Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2011 FIBA Americas Preview

• EuroBasket 2011 Preview: Overview | Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D
2011 FIBA Americas Preview

Mar Del Plata, Argentina will host the FIBA Americas Championships from Aug. 30-Sept. 11. Wish this tourney wasn't scheduled for the same time as EuroBasket, seems like a rather weird choice to have them overlap. In the U.S., every game can be viewed for free via ESPN3.com.

The top two finishers qualify for the Olympics, while spots 3-5 will punch tickets for the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament next summer (12 teams will compete for the last 3 spots).

10 teams will divided into two opening-round groups of five:
    Group A: Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Dominican Rep., Venezuela
    Group B: Argentina, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Uruguay
Each team plays every other team in its group once. The top four teams from both groups advance to the second round. These eight teams form one group and they play four games vs. the teams from the opposite opening-round group. The second round uses an unrelenting schedule of four games in four days. Then, the top four teams move on the knockout phase.

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Argentina is the clear favorite to win gold at home in a last hurrah for its "Golden Generation".

Brazil, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are the other top medal contenders.

After an awful Worlds performance (partly due to a rash of injuries), Canada should fare better this year with Joel Anthony and a healthy Andy Rautins leading the way.

Canada will be competing with Uruguay, Venezuela and Panama for the last pre-Olympic qualifying spot. Cuba and Paraguay are in Argentina to see the sights.

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TIER I (The Medal Contenders):

1) ARGENTINA:
Key Players: Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, Andres Nocioni, Fab Oberto, Pablo Prigioni, Pepe Sanchez
Key Absences: Roman Gonzalez; Leo Gutierrez


The old gang is back together for one last go-round. Already have them unofficially penciled in for London 2012.

The core of this team has been playing together for many years--they are an extremely potent club because of their tremendous chemistry and raw talent.

Not sure there is a better passing team as a whole than Argentina. Have multiple options on each play, and seemingly counterplays for their counterplays. They often run flex sets to perfection. When their offense is *on*, there's not a prettier team to watch to FIBA ball.

Manu Ginobili is back after sitting out the last two years and having his 2008 Olympics hampered by a bum ankle. Will be interesting to see how new coach Julio Lamas utilizes Manu.

Have to imagine Manu will pick his spots in the tourney, more willing to fill in the gaps when needed than dominate all game. Think Manu is smart enough to realize it's the Luis Scola show now.

Luis Scola is always an uber-efficient monster in FIBA play as he led the Worlds in scoring (27 ppg) and was the best player not named Kevin Durant in Turkey last summer.

Scola will draw extra defenders, draw fouls and shoot a high pct. Loves working the pick/roll, where he will peel off to hit jumpers from the foul line area or work his way to the baseline for jumpers. He's a force near the basket scoring off righty hooks, up/under moves, drop-steps, spins and put-backs. Expect him to be MVP.

PG Pablo Prigioni rarely looks for his shot, as precision-passing is his calling card--the best pure passer in the tourney. Master of the bounce pass. Leads the receiver like a great quarterback.

The Prigioni-Scola pick/roll combo is the deadliest in the tourney. Pablo always plays under control and makes sound decisions with the ball.

Carlos Delfino is coming off a superb Worlds tourney in which he averaged 20 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3 apg & 2 spg. 'Los will be a secondary ball-handler. Expect quality passing, defense, rebounding and finishing from @cabezadelfino.

Andres Nocioni is back this summer after an ankle injury nixed his Worlds participation. Expect Noce to bring his usual spazzy brand of ball, strong rebounding and shooting. Might need Noce to play some PF minutes.

Fab Oberto and Nocioni are great at getting lost on the offensive end. They are masters at finding open spaces while Prigioni, Scola or Delfino have the ball in their hands. Also, Oberto is an underrated passer and a decent post-up option in FIBA play. Oberto, Scola, & Nocioni are very crafty at using the flex screens to get quick seals.

They even coaxed Pepe Sanchez out of national-team retirement to add more veteran firepower. Pepe is another savvy playmaker and most of the other Americas teams wish they had him starting at PG. SG Paolo Quinteros is the designated sharpshooter off the bench--can spot-up or run off baseline screens.

Reserve forwards Hernan Jasen and Painted Area fave Federico Kammerichs. provide Argentina with activity and rebounding at the SF. Jasen did a terrific job on both sides of the court filling in for Nocioni in the starting lineup last summer. We hope Feddie goes with 'stache that made him a legend in '07 this summer.

Little disappointed Argentina didn't include Painted Area fave Roman Gonzalez. Actually not sure why they left him off the roster considering they could use his size off the bench.

The only minor question mark has to do with the lack of frontcourt depth. Not much size or talent behind Oberto and Scola--quite a dropoff. But then again, they've never been particularly deep or big.

Would be a stunning development if they did not get one of the two automatic Olympic bids at home. More stunning than if Spain fails to get to the Euro finals.

2) BRAZIL:
Key Players: Tiago Splitter; Marcelo Huertas; Marcelo Machado
Key Absences: Nene; A. Varejao; L. Barbosa


The defending Americas champs will have a hard time repeating without Leandro Barbosa, Andy Varejao and Nene. Brazil has shown in the past they can be competitive without the services of Nene or Varejao. But the big question is: can they be effective without Barbosa?

Barbosa has consistently been their top scorer over the last few years and Brazil could have some issues making up the points in Barbosa's absence. Barbosa was an offensive force at the 2009 FIBA Americas, finishing behind only Scola in scoring average, with 21 ppg.

Brazil has looked impressive in the prep phase, executing at a high level. But that shouldn't surprise since they have the best coach in the tourney, Ruben Magnano, manning the sidelines.

Ruben was the mastermind behind Argentina's rise to prominence on the international scene and he's one of the best coaches in the tourney. Magnano has brought over some of the continuity sets he perfected with the Argentine team.

Played pretty good ball last summer in Magnano's first year. Played Team USA tougher than anyone and pushed Argentina to the limit in a classic. Plus he had to deal with injuries to all his NBA bigs.

This summer, Tiago Splitter becomes the primary option. He's a little banged up but should be ready to go. Tiago's deft footwork gets him quality looks around the bucket, though Tiago doesn't always finish off his moves smoothly because his touch can be dodgy. He can finish with both hands and likes to toss up low-angle hooks. Expect a few sweet up-under/step-thru moves as well.

His flat shot hurts him when he tries to step away from the paint and at the FT line. Tiago can drive by his man in a straight-line way from the perimeter.

Underrated passer--can make passes on the move and delivers the ball quickly when he sees an open teammate. Great all-around defender--his lateral movement on the defensive end is as good as any big in the NBA.

Marcelo Huertas is a speedy 6-3 PG who can penetrate and finish with variety of floaters. Many U.S. fans should remember Huertas as he shredded Team USA with dribble penetration last summer (some might remember him missing a key free throw). Has taken his game to another level over the last few years and is one of the best PGs outside the NBA. We're big fans and believe he could be a quality reserve point in the NBA.

Usually not much of an outside threat, but Huertas has improved his deep shooting over the last few years. Huertas likes to go away from ball screens. Can get out of control sometimes, which leads to some forced passes (leaves his feet to pass often) and forced shots.

36-year-old SF Marcelo Machado is probably the most lethal shooter in this tourney--unlimited range. Brazil will run him off screens and he needs just a sliver of space to get his shot up. Often hits jumpers in rapid succession. Not mentioned enough, but Machado is a terrific passer--nice entry passes. Not on the floor for his defense.

Former N.O. Hornet Marcus Vinicius has raw talent but tends to be inconsistent. Vinicius is a capable pull-up shooter as well, particularly going to his left. Thought Vinicius gave Brazil good minutes last summer, particularly using his length well on the defensive end.

Former Spur/Hornet Alex Garcia is an another experienced vet at Magnano's disposal. Garcia is a powerfully built dude who plays aggressive on-ball defense and can attack the rim. Gets out well in transition. Inconsistent shooter because of awkward release.

Combo forward Guilherme Giovannoni is their designated stretch-4 option. Giovannoni is a smart vet who gets some boards and defends well for guy lacking agility.

Magnano has decided to add two 19-year-old potential NBA draftees from Unicaja Malaga--Augusto Lima and Rafael Freire-Luz--to the mix. 6-10 Lima has all the physical tools you want in a NBA prospect: wide shoulders, long arms, good hops and fluid running motion. His game needs some polish, doesn't really have a post game. Lima will basically be scoring off cuts and rolls for Brazil. Strong rebounder but needs to work on his FT shooting. His minutes could be limited.

PG Freire-Luz is fast with the ball (can get around defender without screen). Has nice mechanics on jumper but for some reason the results vary wildly.

Brazil will try to help Splitter with Rafael Hettscheimeir and Caio Torres, two wide-bodies with soft touches. Both guys can hit out to 18 feet. Hettscheimeir will get some touches in the post where he can hit turnarounds and hooks.

Have all the makings to be tough defensively. Brazil has the ability to wreak havoc with defensive pressure and force an uptempo game. This team is dangerous in transition thanks to great speed across the board.

The only minor concern I have without Barbosa: when they need a crucial bucket, can they get someone to create a good scoring opportunity. I think they will be fine if they just run the sets that Magnano chooses for them.

Don't see any way they take the gold medal out of Argentina's hands. Their goal should just be getting to the finals and securing the automatic Olympic bid.

3) DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:
Key Players: Al Horford; Francisco Garcia; Chaz Villanueva; JM Martinez
Key Absences: Sammy Meija


Finished in fifth place at the 2009 FIBA Americas tourney after a tough four-point loss to Canada, which cost them a spot at the World Championships. If Francisco Garcia had been healthy, they likely were headed to the Worlds.

All of the Dominican Republic's four losses came against the top four finishers of FIBA Americas and all the games were winnable. They lost to Argentina in OT. In their losses to Puerto Rico and Brazil, the games were close with five minutes to go., but their late-game execution was haphazard. The offense couldn't get organized properly and there were too many careless turnovers.

So the Dominican federation called upon John Calipari to make sure they pull through in tight games this year. Calipari will be aided by Del Harris, Orlando Antigua and Rod Strickland.

Biggest question mark for the Dominicans going into the last Americas was the point-guard position. And this still remains a question mark this summer. Calipari hopes former Louisville PG Edgar Sosa is the answer to this team's point-guard issues. I'm not so sure.

Sosa can get into the lane to finish well and has the ability to hit jumpers at a solid clip. But Sosa has never been the savviest of decision makers. Ill-advised shots and forcing passes into clogged areas. That's exactly what this team is trying to avoid.

No surprise that I thought Al Horford was this squad's best all-around player at the '09 Americas. Horford was the anchor of their defense: changing shots, bodying up, shuffling his feet on the perimeter and always being in the right spot as a helper. Al hit mid-range jumpers, made some hooks and displayed his terrific passing skills. Expect the same things this tourney.

Some fans might be unfamiliar with PF/C Jack Michael Martinez but he's nearly as important to this team as the NBA guys. Martinez can score, pass and rebound. He's a beast on the offensive glass.

Martinez likes to methodically back down his man (a la Mark Jackson) where he can score with some nifty moves. Maybe most impressive, Martinez is a very gifted passer, especially out of the post.

Charlie Villanueva's first Americas tourney was a somewhat uneven affair. Chuck scored some points but often couldn't get into a good rhythm because he was saddled with foul trouble. Was the second-best scorer at Centrobasket last year. Villanueva's shooting should complement Horford & JM Martinez's more interior-inclined skills well. Chuckie will work out of isos a bunch.

This squad should own the boards and is particularly dangerous on the offensive glass. Also have the makings of a tough defensive squad.

Francisco Garcia was blazing through the '09 Americas before he busted his finger. Garcia was drilling shots out to 25 feet and was flying around as a help defender deluxe (got a bunch of blocks). Coach Cal will need the same from Franny this year and might even need him to do some ball-handling.

Combo guard Luis Flores did a good job penetrating in '09, finding scores for himself and his teammates. But there were too many incidents of taking sketchy shots & making suspect decisions with the ball.

Former Pitt Panther Ronald Ramon (6-1) is a heady guard for Calipari to turn to off the bench. Ramon will handle the ball some and is a reliable deep shooter. 6-7 Kelvin Pena is a lanky wing who is primarily a spot-up threat.

Orlando Sanchez and Eulis Baez give Calipari two athletes at SF who rebound extremely well. Calipari unearthed Sanchez out of Monroe Comm. College (NY), where he was awesome on the off. glass and is a monster shot-blocker. Don't expect much from him offensively. Baez can handle the ball well enough and dish the ball, but doesn't have a reliable jumper.

Like with his Kentucky teams, Calipari will have the Dominicans running the dribble-drive offense. Smart move since Horford and Martinez's passing skills will be accentuated. It looks like Calipari wants to get in transition as well. Another smart move considering this team's mobility.

Even though the Dominicans finished fifth in '09, they played fairly well. Led the tourney in ppg and shot 38% from long range.

We know there is plenty of raw talent here. Can the talent get organized and mesh properly is the sticking question? They need steady point guard play and crisp execution if they want to pull out the tough wins.

4) PUERTO RICO:
Key Players: JJ Barea, Carlos Arroyo, Renaldo Balkman, Daniel Santiago
Key Absences: PJ Ramos; Angel Vassallo; Nathan Peavy; Carmelo Lee


Puerto Rico usually has the luxury of being one of the deepest teams in the Americas each year. But this could be differnt after that depth was heavily compromised when four keys guys pulled out with injuries. No PJ Ramos, Angel Vassallo, Carmelo Lee and Nathan Peavy. Basically the starting frontline needs to be replaced.

Puerto Rico is coming off a very solid performance at the '09 FIBA Americas tourney, finishing in 2nd place behind Brazil. The good news is that the backcourt rotation should be fine with Carlos Arroyo and JJ Barea around. Likely to see these two guys playing together quite a bit.

Expect Barea and Arroyo to dominate the ball even more this year. Expect an even heavier diet of pick-n-rolls this year with no Ramos in the post. Both guys can dart around causing havoc. Arroyo is the better shooter while Barea is the better slasher.

Both Arroyo and Barea will share ball-handling duties and will get plenty of ball screens. Both guys can be dangerous scorers in FIBA play.

However, Puerto Rico's offense can sometimes devolve into a sloppy mess. Arroyo and Barea can treat sections of the game as their personal one-on-one competitions. Both are guilty of getting tunnel-vision and will abandon sets to go into chucker mode.

Will have to integrate some players with little senior-team experience into the rotation. They have the ability to pile up steals. Have been looking to get out in transition in the prep phase and they have the athletes to be successful. And the 3pt. shot is a big part of the P.R. offensive arsenal.

Losing Ramos is a considerable blow as he played fairly well last summer. Ramos was their main interior option and was effective scoring on the block.

Aging center Dan Santiago will be forced back into the starting role in Ramos' absence. Dan can do some scoring on the block, and rolls well off high screens, but he's not quite effective as he use to be in FIBA play.

7-foot PF Ricky Sanchez (Nugget draftee) loves to spot-up behind the arc. Sanchez has shown some glimpses of improved driving ability.

Renaldo Balkman is back this year after struggling to get consistent minutes last summer. The coaching change should help, as he did not get along with former coach Manilo Cintron. Expect the same things Balkman brings in the NBA--energy, rebounds and defense.

The SF position is in disarray with Vassallo and Lee out, the top two SFs. Puerto Rico will turn to a trio of former NCAA standouts--Bimbo Carmona, John Holland and Alex Galindo-- to try to fill the void.

Recent Boston Univ. grad John Holland is an explosive athlete who can take the ball hard to the rim in the half-court or transition (though he can get out of control). Holland's jumper is inconsistent but he can get some rebounds and steals.

6-7 Alex Galindo (Florida Int'l alum) has the ability to cause problems with his long arms on defense, just like his predecessor, Carlos Lee.

Former Dayton Flyer Bimbo Carmona (6-5) is a powerful athlete who can get to the rim but his jumper is not reliable. Rebounds well for his size.

They're gonna miss Ramos' interior scoring, as it was a nice complement to Arroyo and Barea's scoring. They're going to need Santiago to turn back the clock every now and again. Also wonder if their outside shooting will be good as it normally is.

Even with a somewhat depleted roster, this squad is on the same level as Brazil and Dominican Republic.

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TIER II (Fighting for the last pre-Olympic bid):

CANADA:
Key Players: Carl English; Joel Anthony; Cory Joseph
Key Absences: Tristan Thompson; Sam Dalembert


Coming off an utterly disastrous Worlds performance that had many Maple Leafers calling for coach Leo Rautins' ouster. Rautins has not been great but he had to deal with injuries to key players that sucked dry whatever little offensive acumen this team had.

Same story as always for Team Canada in the post-Nash era: no one to create easy scoring opportunities on offense. Get close-to-no dribble penetration. The offense looks downright brutal sometimes.

What continues to hold this team back is a lack of playmakers, which makes for a constant struggle on the offensive end. No player who really creates anything on the perimeter. Not to mention, not much of a post scoring presence, which makes for a team with no one who needs to be doubled.

Coach Rautins smartly added some more motion to their half-court sets. Leo has figured out a better system (creating shots with player/ball movement instead off the dribble) for his talent.

Like to circle their wings around screens. They might run the least amount of pick/roll of any FIBA team, which is smart since their guards don't do much with the ball screens. Lots of screens off the ball.

Canada hopes the addition of recent San Antonio Spurs draftee Cory Joseph can help upgrade their PG spot. Right now, Joseph is more of a shooter than a deep penetrator.

6-6 Carl English returns after missing the Worlds with injury and is probably their best playmaker. The athletic Newfie will handle the ball some what and is probably the best dribble penetrator, but nothing special. English is a good shooter and he can create quick dribble pull-ups for himself going either way.

NY Knick Andy Rautins is one of top Maple Leafers on the roster and their main sharpshooter. Canada will run Rautins off screens, usually getting him open up high. Rautins can handle some of ball-handling duties in a pinch.

Canada actually has a collection of solid shooters--English, Rautins, Jermaine Anderson, Kelly Olynyk, Aaron Doornekamp & Joseph--they just have no players who draw extra defenders.

Canada usually stays competitive by being a quality defensive unit anchored by a stout interior defense. And Canada should be good inside this year.

Miami Heat's Joel Anthony is an active body who will board & change shots on the backline. Believe it or not, Anthony might see some touches in the post and he can hit a baby lefty hook sometimes. He also likes to turn & face, where he shows nice touch on short jumpers. He does, I swear.

Former Pitt Panther Levon Kendall will start alongside Anthony and provides stout positional defense on the block & timely help. Not to mention, he sets good screens, runs the floor hard, rebounds and can hit the occasional elbow jumper.

Another key returnee is veteran PF Jesse Young. Definitely missed his toughness and smarts last summer. Young moves well off the ball, can sometimes bury a turnaround jumper and will sacrifice his body.

6-1 Jermaine Anderson (ex-Fordham) is an effective jump shooter but can't really penetrate off the bounce, and has little in the way of point-guard instincts.

6-7 combo forward Aaron Doornekamp is another reliable shooter on the roster and plays some physical defense. Gonzaga's 6-11 Kelly Olynyk likely won't get much run, but does have 3pt. range, which is nice.

Denham Brown and Jevohn Shepherd (ex-Mich. Wolverine) give Canada some serviceable depth on the wings.
Brown is an adequate shooter and dependable defender. Shepherd is a nice athletic guard who handles the ball some. He can create space for himself (step-back dribbles), just too bad his jumper is broken.

It's doubtful Canada will earn one of the two Olympic berths, though they are capable of finishing in the fifth-place slot which would secure a berth into the qualifying tourney next summer. If they don't get the berth, can't imagine Leo Rautins sticks around.

6) URUGUAY:
Key Players: Esteban Batista; Maurice Aguiar


As they have in the past, show that the sum is greater than the parts. Good teamwork on both ends of the floor. Tough defensive unit, particularly aggressive perimeter defense with quick hands.

Have patterned their offense after their successful neighbor, Argentina. Like to run continuity-type sets with some double-high post formation thrown in. Like Argentina, have good cohesion, and often play above their talent level.

But once again, this team lacks depth and this usually catches up with them in second week. Usually play only 6 or 7 players.

Led by ex-Atlanta Hawk Esteban Batista, who's an absolute beast in the interior in FIBA, but he's trying to get healthy. Will often have to navigate consistent double-teams, and draws a ton of fouls. His touch is a little dodgy, and can miss chippies, but has a knack for corralling his misses. If he gets in foul trouble, there is nowhere to turn for interior-scoring help.

Batista badly needs help on the frontline--Uruguay is undersized and usually gets pounded on the glass. They hope 6-9 Reque Newsome (naturalized American) can aid Batista with rebounding and add some active defense Forward Sebastian Izaguire likes to face-up and uses his long, bouncy body to crash the off. glass.

6-6 SF Mauricio Aquiar is an athletic scorer who likes to attack (gets to the FT line often), but lacks a steady jumper. Aguiar will also handle the ball a bit. Aguiar will be the second scoring option and was one of the top players at the 2010 South American championships (3rd in ppg, 17.8).

Big PG Martin Osimani has a nice all-around floor game, and directs the offense with patience. 6-4 Gustavo Barrera gives Uruguay another big PG with nice passing skills. Barrera is another dogged defender on the perimeter.

Leandro Garcia-Morales (ex-Texas A&M) is another combo guard that Uruguay can count on to provide solid shooting & some ball-handling. Garcia-Morales is also a dogged defender on the perimeter, who's a steals merchant.

Have a very good defensive backcourt with Garcia-Morales, Osimani, & Gustavo Barrera. Their ball pressure tends to be good. Very aggressive and have quick hands.

Not a particularly good outside-shooting team, encouraging more doubles/triples on Batista. Acually not sure why more teams don't zone up Uruguay. Collapse around Batista, make them beat you with jumpers.

Will see if Uruguay's lack of depth (especially on the frontline) catches up with them by the end of the week. Have a chance at the last Pre-Olympic bid but they have very little margin for error as not much separates them from Venezuela and Panama.

7) VENEZUELA:
Key Players: Hector Romero; Greivis Vasquez; Greg Echienque


Disappointed at the last Americas in 2009 by not even advancing out of the first round. Eric Musselman takes over the coaching reins and has a lot of work to do to get Venezuela in range of a pre-Olympic qualifying berth.

Musselman must feel relieved that he got Hector Romero back from injury after it looked like he wouldn't be available.

The aggressive undersized PF Hector Romero was their go-to-guy in '07. Romero (6-7) looks to attack the basket 12-feet & in, and his powerful package draws fouls. Romero was the fourth-best scorer in '09 Americas.

The offense is directed by Memphis' Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez is a shifty floor general who makes up for his subpar speed with taut ball-handling & smarts. Vasquez can finish in traffic, but has an erratic jumper. Vasquez helps Venezuela in nearly every aspect of the game.

Venezuela is held back by its inability to spread the floor. Zones can really put a crimp in their strengths: Romero's interior work, and Vasquez & Torres' dribble penetration. Made only 26% of their 3PA in 2009. This is perennially a problem. Also led the '09 Americas in turnovers with 18 TOpg.

Musselman hopes former Marquette guard David Cubillan helps solve Venezuela's deep-shooting woes. Cubillan can handle the ball a little but his main duty will be to try to space the floor.

21-year-old wide-body Greg Echenique (6-10) uses his generous frame to carve out deep post position and score around the rim well. Actually moves his 270 lbs. better than you would expect which allows him to be effective on defense either blocking shots or guarding the post.

Musselman coaxed 34-year-old Oscar Torres to give Venezuela one more summer of national duty. The former Houston Rockets forward shuns the outside shot to attack off the dribble. 6-6 Axiers Sucre provides another tough, undersized forward who's a plus-rebounder for his size.

Heissler Gullient will see some PG minutes behind Vasquez. Guillent handles like he's got the ball on the string and will make some sweet dishes. Combo guard Jose Vargas provides Venezuela with another ball-handler, but is a subpar shooter.

Expect this team to be solid defensively. Musselman has a defense-first philosophy and this team has capable individual defenders. They're gonna have to defend because scoring the ball at an efficient rate could be a chore. They're going to have to piece some decent shooting together. A Pre-Olympic qualifying bid is a reasonable goal.

8) PANAMA:
Key Players: JR Pinnock; Gary Forbes; Jaime Lloreda
Key Absences: Jair Peralta; Joel Munoz


This team simply can't shoot anywhere on the floor. Their offensive play has been putrid over the last two summers--didn't shoot over 40% overall in '09 or '10. This is nothing new, been this way for years. A hapless outside-shooting outfit in the field--awful past 15 feet. Should see a lot of packed-in defensive looks.

They're perennially bad at the FT line as well. Were dead last in FT shooting (53%) at Centrobasket. Second worst at '09 Americas (68%).

Tend to be sloppy with the ball. Poor overall shooting combined with turnovers is a recipe for failure. Not a particularly big team and not much of a bench, either. Keep their head just above water thanks to an active defense and tough rebounding.

Not sure things will get better this year since they will be playing without a true PG. However, there is decent talent here. Some guys who can create offense for themselves.

Led by former George Washington Univ. standout JR Pinnock. Pinnock is an explosive SG who loves to slash, but has a broken jumpshot. Feel free to give him a big cushion. Pinnock played very well in 2009, finishing 3rd in scoring (20 ppg). Rebounds well for his size.

Current Denver Nugget Gary Forbes returns to national-team play after missing the last Americas tourney. Forbes really doesn't solve Panama's shooting woes but he does add rebounding, defense, some tight ball-handling and just overall hustle.

6-4 Jamahr Warren is another guard who can create good scoring opportunities for himself. Warren is a long-armed athlete who is very adept at hitting pull-ups or runners off isolation plays. Long arms help get steals and he rebounds well for his height.

Former LSU standout Jaime Lloreda gives them a solid inside presence who can score on the block & clean the boards. Lloreda can hit short jumpers and is an underrated passer.

37-year-old bruiser Ruben Garces is back to give Lloreda some help up front. Garces is a physical presence who is a bull on the boards, particularly on offensive glass.

There's usually too much one-on-one play and the offense too easily devolves into a sloppy mess. The problem might stem from not having a proper point guard. It doesn't help that Panama is missing its usual main PGs, Jair Peralta amd Joel Munoz.

Panama has not been impressive since their sharp play in 2005 under Nolan Richardson. I think they have an outside chance at a top-five finish just because none of the teams in front of them are all that strong.

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TIER III (Not getting out of the first round):

9) CUBA:
Qualified for the Americas tourney with a 4th-place finish at the 2010 Centrobasket. First Americas tourney since 1999, where they finished tenth.

Were not very good in any aspect of the game last summer. Couldn't hit behind the arc or on the FT line. Probably will get hurt on the boards. Good athleticism across the board helps generate loads of steals.

Big men Orestes Torres and Yoan Haiti are the primary options on the frontline. Both guys score and added much-needed rebounding. 6-4 guard Juan Pineiro is the key playmaker on the perimeter, dishing and stealing.

Chances of getting to the second round are miniscule unless they catch Venezuela on a really bad night.

10) PARAGUAY:
Sorry to say don't know much about Paraguay basketball. Finished fifth at the South American championships and only received a bid when Team USA turned down their automatic Americas bid. First Americas tourney bid since 1989 where they finished tenth.

Led by PG Javier Martinez who scores, passes and rebounds very well for his size. 6-6 forward Bruno Zanotti is the other top player who is a rangy athlete. Zanotti has a smooth release and can hit off screens or spotting up. Forwards Jose Fabio and Guillermo Araujo are capable scorers and good rebounders.

It looks like they rebound well but cough up the ball too much. Not surprising they use a short rotation. If they win a game, it will be stunning. Their games could get out of hand.

• EuroBasket 2011 Preview: Overview | Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D
2011 FIBA Americas Preview

1 Comments:

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Filipe said...

Jay, Gonzales got cut because he was hurt.

I don't know if Barbosa being out is that big a deal. He can create to himself but he often rushes and take awful decisions when he needs to do it, I d say Huertas has being a better perimeter crunch time option than him in the last 2 summers. The big problem is that he been out make Brazil very shallow in the wings, Vitor Benite is talented but has no experience at this level and looked pretty lost in the friendlys, no surprise that today when the Venezuela game become tougher than expected Mangano shortened the rotation in the second half ans used Luz as backup SG.

I think Varej√£o is a worse omission, Brazil has serious rebound problems as Giovanone is pretty much a SF playing PF and Splitter is at best an average rebounder for a center, the backups aen't that much of a help either as none of them is a great glass cleaner (to bad Paulo Prestes showup for training camp ridiculous overweight as he would have helped a lot on this).

Weirdly (and this is a very scary thought I should add) Brazil key player might be Marcus Vinicius, he is coming from a career year and look more focued than usual, if he has a strong tournment I'd say Brzil clearly the second best team.

I ve ssen Paraguay play twice lad year and let me just say that if they played a midlevel Brazilian or Argentinean league team, I d put my money on the team. Thry try hard but they have no business playing on this level.

 

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