Leicester Riders: Are they deep enough?
Last Season Finish: 1st
Makem Takem Prediction 2018/19: 1st
Key Player(s): Holder
Likely Starting Five: PG – Washington / SG – Stevenson / SF – Holder / PF – Hampton / C – Thomson
Concerns: Is a European campaign going to hurt their BBL season?
Leicester have become the powerhouse of British basketball in the past 5 or so years and anyone with a sound mind would be hard pushed to suggest that their dominance will come to an end this season.
Coach Paternostro has put himself up their as one of the best coaches to ever have coached in the BBL and a big part of his success starts way before the first tip with his recruitment. He manages to maintain a strong core year after year and only makes what appear to be small changes but end up being strong incremental pieces.
They may have lost both Eric Robertson and, more importantly, their captain Tyler Bernardini but they have still kept eight players from last season’s roster. The biggest of which must be the retention of JR Holder who had a very impressive rookie professional season in the Midlands last season. They have also awarded the club captaincy to Andy Thomson, who made the switch from arch-rivals Newcastle Eagles two season ago. To add to the returnees from last season there are also two more faces familiar to the Leicester fans as Jamell Anderson and Conner Washington return after short stints away from the club. That means that Coach Paternostro has only had to bring in two completely fresh faces.
Niem Stevenson joins Riders after graduating from Texas Tech where he started 19 games in his senior year. His game looks perfectly suited to the BBL as he will provide a balanced offense with the ability to shoot the three as well as create a lane to drive to the basket. For Stevenson landing at Leicester for his first pro gig could be great as the need for offensive production won’t be solely resting on him (unlike it would be if had joined most of the other BBL clubs).
The other new addition is Alex Larsson. Larrson comes in on a Swedish passport and he has been part of the junior Swedish national team setup. You have a feeling that Larrson has been brought in with the Riders European adventures fully in mind. He is a more classical European big and looks well equipped to become a defensive stopper in the paint. He is more than capable of contending with the bulkier European bigs that will want to back their way to the basket.
With the consistency in the roster that Riders have and the new additions it is hard to see how they are going to be toppled from the top of the BBL, however, no one knows how adding a run in Europe (likely to be FIBA Europe Cup) could affect them. They have a deep bench but is it deep enough to cope with not just the additional games but also the vast amount of midweek travel that will be involved. Only time will tell and the rest of the BBL will be looking to both capitalise on this as well as learn from the Riders experiences from European competition.