Monday, September 03, 2007

Eurobasket '07 Preview--Group B

• Team-by-team previews in our group breakdowns:
Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D


(Teams listed in predicted order of 1st round finish)

SPAIN: Their tourney to lose. Every thing is in their favor: playing at home, placed in the easiest group, arguably the best team in Europe, no apparent weaknesses, one of the top players in the tourney (Pau) & tremendous depth.

The only minor controversy surrounding Spain was whether Garbajosa would be able to suit up. After some last-minute haggling with the Raptors, it looks like Garba will play. Not really sure this is a good idea considering that Spain already has a Olympic berth combined with severity of Garba's injury. I can understand why Toronto wants to persuade him from playing, but this just shows the importance of Eurobasket.

But now Spain just got late word Navarro will be out a few games, and possibly the whole tourney. Juan's injury is definitely a blow, but if there is any team that can absorb it, it's Team Espana. Having Rudy Fernandez to plug in for J.C. is not a bad problem to have. Though we'll see how this effects Spain's outside shooting, could hurt them.

Spain has continued where they left off from last year, and has looked invincible in exhibitions. They are a great, cohesive unit who understand & accept that Pau is their main option. Have the best starting backcourt in the tourney in Juan Carlos Navarro & Jose Calderon (Raptors). Navarro likes to penetrate for a variety of floaters, but has honed his outside shot the last few years to become a dangerous shooter. Calderon is one of the best back-up points in the NBA, who takes great care of the ball. They are ably backed up by Rudy Fernandez & Sergio Rodriguez. Both guys bring an up-tempo jolt off the bench. Carlos Cabezas (who use to play some killer solos in Quiet Riot) will also see minutes backing up Calderon.

Then there is Jorge Garbajosa, who is a jack-of-all-trades PF--he likes to float out for 3s, but also is a sneaky slasher who has a knack for drawing fouls. But most important, Garba is one of the best all-around defenders on the planet, who was huge in the Worlds last year on both ends of the floor. He combines with SF Carlos Jimenez & Felipe Reyes to provide the dirty work around the potent scoring of Gasol, Navarro, & Calderon.

Maybe the best & most underrated asset of this squad is their team defense. One of the top defensive units in the world, adept in either man or zone coverages. And the best part, Coach Pepu Hernandez loves to mix up his defenses.

With Pau leading the way on both ends of the floor, this team is mighty tough to beat, especially at home. Would love to try to pick someone else, but this team has too much of everything to not be the prohibitive favorite. But we'll see if the injuries to Garba & Navarro have any effects on Spain's march to the crown.

CROATIA: Though they are missing key vets like Vujcic & Gordon Giricek, they are still are a capable team & can't be counted out of making it into the quarterfinals. Very solid & underrated defensive club, and their backcourt is as dangerous & deep as any Euro team.

Have endless options at PG with the ability to play Zoran Planinic, Roko Leni-Ukic, Davor Kus & Marko Popovic. Popovic is one of the better guards in Europe, who is a capable scorer/shooter with nice passing ability. Though Planinic never really found his niche with the Nets, he has found success with his return to Europe & was a top assist man in Euroleague action. Raptor draftee Ukic is a big PG with underrated athleticism but a shaky shot. 6-7 SG Marko Tomas is a NBA prospect who adds another dangerous shooting option to the mix, but also can cause problems for the opposition with his agility & strong defense.

Former Orlando Magic Mario Kasun will carry much of the load for the thin frontcourt. Kasun is a powerful big with solid athleticism & current Milwaukee Buck Damir Markota is a 7-footer with solid athleticism who can float out to hit jumpers when needed & can hit the boards as well. Youngsters Marko Banic & Stanko Barac will see minutes on the frontline. Banic, a solid rebounder, should start next to Kasun, and Stanko adds another 7-footer who can float outside, plus he has the best name in the tourney.

Croatia has a nice collection of raw talent with underrated athletes and capable shooters, which can be a dangerous combination in FIBA play. Croatia could be a real sleeper in this tourney, definitely can make it into the quarters, and would not be stunned if they snuck into the Semis.

LATVIA: Lucked out by being placed in the weakest group, and should challenge Croatia for 2nd place. Will be led by Golden State big man Andris Biedrins. Will look to wingman Kristaps Janicenoks to be the primary perimeter threat with his outside shooting & overall scoring ability. Sandis Valters also provides Latvia with an outside shooting threat, and another perimeter scorer. Armands Skele gives this team a athletic combo guard, who will spend some time at PG.

Ex-Valparaiso center Raitis Grafs & burly veteran Uvis Helmanis provide Latvia with some serviceable big bodies alongside Biedrins. Kaspars Cipress gets by with a nice package of athleticism & activity much like Biedrins, and will be expected to offer a decent amount of scoring on the frontline.

Think Latvia should be satisfied with getting to 2nd-round stage of this deep tourney & could finish above Croatia, might have a very slight chance of slipping into the playoff portion, but highly unlikely.

PORTUGAL: Not much is expected of this small country, and they have the honor of opening up the tourney vs. Spain. Don't have a ton of size, and the interior defense suffers because of it. Just happy to be in Spain, and probably happy not too much money will be wasted on airfare, or maybe they're doing it road-trip style, even cheaper.

Led by center Elvis Evora, who does a little bit of everything--scoring, rebounding, & some passing. Francisco Jordao is a forward capable of stepping outside & provides another serviceable scorer up front.

Filipe da Silva & Miquel Minhava combine to forces to man the PG spot. da Silva is a nice distributor, while Minhava can shoot from the perimeter. Joao Gomes & Paulo Cunha both bring athleticism to the table, and Cunha will crash the glass.

Just winning one game will be an accomplishment. Actually, might have an outside chance of toppling Latvia, finding a way into the 2nd round. But more than likely will be fighting with Poland so see who finishes in last place.

• Team-by-team previews in our group breakdowns:
Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D


At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay Latvia/Biedrins beat Croatia!! Nice game.. On to the next round..

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