have no history of their opponents. If the gap is narrowing, reality shows that there is still a long way to go.

For its first appearance in the Euroleague Final Four, AS Monaco could not have dreamed of a more prestigious formation. Between them, Barca (2), Real Madrid (10) and Olympiakos (3), have a total of 15 titles in the competition and have had some of the best players in history in their ranks. Many elements that make Monaco the small thumb of this 2023 edition of the Final Four, in addition to the much lower budget. A look at the differences between Monaco and the tenors of the Euroleague as it comes time to face Olympiakos in the semifinals on Friday 19 May at 5pm in Kaunas, Lithuania.

A room still far from the standards of the Final Four

If the Monegasque project hasn’t stopped growing for almost 10 years, there is nevertheless one main black spot, that of the room. If his lair of Gaston Médecin can cheer for his team, it is still a room with a relatively small capacity. The works undertaken last year brought the maximum capacity to around 4,600 people.

“We are working on a reasonable and realistic plan to build a new hall. When we talk about a medium-term project of four or five years, one of the main topics is to work on a realistic schedule for the development of our hall, explains Oleksiy Yefimov, general manager of AS Monaco. Enough to allow the club to meet the minimum standards required by the Euroleague for the moment.

The Zalgirio Arena, venue of the 2022-2023 Euroleague Final Four, in Kaunas, Lithuania, April 23, 2019. (MAXPPP)

On this point Monaco pales in comparison to their weekend opponents. Barça, the poorest club of the trio and its home at the Palau Blaugrana, can now seat just over 7,500 spectators. A room soon replaced by the new version, which should be able to accommodate more than 12,000 enthusiasts in the coming years.

A figure close to Olympiakos. In Piraeus, the Peace and Friendship Stadium already has 12,000 seats, which gives it a stuffy atmosphere. The Monegasques have already lived through the bitter experience of this last year. Finally, Real Madrid has with its WiZink Center room an enclosure capable of bringing together 15,000 fans at the same time. A galaxy that Monaco can only dream of for the moment. Meanwhile, this is Zalgirio The Kaunas Arena and its 15,552 seats have been waiting for the Monegasques since Friday.

A significant lack of experience

While Monegasque shareholders have never skimped on resources, they have not yet managed to form a group with solid European experience. For example, only Mike James had already played a Final Four within the Monegasque team. If some players like it Jaron Blossom gameElie Okobo o Jordan Loyd they have already evolved in the NBA, they have never weighed there. With the exception of Mike James and Donatas Motiejunas, the American league is not the Monaco’s playground.

Exactly the opposite of Barça or Real. For the Catalan club, more than half of the workforce was present during the last few campaigns ending in the Final Four and almost all players have already attended the event. Barça also has two former Euroleague MVPs in its ranks, Nikola Mirotic and Jan Vesely, who both spent several years in the NBA.

On the side of Real Madrid, Walter Tavares, who never managed to establish himself in the long term across the Atlantic, became the best defender in the Euroleague three times with the Spanish club. A reward that also got his teammate Adam Hanga. Dzanan Musa, Gabriel Deck and Mario Hezonja are protagonists in the Euroleague after a failed attempt in the NBA. Without forgetting the two Spanish leaders, Sergio Rodriguez and Sergio Llull, respectively MVP in 2014 and 2017.

Sasha Vezenkov during the match between Olympiakos and Fenerbahce in the Euroleague, in Piraeus on May 9, 2023. (AFP)

Finally, in addition to having among its ranks players with solid NBA or European experience such as Kostas Papanikolaou, Constantine Sloukas, Isaiah Canaan, Moustapha Fall or Taril Black, Olympiakos now has a competition MVP in its ranks. Indeed, strong forward Sasha Vezenkov was just named the best player of the 2022-2023 edition after a season with 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

On the ground, Monaco high basket

This is ultimately the only place where Monaco can look their opponents in the eye in the Final Four. Worst defense of the teams still in the running (82.1 points allowed per game), Monaco will have to close behind. In particular against an Olympiakos team that has the fourth attack in the competition, just ahead of these same Monegasques (83.1 points per game against 82.9).

But where Monaco most stand out from their Final Four teammates on the offensive end is in terms of assists. With the 13th record in the competition (15.5 assists), the Roca Team is far from its future opponents, who are all top six in the Euroleague category. Figures that show Monaco’s heavy reliance on the individual performance of its players – lead by Mike James and Elie Okobo – who also hit 17.6 free throws per game, the second-best total in Europe.

Donatas Motiejunas on the free throw during the Euroleague match between Monaco and Maccabi Tel-Aviv, in Monaco, May 10, 2023. (VALERY HACHE/AFP)

On the other hand, under the panels, no one has grabbed more offensive rebounds per game than AS Monaco this season. With 12.3 stolen tricks in the racket every night, the Monegasques even achieved the second best performance in the history of the competition so far. Monaco’s strengths are therefore clearly identifiable, as are its weaknesses, which the Greeks will not hesitate to make the most of.

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