Since the arrival of coach Andrea Trinchieri in 2020, FC Bayern Munich has become a constant playoff contender in the EuroLeague. The Italian head coach has turned Bayern into one of the most difficult teams in Europe.
In the past two seasons, Bayern have forced Milan and Barcelona into Game 5 of the EuroLeague playoffs and only gave up at the very end of that series. It’s no secret that Andrea Trinchieri is one of the best European coaches. His arrival in Munich has really helped the German club take the necessary step forward to permanently belong to the elite of EuroLeague basketball.
Trinchieri did this thanks to his X&O skills, but also thanks to his impressive player instincts. Last summer he was able to recruit veteran big man Othello Hunter to the team, although he was seriously considering quitting before the upcoming season.
Hunter and Trinchieri developed such a positive relationship that the player decided to stay in Munich for another season, signing a contract extension until 2023 during the off-season.
Bayern cannot compete with the budgets of Spanish powerhouses like Real Madrid or Barcelona. To stay relevant, they need to make the right decisions in the market and find the right players at the right price.
That’s something that Bayern manager Daniele Baiesi was always very good at, finding rough diamonds or reclamation projects, which worked very well under his leadership.
Bayern signed Darrun Hilliard from CSKA Moscow last summer. In Russia, the American swinger had always been just one piece of the puzzle, a “system” guy. In Munich, despite the injuries that limited him throughout the season, he quickly became a key player, often taking on a lot of offensive responsibility.
The mix of young talents (Jaramaz, Sisko, Weiler-Babb and George) and veterans (Lucic, Hunter, Rubit and Zipser) propelled Bayern into the EuroLeague playoffs last season despite many counting them out.
This season, the German club will try to reach the postseason for the third year in a row, but in the offseason they decided to go in a different direction than in previous seasons.
While previously in the market they mainly looked to attract players who were about to leave other EuroLeague ‘big teams’ or to invest in younger talent from EuroCup sides, this summer Bayern decided to invest in players from the NBA to investing market.
Their top three signings this summer all come from the NBA/G League route: Cassius Winston, Freddie Gillespie and Isaac Bonga.
Winston, a Michigan State graduate, was drafted by the Washington Wizards with the 53rd pick overall in the 2020 NBA draft. In his two seasons with the Wizards, the point guard found more room in the G League than in the NBA.
With the Wizards, Winston played just 29 games in two seasons, averaging under 5 minutes per game.
In last season’s G League, he averaged 13.3 points, 5.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game while shooting 40% from the ę point. As a former player for coach Tom Izzo, Winston knows what it means to play for a tough coach.
He grew up as a player in a very competitive environment and that has served him well. For these reasons, his addition could be a great fit for Trinchieri, another head coach known for being extremely demanding with his players.
“He’s a point guard with great mental responsiveness, vision and nerve to play for a coach like Andrea Trinchieri,” a European scout told BasketNews. “He’s also a tough defensive player, which coach Trinchieri always appreciates. Having played for coach Tom Izzo, he already has a certain type of mentality that I think could suit Trinchieri well.”
“It will be very interesting to see him play at Bayern Munich,” another European scout told BasketNews. “Personally, I think Winston will be very effective and will be a great fit alongside Weiler-Babb, Hunter and Lucic. I think he has the right skills for coach Trinchieri and Bayern.”
Freddie Gillespie has had a unique story and journey. He didn’t start playing basketball until he was 16, and even then he prioritized American football over basketball.
But when he started growing too much for football, he turned to basketball. He began his college career at a Division III college, Carleton. From then on, he began to attract the attention of larger schools thanks to his performances.
He joined Baylor as a walk-on in 2018 and was sidelined for a year due to NCAA transfer rules. After his redshirt year, he received a full scholarship to Baylor. At the end of the 2019-2020 season, Gillespie was named the Big 12 Most Improved Player, Second Team All-Big 12, and All-Defensive Team.
After going undrafted in the 2020 NBA draft, Gillespie was selected by the Memphis Hustle with the second pick overall in the G League draft in January 2021. In the G League, the player made an instant impact, averaging 10.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
By the end of the 2020-21 regular season, Gillespie signed a few 10-day contracts with the Raptors and then signed for the remainder of the season. Despite some good performances during his time at Toronto, Gillespie was waived by the team before the start of the 2021–22 season.
He then returned to the Memphis Hustle in the G League and signed a couple of 10-day contracts with the Orlando Magic just before the end of 2021.
He signed a two-year deal with Bayern Munich that off-season, marking the start of his first European experience. Gillespie is the prototype of the High Risk – High Reward player. He has really interesting tools, especially from a physical point of view, but he’s also still pretty raw in some aspects of his game.
“Gillespie has shown his worth in the G League but he’s still pretty raw as a player,” a European scout told BasketNews. “He’s got a great physique and very good rebound instincts, but he still needs to work on his offensive game and improve some of his defensive moves. For me, the real problem is whether he will be able to maintain a certain level of activity for many minutes at EuroLeague level. The need for activity and concentration in the G League is not as high as in the EuroLeague.”
“Gillespie is kind of a project mark, I think,” another European scout told BasketNews. “He’s a good player but still raw. He needs to brush up on his game to become a prolific Roll & Cut big man here in Europe. But Andrea Trinchieri as head coach could certainly help him improve his game.”
Isaac Bonga’s return to German basketball came as a surprise in the latter part of the offseason. The 22-year-old German guard left Europe in 2018 when the Los Angeles Lakers drafted him into the second round of the NBA draft.
Bonga only spent one season in LA and was then traded to the Washington Wizards. He had more opportunities to play in Washington, and particularly in his freshman season there, he averaged 19 minutes per game, adding 5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
In his sophomore year at Washington, his minutes began to drop and he left the team at the end of the 2020-21 season.
Bonga signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Raptors last season. Still, the German couldn’t find many minutes even in Canada, and this summer he decided to return to Europe and sign a two-year deal with Bayern Munich. Bonga is represented by the same agency that represents Trinchieri, Wasserman.
As a member of the German national team and with his versatility, Bonga is definitely a smart addition for FC Bayern. He can fill multiple positions, particularly on defence, he has a physicality and athleticism that can really help the team move forward and he still has a lot of room for improvement.
“I personally love the idea of Bonga being back in European basketball,” a European scout told BasketNews.
“He has a style of play that can be compared to Will Clyburn in a way. Of course he’s not a natural goalscorer like Will, but physically they have something in common. I think that really helps Bayern. He.” He has to change his style a bit, he has to be more of a team person and less selfish as a player. If he makes that move, I believe he can make a huge contribution to the team.”
With the contract extensions of Vladimir Lucic, Weiler-Babb, Hunter, Rubit and Sisko, FC Bayern once again presents a good combination of young talent and experience. A mix that Trinchieri has already shown how to properly maximize.
Although Bayern pursued a different strategy in the market this summer, the goal for next season remains the same: secure a place in the EuroLeague playoffs and continue to give the other top teams in the competition an extremely difficult time, just like last season to make past two seasons.
Bayern Munich might be missing a real “superstar” on the pitch, but they definitely have a manager who can take the group to a whole new level every season.