Teamcheck 2011/2012: EWE Baskets Oldenburg

The EWE Baskets Oldenburg had a rollercoaster season full of ups and downs in 2010/2011. Most of the new signings could not fulfill the expectations and were either replaced throughout the season (Nemanja Protic and Steven Smith) or had to go this summer (Aron Baynes and Lou Campbell).

Only Rickey Paulding and Robin Smeulders remained with the club and coach Krunic had to build a whole new team this summer. It is pretty obvious that the management and Krunic were not in the mood for big experiments. With just two exceptions all rotation players are familiar with the BBL what should minimize the risk of another signing fiasco.

The Thunderbirds could never really fill the gap left by the departure of Jason Gardner. Gardner, a former BBL MVP was one of the main reasons for Oldenburg’s championship in 2009 and retired due to back problems in 2010. I think it must have been Oldenburg’s first priority to find a real quality player for the Point Guard spot.

The team signed Bobby Brown, who has started his professional career in 2007/08 with Alba Berlin. He is probably best known for scoring 44 points in a breath-taking five-overtime UlebCup game against KK Bosna. After winning the championship in Berlin he played 113 NBA games for several teams and then returned to Europe to play for Asseco Prokom and Aris Thessaloniki. The 27-year old American has some nice crossover moves, can attack the basket, has a wide shooting range and is a scoring point guard. With his experience and his leadership abilities he should be one of the top 3 playmakers in this league. But Brown also tends to be little selfish at times. He also is the kind of player who needs to have the ball in his hands to play effective. Of course as a playmaker he gets a lot of touches, but it will be intersting to see how a deep team with so many quality players reacts if Brown likes to have the ball too long and too often

The trio Gardner-Foster-Paulding was the key for Oldenburg’s success in the past. With Paulding remaining with the team and Bobby Brown playing Gardner’s part it was time for a new Je’kel Foster kind of player. The original Foster returned to Germany, but signed with Bayern Munich. Oldenburg’s new Foster could be Kenny Hasbrouck. The 25-year old combo guard spent his college days at Siena and was close to make it to the Miami Heat roster in last summer. He then signed with Alicante and had some nice stats in the ACB. Hasbrouck really reminds me a bit of Je’Kel Foster. Of course he is not as experienced and constantly perfect as Foster is. But he will get major minutes on both guard positions and should do well.

German players never had much success under the guidance of Predrag Krunic. Daniel Hain for example decided to leave Oldenburg this summer and hopes for some more time on the court in Bonn. Dominik Bahiense de Mello spent the last five years in Frankfurt. In the last two years he became an important player for the Skyliners and is mainly known for his nice shot from downtown and his tough one on one defense. The 26-year old will come from the bench and give the starters a rest for some minutes. It will be interesting to see if will end up like Daniel Hain or if he can help to shed off Krunic’s tendency to not let germans play. I think de Mello should do well in Oldenburg because he is not just a one-dimensional player. He can help the team offensively with his nice shooting touch and developed into a very good defender over the years.

Another german who signed with Oldenburg is Christopher Razis. The 21-year old played in Cyprus last year and was honored as the Newcomer of the Year and the Most improved Player there. Razis should not see a lot of minutes this season. I guess his german passport was what makes him really interesting for Oldenburg. But he signed a contract with an option for another year and could be long term project for the Thunderbirds. Especially if you consider that next season we have 6-6 rule (6 germans and 6 foreign players on every team) his signing could start to pay off in 2012.

Rickey Paulding clearly is Oldenburg’s franchise player. Ever since he joined the team in 2007 he was the cornerstone in Krunic’s system. Even though statistically he is not as valuable as he was in 2009, Paulding is still one of the league’s best players. Last season he played a great play-off series against Alba Berlin and he plays his best basketball when the team needs him.

Sead Sehovic is a 22-year old Serbian Shooting Guard/Small Forward, who spent his entire pro career with KK Budućnost. He has already gathered some EuroCup experience and his size and stable shot makes him very versatile. It will be interesting to see what Krunic has in mind for him, because he seems too talented to just get a few minutes as Paulding’s backup. But one should not underestimate that it’s his first season away from home. So this season could be more of a learning experience for Sehovic.

Ronnie Burrell has played for Koeln 99ers and the Telekom Baskets Bonn in the past. He spent the last two seasons in Poland and brings in some Euroleague experience. Unlike his predecessor Steven Smith he is true team player who plays to win and is not really interested in his personal stats. The 28-year old is a good rebounder with a nice mid range shot who also can make a three pointer now and then. Burrell’s game is not spectacular, but efficient. Unlike so many other american players Burrell knows about his strengths ans weaknesses and does what he can do best. I think Krunic will like him a lot.

The return of Milan Majstorovic is something all Oldenburg supporters must love. Majstorovic was a member of the 2009 championship team and his versatility and team-oriented game made him a fan favorite among the Thunderbird fans. The 2,07 meter Forward can play on both forward positions and this time he should also get some minutes on the center position. The 28-year old spent last season in Spain’s ACB and even improved his game in Spain. Majstorovic does the little things, all the stuff you don’t get to see on the usual stats sheet.

Adam Chubb also returns to Germany from Spain. The fact that Oldenburg is able to bring back players, who were successful in Spain’s ACB shows that the thunderbirds must have one of the biggest budgets this season. Chubb is a 30-year old center who has incredibly fast feet and a nice arsenal of center moves. Before he decided to play baskeball he was into track and fields and was an excellent high jumper. All the track and fields practice certainly pays off now as Chubb is quick on defense and often too fast to be stopped by bigger opponents offensively. He should get major minutes and looks like the total opposite of Aron Baynes who was not helping Oldenburg the way they hoped he could.

Besides franchise player Rickey Paulding the 24-year old Robin Smeulders is the only player from last season’s roster who remained with the team. Smeulders is not only valuable for Oldenburg because of his german passport (he also plays for the Netherlands). Last season Smeulders averaged just 6 minutes per game, but this year he is a part of Krunics rotation. I rather see him on the 4 spot, but I guess Krunic give him some minutes as Chubbs backup.

Jannik Freese spent the last years with the Gießen 46ers but never really managed to have a break-out season. While he dominated games in Germany’s second division with farmteam TV Lich, he never became a serious force in the BBL. At times he looks a bit clumsy and lacks aggressiveness. He had some good games at the end of the 2010/2011 campaign with Gießen, but still I wonder why he decided to join Oldenburg. I doubt that he will see more than garbage minutes and he probably would be better off to play for a team like Gießen or Bayreuth to get more playing time.


PG Brown

SG Hasbrouck / de Mello / Razis

SF Paulding / Sehovic

PF Burrell / Majstorovic

Chubb / Smeulders


As you can see there are a lot of names written in bold. Oldenburg has a brand new team and even though the names of the starters sound like a starting line-up for the All-Star Game I think that they will need some time to tap their full potential.

It will certainly help that the majority of the new signings knows the league. But only Majstorovic already knows Krunic’s philosophy. Of course the managements needs to see improvement compared to last season and I would not be surprised to see Oldenburg in the semi-finals this year. But it might take another year for Oldenburg to really become a title-contender.

Just remember that when Krunic took over and formed a team around Gardner and Paulding they were successful in their second season. This might happen again beacuse I think Oldenburg is on the right track now after a disappointing 2010/2011 season. Krunic’s team is probably the only one that could be able to challenge the big B’s (Bamberg, Berlin, Bayern) in the play-offs. But to really become a force and beat dominating teams like Bamberg and Berlin in a best of 5 series, it might take another summer of good decisions and a team that has grown.

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