EuroBasket 2011 Preview: Group B Team Capsules
• EuroBasket 2011 Preview: Overview | Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D
• 2011 FIBA Americas Preview
Group B games will be played in Siauliai from August 31-Sept. 5
(In the U.S., every game can be viewed for free via ESPN3.com.)
(predicted order of finish - top 3 advance)
Some major NBA talent in this group. This group is close to being as good as Group A--four playoff-quality teams. Serbia has no current NBAers but they are rich with European talent. Serbia has been a top-flight team over the last two years and they should be tough again.
France has multiple NBA players and have the goods to compete for a medal. Germany has Dirk back in the lineup, so that's reason enough to consider them a contender to grab a pre-Olympic qualifying spot.
Israel couldn't get Omri Casspi healthy in time, so its second-round chances are heavily compromised. Latvia is without most of its key players and are forced to go with a young, overmatched team.
(Listed in predicted order of finish)
Key Absences: Novica Velickovic; Darko Milicic; Miroslav Raduljica
At the last EuroBasket, Serbia surprised by taking home the Silver medal. And they are serious medal contenders once again. They kept basically the same lineup intact for the third straight summer--a lineup that got to the last EuroBasket final and was a few kooky plays away from last summer's World final. Though, the recent loss of Novica Velickovic is an underrated blow, particularly on the defensive end.
A very deep team that does not lose much when they go to their bench. Coach Ivkovic masterfully juggles his lineup getting contributions from nearly every player. All 12 guys played at least 12 minutes per game.
Serbia can cause problems thanks to great size at every position. The main reason for their continued excellence is the commitment to sturdy team defense under Coach Ivkovic. Serbia's defense was superb last summer and the backline help is tight. Also have great size at every position.
Terrific play on the offensive end at the Worlds, finishing second in both ppg (89) and FG pct. (49.6%). Also had the third-best 3pt. pct (39.6%) in the field.
Serbia was somewhat surprisingly effective in transition last summer after being a more conservative team at Euro '09. Serbia runs some great stuff offensively--this team has excellent ball movement and they stay disciplined in their spacing.
PG Milos Teodosic was one of the top players at the last EuroBasket and kept his great play going last summer. One of the best playmakers in the tourney and generates a boatload of points for Serbia. Terrific at running pick/rolls, where he's a danger to drill pull-ups or thread passes. Best shooter on the team, with a very quick release. Milos is also run around some off-ball screens as well. Should be one of the top players in this year's tourney.
The other leader of this team is former NBAer Nenad Krstic. Nenad was one of the best bigs at the Worlds last summer and led Serbia in ppg & rpg. Serbia likes to give him plenty of post touches, and will also utilize Nenad's face-up ability to their advantage as well.
Former NBA reserve Kosta Perovic gets the center minutes when Krstic goes to the bench. Perovic gave Serbia nice minutes off the bench last year changing shots, grabbing off. boards and finishing at the rim.
Combo forward Dusko Savanovic barely made the national team last summer but he surprised with a superb Worlds performance. Not to mention, Savanovic excelled in Euroleague this season, earning an All-Euroleague 2nd-team nod.
Savanovic is not athletic, not strong and looks like he has a vitamin deficiency (something old-timey like rickets or scurvy). But don't be fooled by his sickly appearance--he can ball. Terrific footwork and smarts allows him create shots in the mid-range and on the post.
Recent Timberwolves draftee 6-8 Milan Macvan will see more minutes in Velickovic's absence. Macvan makes up for his lack of athleticism with a high b-ball IQ and well-rounded game. Macvan can pass, face-up, post (a effective fadeaway turnaround over his right shoulder) and draw fouls aplenty.
Nemanja Bjelica is another T-Wolves 2nd-round draft pick who will get the starting nod at SF. Has point-forward skills (great at running p/n/r) but won't see the full range of his playmaking abilities as Bjelica will mostly be relegated to spot-shooting duty. He has a tendency to disappear.
Forward Marko Keselj will split minutes with Bjelica at small forward. Like Bjelica, Keselj's role is to spot-up and occasionally come off screens. Keselj played very well last summer, drilling jumpers (60% on 3pts) on the wings and using his good hops to finish strong. Keselj is very smart moving to the open spots. He was ridiculously efficient, averaging 11 ppg on 82% eFG pct. in 19 mins/game.
SG Alexsandar Rasic gave Serbia an unexpected lift last summer averaging nearly 10 ppg on a sizzling 71% eFG pct. Rasic is mostly called upon to shoot (spot-up & off screens) and provide solid defense. But Rasic will handle the ball a little and he's a clever passer.
6-7 combo guard Milenko Tepic will be a secondary ball-handler and can defend multiple positions. 6-5 Stefan Markovic gives Serbia another quality PG whose athleticism helps him shine on the defensive end. Neither Tepic nor Markovic is much of a shooting or scoring threat.
Love this team's chemistry, depth, talent and coaching. Don't think they can beat Spain, but have all the goods to win Silver, earning the second automatic Olympic bid.
Key Absences: Ronny Turiaf; Roddy Beaubois; Mickael Pietrus; Antoine Diot; Ian Mahinmi
This could be one of the better French rosters assembled in awhile thanks to Tony Parker returning and the inclusion of Joakim Noah. This year's team looks better on paper than the '09 team that finished 5th--and might have finished higher if they did not have to play Spain in the quarters, France's only loss of Euro '09.
Joakim Noah finally makes his Senior team debut, and just in time with Ronny Turiaf being injured in training camp. This team is usually very tough defensively and they could be even better with Noah in the fold.
The one area where the defense needed improving in the past: guarding centers one-on-one. Having Noah aboard should solve that problem and make the defense even stronger. Next to Russia, France should have the best defense in the tourney.
Les Bleus have the distinct advantage of being one of the most athletic teams in Europe. France uses this fact effectively to create havoc defensively. Boris Diaw, Nic Batum, Mickael Gelabale and Florent Pietrus are all good defenders who can guard multiple positions, and switch assignments. They have the ability to create turnovers, which should come in handy to create transition offensive opportunities.
It's curious why the French club has not put enough emphasis on playing uptempo in the past. Les Bleus is built for speed and they usually have rough time in the half-court offensively. Seems like uptempo would be a no-brainer for France.
The good news is that Collet has France getting out in transition at a high rate in the prep phase. And they've been converting at an excellent rate. They must keep this up once the real games start.
But the same annual question remains: can France find consistency on offense. France can still go through extended lulls on the offensive end in the half-court--they had some brutal stretches last year. Consistent production in the half-court offense could be an adventure again, even with Parker back.
France has historically struggled in the half-court offensively over the last decade primarily because they couldn't space the floor. They have perennially been one of the worst outside shooting teams in FIBA ball. Teams would pack the paint for most of the game.
The team's outside shooting has slowly improved over the last few years. They have shot close to 38% from behind the arc the last two years after perennially being in the low 30% range. But I'm still skeptical about this team's shooting prowess. Simply, there are too many inconsistent outside shooters on this team.
Obviously France's main line of attack will be to call on Tony Parker to relentlessly attack the painted area. Though that objective is not always easy to accomplish with France usually surrounding Tony with hapless outside shooters.
Many times Parker can not get deep penetration because defenses are free to load up on him. Team France should expect plenty of zone and sagging man. The one-foot-in-the-paint rule vs. France would be emphasized if I were an opposing coach.
Boris Diaw will likely move between both forward spots and France will run offense through him either in the post or on the perimeter. Diaw's biggest problem in FIBA play, as in the NBA, has been inconsistent effort; expect a "one game on, next game off" pattern from Boris. Diaw's superb footwork makes him France's best post scorer.
Nic Batum will start at SF, but might also see minutes at the 2-spot. France will also have Batum handle the ball a little--run him in p/n/r or isos. The explosive young Blazer loves driving the baseline. Batum gives France another quality defender who can guard four positions. Batum is coming off a down shooting year--34% in NBA, 32% at '10 Worlds--after nailing 40% of his threes in '09-10.
Ex-Sonic wing Mickael Gelabale returns to national-team duty and adds more versatility on the wings. I would say Gelable is Les Bleus' most reliable perimeter shooter. Gelabale has post-up ability as well. Can guard both wing spots effectively.
Nando De Colo is a 6-5 combo guard who's a terrific ball-handler with great court vision. Though his development has stagnated and he did not do a good job trying to run the offense last summer in Parker's absence. Nando has not shoot the ball well over the last year after a few years of solid shooting.
Andrew Albicy, a longshot NBA prospect, will give Parker a breather when needed. The speedy 5-10 guard had his moments in Turkey, but he tends to force the action sometimes and is another erratic shooter for France.
6-7 Florent Pietrus is an underrated cog on this team--rebounds extremely well for his size, excellent defender & great activity overall. Pietrus can play both forward spots but will mostly play the 4. Not a good shooter.
Ali Traore was originally axed from the French roster earlier in the summer but was called back into action after Turiaf went down. Good move, as he's France's best scoring option at center.
Traore (6-10) is a very capable scorer on the blocks. Can't do much over his left shoulder, but he's quite effective turning over right shoulder--turnaround jumper and loves to go with a lefty hook. Also, can consistently hit foul-line jumpers.
Washington Wizards reserve Kevin Seraphin will back up Noah and Diaw up front. Seraphin is a physical specimen but has a rather raw skill set. Interesting to see France feature Seraphin quite a bit in the post in the prep phase. It looks like post-ups for Seraphin will be a part of the offensive game plan. Seraphin is not particularly fluid down low but he has a decent half-hook.
Usually a good rebounding unit, though they struggled last year. Expect them to be fine on the glass this year with the addition of Noah. Keep an eye on the free throw pct. as well. France surprisingly shot 73% last summer. But up until last year they were a bad FT shooting team. Was last summer a fluke?
The m.o. vs. France still has to be to pack the paint and force the French to beat you over the top. They've improved their collective shooting ability over the last few years but they are a team that you test. If they make jumpers, then that's how you lose. I would try to keep Parker out of the lane (Diaw & Batum as well) at all costs. Make those guys beat you with jumpers.
If (a big if) France can consistently knock down their perimeter shots, they have a shot at a medal.
Key Absences: Demond Greene; Elias Harris
Germany vaulted into qualifying contention the moment Dirk Nowitzki (and Chris Kaman) signed on for the summer. In the last two EuroBaskets Dirk played in, he led Germany to a fifth-place finish in '07 (and ultimately qualified for the '08 Olympics) and a silver medal in '05.
Without Dirk over the last two summers, Team Deutschland really struggled to score the ball with any consistency, which was not all that surprising. Last summer, their late-game execution was hapless as they didn't have a shot-creator to turn to in the 4th. But Germany was able to stay competitive with an undermanned roster because of longtime coach Dirk Bauermann's acumen (one of top coaches in the field).
The Germans space the floor very well. Always a dangerous shooting team and shot 40% from long range last year. Also have great size--will often have two 7-footers on the floor at once. And often, they team those bigs with a 6-10 SF, 6-5 SG and 6-5 PG.
The frontcourt rotation has some other quality talent besides Dirk and Kaman in Jan Jagla, Tibor Pleiss and Robin Benzing.
Germany might have the best collection of post scorers in the tourney. We know Dirk can do damage and Kaman has some skills. But Jagla and Benzing can also score some points with their backs to the basket.
Tend to have less off-ball movement than other Euro teams--more isolation/posts. Germany likes to dump the ball into the post a ton and they often screen guys into their post-ups.
NBA fans know Dirk and Kaman are capable jump shooters, but their other bigs can face-up as well. Jagla, Pleiss, Benzing and Ohlbrecht all have range out to at least 18 feet.
Ex-Penn St. Nittany Lion Jan Jagla goes from being Germany's primary option the last two years to being Dirk's back-up again. Interesting to see how Jagla responds to be demoted to second unit after being Germany's primary option the last two summers.
Thought Jagla played well for Germany in Dirk's absence in '09 & '10. Jagla was the only German in double figures last year (14 ppg), shot the ball very well (52% overall, 65% from 3pt.), rebounded well (6 rpg) as usual and defended well.
Bauermann needs to find minutes for Jagla, as minutes at PF will be scarce with Dirk back. Would like to see Jagla playing alongside Dirk. Jagla is mobile enough to even play some minutes at the SF, giving Germany a lineup with three 7-footers.
Tibor Pleiss (OKC Thunder own rights) will be called upon to finish off plays mostly in pick/rolls. Pleiss (7-0) has a smooth stroke he can take out to 18 feet plus he's a strong rebounder and shot-blocker.
6-10 Robin Benzing can cause matchup problems at the SF. Can put the ball on the deck with a quick first step. Possesses decent post-up skills and Germany will look to set Robin up the block quite a bit--likes turnarounds on left block. Solid shooter but a poor rebounder for guy his size.
PF/C Tim Ohlbrecht and Sven Schultze provide Germany with some other bigs who can float to the 3pt. line. Don't expect these guys to get off the bench too much.
6-5 Steffan Hamann is a big point who can penetrate and finish well at the rim, but will sometimes force the action too much. Hamann rarely looks to take jumpers. Uses his athleticism & size well on the defensive end.
6-0 PG Heiko Schaffartzik is a very dangerous shooter pulling up off of ball screens who can go thru extended hot stretches (had multiple microwave moments at Euro '09). Heiko will split time with Hamann at the PG, and sometimes play alongside Hamann.
Besides the post-ups, Hamann will run the pick-n-roll. Germany can be very dangerous in pick-n-pop action with its smooth-shooting bigs. Hamann and Kaman have worked well in the p-n-r in prep phase--Kaman has been a dangerous roll man.
The backcourt has never been particularly strong during Dirk's tenure. The shooting guard position is a big question mark with veteran Demond Greene out with injury. Greene was usually Germany's top perimeter scoring threat and neither of his replacements score that much. Schaffartzik is the best natural scorer in the backcourt but he tends to be very streaky.
Former Iowa St. Cyclone Lucca Steiger and former West Virginia combo guard Johannes Herber will try to fill the void left by Greene at SG. Lucca's strictly a catch-n-shoot threat. Meanwhile, Herber plays a heady floor game but is an erratic shooter.
Germany is good enough to beat any team in this group. Dirk can kind of one-man gang Germany to wins--he's done it in the past (see 2005). But can Germany find enough auxiliary scoring around Dirk, particularly from the backcourt, to make a push for a knockout-round bid? It'll be tough to make the playoffs with only four spots available to the teams in Group A & B.
Key Absences: Angelo Gigli; Andrea Crosariol
NBA Playbook scouting report
Team Italia returns to EuroBasket after failing to qualify in 2009. After underachieving over the last five years, Italy is looking to regain its footing in the upper echelon of Euro teams. Danilo Gallinari joins Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli after being sidelined the last few summers.
Italy can really the space the floor with a shooting threat at every position. Can put four deep shooters on the floor at once, sometimes all five players. Last summer Italy was very effective scoring off post-ups and around the basket in general.
Putting the ball in the basket should not be difficult for this team, with Bargs, Gallo and Belli each capable of scoring 20+ points any game. Gallo will get his fair share of isos and Bargs will get plenty of isos/extended post-ups as well. Belinelli will iso some and run plenty of pick-n-roll.
They've shown in qualification and prep phase that they are cutting hard into the paint with great effectiveness. The crisp passing and off-ball movement that was prevalent on the successful mid-2000s teams seems to be back.
Offense is not the issue, it's the lack of a traditional interior presence. Italy has been hurting for inside help for years and losing Angelo Gigli and Andrea Crosariol does not help things. No Gigli is an underrated blow to Italy--going to miss his activity on defense and on the glass.
Rebounding has been an issue for the Italians last few years, and Italy should get blasted on the boards once again. Also really question their ability to guard the interior. These two issues could prevent them getting far.
Gallinari will likely start at the 4 with Bargnani at the 5. And there is very little quality help behind them. Expect Gallo and Bargs to play heavy minutes.
Bargnani is gonna get his points in the post and on jumpers. But if he really wants to help this team, he needs concentrate on rebounding & defending the paint.
For Team Italia, Marco Belinelli is more than just the shooting specialist role he plays in the NBA. He puts his ball-handling skills and elite athleticism to good use in the FIBA game. When he keeps his flashy tendencies in check, Marco is a tough player to stop. But expect some forced off-balance jumpers and errant passes from Marco.
Athletic SF Stefano Mancinelli gives Italy a pretty nice 4th-option behind the Big 3. Stefano has great post-up ability for a SF and is a good finisher. Likes to work on the right block and can score with a lefty hook. Stefano has a solid handle and can make some plays and passes off the bounce. Not much of a deep shooting threat.
6-8 Luigi Da Tome (Lottomatica Roma) is a long, slender athlete with a multi-faceted game. Luigi is a solid shooter that can come off screens or hit pull-ups off a few dribbles. Da Tome's combo of length and mobility allows him to crash the off. glass, disrupt defensively and finish in transition. Mancinelli and Da Tome might have to log some minutes at the 4-spot.
Italia has been a searching for an adequate player to fill a glaring void at point guard for awhile. They hope former USC guard Daniel Hackett is the answer to their point-guard problems.
Hackett does a great job driving to the rim where he finishes at a high rate. Can get by his defender going both directions without a ball screen. Strong defender and has turned himself into a respectable outside shooter. However, Hackett can be inconsistent.
Chicago-born Antonio Maestranzi will split point-guard duties with Hackett. The diminutive Northern Illinois grad is a strong shooter, particularly pulling-up for 3-pointers off ball screens (going left or right). He rarely looks to drive the ball to the rim and longer PGs seem to bother him.
AJ Milano's Marco Mordente is a veteran combo guard who can drill coming off screens and will do a little ball-handling. SG/SF Marco Carraretto is another shooting threat off the bench whose main duties are to spot-up and come off screens.
Forwards Andrea Renzi and Marco Kusin will try to give Italy some sort of contributions off the bench, but don't expect much. 6-10 Kusin can score a little with a turnaround jumper in the post and as a roll man.
Coach Simone Pianigiani is going to have to find a way to get this team to increase its defensive effort. No doubt Italy's struggles over the last few years can be somewhat attributed to subpar defense.
Pianigiani's Siena teams are renowned for their active defense that forces turnovers, though he does have better individual defenders to work with in Siena. Pianigiani does have some decent perimeter defenders to work with, but the interior could be a lost cause.
Can't complain about the talent and skills Italia brings on the offensive end. No trouble finding ways to score. If Italy wants to advance to the second round and onward, they will have to find ways to keep the rebound battle close and give quality defensive effort.
Key Absences: Omri Casspi
Israel had a disappointing showing at the last EuroBasket, where they failed to advance out of the opening round. The recent loss of Omri Casspi really put a crimp in their plans of advancing to the second round this summer.
Even without Casspi, the forward rotation is pretty good. Lior Eliyahu, Guy Pnini and David Blu (formerly Blutenthal) are all solid players who have proven their worth at the highest levels of European ball. All three were key contributors on Maccabi Tel Aviv, 2011 Euroleague runner-up.
Israel will turn to Eliyahu (Rockets own rights) to be its primary option. Lior's not a perimeter shooting threat but is a strong finisher 10 feet & in thanks to his array of unorthodox runners/flip shots a la Antawn Jamison. 6-9 Eliyahu mostly does damage cutting/rolling to open spots, though he will also drive the ball on occasion. Eliyahu will get some post-up touches as well.
The Maccabi wings, Pnini and Blu, provide accurate shooting on the wings. 6-6 Pnini plays a heady brand of ball on both ends of the floor--smart moving off the ball. Pnini can also shoot the ball on the wings, and adds some dogged defense to the mix. Blu is another decent defender who can post up on occasion.
Combo guard Yotam Halperin is a very good shooter who will also handle the ball quite as bit. Halperin's playmaking duties should increase this summer with Casspi gone. Halperin can sometimes be indecisive when playing point, and seems more comfortable off the ball. Has a knack for picking up steals.
Swingmen Tal Burnstein is another experienced vet who provides Israel with a shooter alongside Halperin. The crafty Burnstein is very creative getting into shots off the dribble, not to mention a clever passer.
This team has no problem knocking down outside shots. I think this team needs to make a concerted effort to push the ball. Israel was very effective in transition last summer.
This team likes to iso more than most Euro teams. Though, without Casspi, the iso action should lessen this summer. Halperin will be Israel's top isolation threat.
All the isolation was successful in spots but the downside was that Israel's ball movement tended to stagnate. They need to find a better flow going forward.
A continuing sore spot for the Israelis is the lack of a true interior presence--don't have a rotation player over 6-9. And their bigs don't really create many scoring opportunities.
6-9 Yaniv Green is an active athlete who'll crash the glass and finish strong around the rim. Uri Kokia will spell Green at the center position but he's only 6-8 and merely a limited role player who rebounds, scores on cuts and provides physical post defense.
Likely starting PG Yogev Ohayon won't put up a lot of points but should rack up the assists. Ohayon's not a great deep shooter but is dangerous pulling up in the mid-range. Ohayon can make plays out of iso action and uses an effective left-to-right crossover to shake his defender.
Israel's defense needs some tweaking heading into group play. During qualification had some difficulties containing pick-n-roll action and didn't defend post-ups well.
Israel has been trying to break through to the upper echelon of Euro ball but they can never quite bust through. Things (the draw & no Casspi) just broke bad for them this year. But I still expect them to be competitive because they have a handful of Euro vets (Halperin, Eliyahu, Pnini, Blu) who have played in plenty of big games in the Euroleague.
Key Absences: Andris Biedrins; Kaspars Kambala; Kristaps Valters; Kaspars Berzins
Pretty safe bet that Latvia won't be advancing to the second round, and even winning a game in Group B is highly unlikely. Andris Biedrins and Kaspars Kambala--Latvia's starting frontcourt in '09--are no-shows this year. While other valued starters PG Kristaps Valters and Kaspars Berzins won't suit up either.
One of the weakest teams in the field, though it's one of the younger teams at EuroBasket. Recent Spurs draftee SF Davis Bertans (18 year-old) likely won't see much floor time, but when does, his role is strictly as a jump shooter.
The one bright spot for this team: its collective ability to knock down jumpers. Latvia likes to utilize a lot of off-ball screening action. Plenty of pin-downs, flares and stagger screens in the Latvian offense.
Their perimeter options are not bad and the have some quality ball-handlers. Veteran Janis Blums is the only player with any significant experience playing at the Senior national-team level. Blums is a speedy combo guard with a quick crossover who is a deadly marksman standing still or off the bounce.
PG Janis Strelnieks is neither a great athlete nor a reliable shooter, but he does have a knack for getting into the lane and can finish well. Really understands how to run the pick-n-roll--good distributor who drops nice bounce passes to his roll man.
Dairis Bertans is another quality option at PG. Like his brother, Davis, has great mechanics on his jumper either with his feet set or off the dribble. Good athlete who turns the corner hard and can finish at the rim (sometimes with impressive dunks) in the half-court or transition.
Former Arizona St. forward Rihards Kuksiks is a dangerous shooter at the wing positions. Kuksiks will be asked to handle the ball some and run through plenty of off-ball screens.
There's not much happening on the frontline with Rolands Freimanis the only player of note, and he's nothing special. Don't expect many points coming out of post-up action.
Freimanis is a long, fluid big with a nice touch on his jumper. Also, adept on the offensive glass. Loves to float out to the 3pt. line (though is numbers aren't great). 6-8 PF Arturs Berzins is another big who can face-up (out to 3pt. arc).
This squad is very foul prone and turns the ball over a bunch. All the Latvian bigs tend to be foul prone.
Not much should be expected of this inexperienced roster in a tough Group B. Maybe they can push Israel a little bit, but every other team should handle them easily.
• EuroBasket 2011 Preview: Overview | Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D
• 2011 FIBA Americas Preview