The start of the Euroleague season may still be more than three months away, but Maccabi Tel Aviv already knows who it will be facing in the regular season after Thursday’s draw in Barcelona.

Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos, Laboral Vitoria of Spain, Russia’s Lokomotiv Kuban, Red Star Belgrade and a team from the qualifying rounds were all drawn with Maccabi in Group D, with the top four sides to advance to the Top 16.

After 14 games for each club in the Top 16, the top four teams from each of the two groups will progress to the best-of-five quarterfinal playoffs. The lone change in the competition’s format from last year is that the eight teams which are knocked out in the regular season will be handed a place in the Eurocup Last 32.

The regular season tips off on October 17, with the Euroleague announcing on Thursday that the Final Four will take place in Milan, Italy, on May 15-18.

“The Euroleague draw is always exciting,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt. “We are at a very early stage with most teams still rebuilding for next season. The players’ market is moving slower than ever this year so it is hard to predict how strong our rivals will be.”

Unlike Maccabi, which has so far only added Alex Tyus to its roster, Panathinaikos has been very active in the early part of the off-season, bringing back Antonis Fotsis while resigning Stephane Lasme, James Gist and Ramel Curry.

The Greeks have also landed talented prospects Vladimir Jankovic and Nikos Pappas, but their most crucial move was extending the contract of former Euroleague MVP Dimitris Diamantidis.

“Although the teams have not completed their rosters yet to have a clear picture, our group seems possible at first sight,” said Pao coach Argyris Pedoulakis.

“The challenge for us is to be ready from the start.” Maccabi will also expect a tough time against Vitoria, while reigning Eurocup champion Kuban will pose a real threat in its first ever Euroleague appearance, with its roster including the likes of Nick Calathes and Aleks Maric.

“We face a very competitive and challenging group,” added Blatt. “In order to succeed in this group and in the long Euroleague season we need to build a strong quality team and we are currently in the midst of that process.”

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