Monday, September 03, 2007

Eurobasket '07 Preview--Group D

• 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)

FRANCE: A medal contender. Very dangerous club with the most athletic team outside the USA. Very good defensive squad that also usually does a strong job on the glass. Rebound very well from the wings. Though, the key to this team's fortunes relies heavily on if they have solved their considerable perimeter shooting woes.

We felt before the Worlds last year that their shooting was a major stumbling block--that turned out to be an understatement. It has been their major weakness the last few years, and they were downright atrocious last year--27% from 3pt. There is no doubt I would be throwing tons of sagging zone looks at the French. This team needs to prove it can hit their outside shots every game. On a positive note, they have looked real impressive in the exhibition stage, and most importantly, have been shooting pretty well.

Tony Parker is back this year after missing out on the Worlds because of a hand injury. Parker had an up & down tourney in '05, but came on late to help France to a Bronze medal. We know Tony has improved his jumper, but I would still rather sag off him then have him penetrate.

6-7 Florent Pietrus is an underrated cog on this team, who was probably their best player last year--rebounds extremely well for his size, excellent defender, great activity overall. Some complain that Mickeal Pietrus is not on the team, but I don't think it's a big deal since he disappointed last year, and his brother was much more valuable.

Denver Nugget Yakhouba Diawarra provides France with another superb athlete who can help out on the defensive end. Claude Ferchaud will be called upon to be the designated sharpshooter for Team France. Will go with a 2-headed PG look a lot with Parker alongside speedy 5-11 Joseph Gomis in the backcourt. Tariq Kirksay (naturalized from US) has been added to this squad to offer more athletic firepower, some shooting, & strong rebounding.

Rony Turiaf should see some more time this year alongside Vince Carter's buddy Fred Weis. Boris Diaw was supposed to be the leader of this team last year, and put up solid numbers, but I came away unimpressed with his play at the Worlds. He needs to be more consistent & not disappear like he did with the Suns this year.

If this team does find a way to consistently hit their outside shots then they are extremely dangerous & could beat any team in the tourney. But they have to prove to me they can consistently hit from deep before I pick them to medal.

SLOVENIA: Missing a handful of key players (Nachbar, B. Udrih, P. Brezec, S. Becirovic) and presumed to be an afterthought this year. But still have solid talent around, and have playerd fairly well in the ramp-up to tourney. Per usual with Team Slovenia, they have multiple guys who can drill jumpers, including the requisite Euro bigs who float out. Also solid on the boards, but without Brezec & Nachbar, we'll see how they do this year.

Good frontline combo of Rasho Nesterovic & Euroleague star Matjaz Smodis (CSKA Moscow). Smodis can do damage inside & out, multi-skilled big who rocks the Euro-Mullet look (think Def Leppard). Ex-Raptor Uros Slokar provides this squad with a more traditional big. The Lorbek brothers (Erazem & Domen) are a danger to float out to the perimeter to bury bombs.

Without Nachbar, the Slovenians are a little shaky at the 3 spot, Goran Jagodnik will try to step in Boci's absence. Jagodnik is a very strong rebounder for a 6-6 SF, and has to be respected from the 3pt. line. Young combo guard Goran Dragic is a speedy force on both ends of the floor.

Jaka Lakovic is a steady PG with a pure stroke who plays on one of the better Euroleague teams, FC Barcelona. Alexsandar Capin will see plenty of minutes at the point. This team should advance to the 2nd round, and do have a decent shot of making the playoffs. Can they get a medal? I doubt it, but do have a chance of securing a Top 7 spot, which would mean a trip to the pre-Olympic qualifier.

ITALY: Was gonna pick this team as my sleeper for a gold medal about 3 weeks ago when they were cruising thru the friendly stage. But Italy has been snakebitten by one injury after another in the last few weeks--Danilo Galinari (one of the best young players in Europe), G. Galanda (shooting big who lit up Team USA in '04), & Mason Rocca (rugged Princeton grad) all have been scratched from the roster because of injury. Also, Andrea Bargnani is not 100% going into the tourney, but should be well enough to play.

Italy plays very similar to Lithuania: ball movement, player movement, a lot of 3-point attempts & big guys who float out. Also, they like to utilize the drive & kick game with their guards penetrating a lot & other players popping out to the perimeter for jumpers. This year's squad is a nice mix of wily veterans & promising young studs with nice athleticism.

Steady veteran PG Massimo Bulleri is back this year to run the show, and he will be ably backed up by Di Bella, a nice athlete who has more of a playground style. Maro Mordente will split time between both guard spots. The SG position is well taken care of with the 2-headed sharpshooting monster of Gianluca Basile & Marco Belinelli. Basile drills shots stationary or curling off of screens, and handles the ball when needed. And Marco Belinelli is a dynamic guard who has unlimited range and elite athletic ability (even by NBA standards). The issue with Marco is he would rather jack up off-balance 25+ footers than use his enormous athletic advantage to attack the basket; mentioned before, he reminds us of a poor man's Vince Carter.

Sometimes this entire team falls in love with their outside shooting, and has a "live by the 3pt/die by the 3pt mentality". Even though they have a handful of 7-footers, they are very shaky on the boards & interior defensively. This could have to do with the fact that Bargnani & Angelo Gigli are really SF at heart. They do get a more traditional post presence in the paint with Denis Marconato--a big, strong Euroleague vet. But Marconato is a little long in the tooth, and doesn't move too well. Former Fairleigh Dickinson star Andrea Crosariol adds another big body to the mix.

Matteo Sorangna provides Italy with a multi-skilled player at the SF. Would like to see a little more of Stefano Machinelli, an athletic SF who has solid overall skills & went 6/6 from the field vs. Team USA. Stefano did not look phased athletically vs. Team USA, but his coach inexplicably never used him much in the game.

Italy has a lot of offensive talent, but they have to shun the urge of turning into a jumpshot-happy team, like a FIBA version of the Mavs. Have the ability to get a playoff berth, but don't feel as strongly about their medal chances after all the injuries.

POLAND: I would say this team is just happy be in Spain. Feel pretty comfortable in saying this team has slim hopes of winning a game in Group D, and will fight with Portugal for 16th place.

37 year-old Adam Wojcik is the leader of the Polish club--he's a multi-talented 6-10 big with good face-up skills. 6-8 forward Filip Dylewicz gives Poland another athletic multi-skilled player on their frontline, and Filip should be one of Poland's primary scoring options.

Lucasz Koszarek is a savvy playmaker who will see most of the time at PG. Przemyslaw Frasunkiewicz, who definitely needs some sort of one-word nickname, helps out Wojcik & Dylewicz on the frontline. Former Buck draftee Szymon Szewczyk provides Poland with a nice athletic big who rebounds well & has a solid shot.

Would be shocked if Poland won a game in the Group D, and should just look to build on this Eurobasket experience.

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


At 5:30 PM, Blogger Charlie said...

Great preview.

How much time did you spend making sure some of those names were spelled correctly?


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