Friday, August 26, 2011

EuroBasket 2011 Preview: Group A Team Capsules

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

Group A games will be played in Panevezys from August 31 to Sept. 5.
(In the U.S., every game can be viewed for free via ESPN3.com.)

Group A
(predicted order of finish - top 3 advance)
1) Spain
2) Lithuania
3) Turkey
4) Great Britain
5) Poland
6) Portugal


Not sure if this is the Group of Death since Group B might be just as tough, but it's still formidable with medal contenders Spain, Lithuania and Turkey in the group. All three teams have deep frontcourt rotations.

Spain is the proverbial favorite with a loaded roster led by the Gasol bros. and J.C. Navarro. Lithuania is pretty deep itself and have the talent--plus home-court--to eventually meet Spain in the finals.

Turkey has a ton of talent and size, but its motivation seems to fluctuate from summer to summer--how will they respond to last year's success. Britain has been a fast-riser on the FIBA Europe scene over the last few years and could give a scare to some of the big boys. A depleted Polish team is just hoping stay competitive, maybe push Britain for 4th place. Portugal will act as a de facto day off for the other teams in the group.

SPAIN:
Key Absences: Fran Vazquez; Sergio Rodriguez


NBA Playbook scouting report

Reigning EuroBasket champ Spain is once again the odds-on favorite to win gold this summer. Spain didn't play up to its capabilities at the Worlds and Coach Sergio Scariolo needs a gold medal to assure he keeps his job.

Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon are back plus Serge Ibaka has been added to an already loaded roster. Not winning the gold would be a disappointment and not medaling at all would be a major underachievement.

The last two summers have seen a Spanish team sleepwalk through the opening round play. In '09, Spain flipped a switch halfway through the tourney and steamrolled its way to EuroBasket gold. Last year, they failed to ever find their bearings and were bounced in the quarterfinals at the World Championships. If Spain fails to medal this year, Coach Scariolo's tenure should be kaput.

Actually, Spain faired pretty well on the offensive end last summer. Though they should've been feeding the ball to Marc more consistently and letting Rubio improvise more, they still executed well overall. The defensive effort was inconsistent but have to imagine that, with Pau and Ibaka in the fold, the defense will return to elite-level status.

Unlimited firepower at Coach Scariolo's disposal. Expect uptempo play combined with lots of ball pressure in group play. I expect Spain to get back to aggressive defensive ways this summer, something missing in 2010. This team has proven in the past they're potent in transition.

In 2009, Spain's defensive strategy in the half-court was to let its perimeter players pressure their men, and even overplay sometimes, knowing that the ballhandlers would be met by bigs. Spain always had a big waiting near the rim, with another big hovering, and sometimes a weakside wing near as well. This would often force the ballhandler to kick the ball out where Spain had two to three perimeter guys (Rubio, Rudy, Navarro) ready to pounce on these passes like a cornerback.

Scariolo has not use as much zone as previous Spanish coaches but would like to see him mix in some looks. Spain has shown in the past that their zone looks can be some of the best especially with Pau in the middle. Imagine Ibaka could rover around like Garbajosa used to in the zone.

Juan Navarro and Rudy Fernandez will be run through their fair share of off-ball screens. Navarro & Rudy also will run some pick/rolls sometimes. La Bomba is one of the best shot-creators in this tourney.

Spain will mix in some post-ups for Pau, Marc and Felipe Reyes. Often set up their post-ups with high-lo action that comes out of double-high post sets. Watch out for Marc's quick baseline spin on the left block and soft hook in the lane. Felipe Reyes has some nifty footwork himself.

Kind of nice bringing Marc and Ibaka off the bench. In the prep phase, Spain has even experimented with the Gasols playing together.

While Rudy Fernandez has struggled in the NBA the last few years, he has thrived on his national team. Rudy was great in '09 and filled up the box score last summer, even pounding the glass. Rudy's a different player when he's allowed to fly around.

Ricky Rubio never got into a good rhythm last year as Scariolo never let him control the flow. Sorry, TWolves (and NBA) fans, but we expect similar things this summer for Ricky. There are just too many players to keep happy on this roster.

La Bomba will have the ball in hands a lot. Rudy needs some touches as well. Pau, Marc and Reyes are gonna get their post touches as well. Rubio is going to have to do his damage in the open-court because I don't see the ample opportunities to improvise/create in the half-court. Plus Calderon is back on the team.

Sergio Llull will primarily back up Navarro but will get to handle the ball some. Llull's speed makes him dangerous in transition and effective with ball pressure.

Forwards Vic Claver and Fernando San Emeterio will eat up whatever minutes are left. What's scary about this team is that San Emeterio was an All-Euroleague 1st-teamer and will play sparingly. Fernando is only an average athlete but makes up for it with incredible smarts and all-around skills. Sorry, Stumptown fans, but I don't think you will get to see many minutes from Blazers draftee Claver.

Spain just needs to avoid the complacency that plagued them in the opening rounds the last two years. Understand Scariolo does have a difficult job juggling egos, minutes and touches, but anything other than Gold is failure.

LITHUANIA:
Key Absences: Linas Kleiza; Jonas Maciulis


Lithuania is coming off a surprising run to the World semis and will have the huge advantage of playing in front of the best fan base in Europe. Lithuania will be without injured Linas Kleiza, one of the best players at last summer's Worlds, but will try to cover for the loss of Linas and Jonas Maciulis by adding veterans Saras Jasikevicius, Rimas Kaukenas and Darius Songaila back into the mix.

Interesting dynamic with young player sand established vets fighting for minutes. Coach Kemzura (who did a great job last summer) will have a difficult job managing minutes and keeping everyone happy.

A key to Lithuania's success is what type of play they get at the PG. Mantas Kalnietis did a solid job last summer keeping his TOs down this year and getting Lithuania into its offense, something he struggled with in '09. But counting on Kalnietis to repeat last summer's play is a dicey proposition. He's not known for consistent play game-to-game.

Plus, the legendary Saras is back in the mix and he's going to need (expect) minutes in his possible swan song at home. Saras' play has definitely fallen off over the last few years but he can still cause problems for extended stretches of the game. Has flashed some of his old tricks in the prep phase.

As masterfully as he can run the pick-n-roll--perfectly placed passes and pull-up jumpers--expect some turnovers because of Saras' tendency to get careless or flashy. Lithuania does tend to have issues with TOs but they kept them in check last summer.

Will Kalnietis be constantly looking over his shoulder with Saras back on the team? Will having Saras back on the team mess with Kalnietis' psyche? Maybe.

From what I've seen, I think Saras still runs the offense better than Kalnietis. Kalnietis does push the ball and attack the rim better than Saras. Saras is the better shooter and passer plus he seems to make the offense hum in ways Kalnietis can't.

Lithuania, at its best, plays the prototypical Euro-style system of crisp ball movement & off-the-ball player movement, with plenty of 3-point attempts as the scoring weapon of choice. Like to use handoffs to set up p/n/r. No surprise Lithuania shot 38% from deep last summer.

The frontcourt rotation is loaded to the gills once again. Coach Kemzura will have a tough decision on who to leave off.

Veteran 7-footer Robertas Javtokas is very limited offensively because of shaky hands but he is a defensive presence thanks to good hops, a strong body and a killer shark tattoo.

The Lavrinovic twins (Ksystof & Darjus) are both active, mobile 7-footers who can float out to the perimeter. Ksystof's current status is questionable as he's nursing a bad back. Both bros. can post on occasion. [Note: Darjus was a late scratch due to an Achilles tendon infection.]

Wily veteran Darius Songaila has looked fresh in the prep phase, usually banging his mid-range jumper all over the floor. Have to imagine he will start at the 4 with Ksystof ailing.

PF Paulius Jankunas likes to float out to the perimeter, where he likes to release his awkward, yet effective, jumper. The rugged Jankunas is tough on the boards and bodies up well on defense.

Old-school bruiser Marijonas Petravicius was Lithuania's best player at the last EuroBasket. Not sure he'll make the final roster but has value as a physical presence and can score close to the basket thanks to nice footwork.

Raptors lottery pick Jonas Valanciunas is coming off a dominating performance at the U19 Worlds and has impressed in the prep phase. Looks to have already meshed with Saras as a deadly roll man. Rebounding machine and shot changer, but does not guard the post well and very foul prone, which could limit his minutes. Plus frontcourt minutes will be tough to come by with the quality vets around.

Lithuania can be very dangerous in the pick-n-roll, especially when Saras is orchestrating. Songaila and Lavrinovic bros. are pick-n-pop threat while Valanciunas and Javtokas are alley-oop threats as roll men.

With Maciulis (who played very well at the Worlds) and Kleiza out, the SF spot lacks some depth. SF Simas Jasaitis is a long-range sniper who moves around the 3pt. line very well. However, Jasaitis' game is not as varied as Maciulis and Linas'--he is strictly a spot-up guy.

Former Dukie Martynas Pocius loves to aggressively attack the rim and can draw fouls. Pocius is another quality spot-shooter for Lithuania. Pocius shot the ball great last summer--57.5% overall, 43% from 3pt. range. Pocius will have to play some minutes at SF.

Veteran SG Rimas Kaukenas is back and provides more shooting to the mix. Kaukenas will do some ball-handling and he can sneak his way to the rim or pull-up.

Kalnietis has to play under control and be able to set the offense up for Lithuania to succeed. If he can't, Lithuania will need Saras to rekindle his Euro '07 magic.

Even with a great home audience, I don't think they can beat Spain for a gold medal, if they meet for a second time. But a second-place finish is a realistic goal.

TURKEY:
Key Absences: Memo Okur; Kerem Gonlum


We'll see if they can replicate their terrific home-court Worlds performance in Lithuania. Have not looked impressive in the prep phase. Keep in mind that they stunk in the exhibitions leading up to Worlds last summer.

Interesting to see if Coach Orhun Ene can keep his players' egos in check. Former Coach Tanjevic was more of the old-school inflexible variety, but that might have been good for this national team.

The Turks are led by their combo of multi-skilled 6-9 forwards, Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova. Expect to see Hedo running the offense a good chunk of the time.

Under Tanjevic, Turkey tended to have less off-ball movement than most other Euro teams. Probably because of the isolations allowed for Hedo & Ilyasova. We'll see if they get more movement this season, though it doesn't appear that way from the prep games I've seen.

Ilyasova was one of the top players at the last EuroBasket and had himself a nice Worlds tourney. Ilyasova can run pick/pop action, he can create shots in the mid-range (step-backs), and he can score on the block a little when needed. And Ersan is a nuisance on the offensive glass.

Turkey's frontline is one of the best in the tourney. Omer Asik, Semih Erden, Oguz Savas, Enes Kanter and Ilyasova can play meaningful minutes. [Note: Erden was a late scratch due to injury.] Turkey should be stout on the boards.

The addition of Kanter does give this team a needed dose of post scoring--Erden and Savas can score some, but neither is great. Though, I expect Kanter's minutes to be limited this summer.

Ilyasova will probably get burn at the 3-spot as well. Could see some twin-tower alignments like Asik-Erden, Asik-Kanter or Erden-Kanter.

Asik and Erden are trying to work their way back from injuries they incurred during their rookie NBA season. Omer Asik played well at the last EuroBasket and the Worlds last summer. Asik is coming off a solid rookie campaign with the Bulls where proved his worth as a superb defensive presence and rebounder. Very limited offensively and does most of his damage rolling to the rim or moving to open spots. Major liability at the free-throw line and don't be surprised if he's pulled down the stretch of tight games.

Erden is an effective passer out of the post and can handle the ball (likes to drive left and finish with his left hand). Has good footwork to get into good scoring opportunities, but doesn't finish his moves with any consistency. Like Asik, he's a quality finisher on cuts or rolls.

C Oguz Savas's minutes will likely be curtailed with Kanter joining the team, but the lumbering big can score a little with some crafty moves.

With the coaching change, will be interesting to see how often Turkey will run the 2-1-2 zone that was so effective last summer. What's great about the zone is that they can clog the painted area, but still contest on the perimeter because of their length and the shorter 3pt. line. Turkey gets great activity from its guards at the top of the zone, who funnel ball-handlers to the sides.

Kerem Tunceri is a no-frills PG with a great floor game who rarely forces anything. PG Ender Arslan does a nice job turning the corner to get into the lane, where he will often unleash a dangerous floater. Both PGs are outside shooting threats.

The shooting guard rotation of Omer Onan and Sinan Gular does not really produce a ton of points but both are quality defenders at SG.

Emer Preldzic (Wizards own rights) is basically a younger version of Hedo--a 6-9 point-forward. Likely see Emer get some reps running the offense. Expect to see some super-sized lineup with Hedo or Preldzic at the 2 or even point guard.

Had one of the better offenses last summer. Shot 49% from the floor (3rd-best) and only turned the ball over 11.7 times/game (3rd-best). Led the Worlds in 3pt. shooting (43%) last year. But finished dead last in FT shooting (60%); Asik helped skewer those numbers.

I just get a vibe from this team that they are ripe to be upset. Turkey's struggled in the past after they've had some success. They played poorly and there were rumors of discord at the 2007 Euro after a solid '06 Worlds campaign.

Hedo is their leader, but I don't know if that's a good thing--dude's kind of flaky. And he seemed to melt down in the gold medal game last summer. How much of Turkey's Worlds success was based on home court advantage? Not sure.

Like I stated in the Overview, I can go both ways with team: they could easily medal but I also wouldn't be surprised if Britain upsets them and they don't make it out of the first round.

GREAT BRITAIN:
Key Absences: Pops Mensah-Bonsu; Ben Gordon


The bad news for Britain: they're in the same group as Spain, Lithuania and Turkey. The good news: they're already automatically qualified for the 2012 Olympics as the host country.

Not getting Ben Gordon cleared really stings because the backcourt rotation needed to be upgraded. Gordon is not the only significant absence: former NBAer Pops Mensah-Bonsu won't be available this summer. Pops was a force last summer--as vital as Luol Deng to Britain's strong play in qualifiers.

Britain played solid defense last summer but we'll see if they can duplicate that effort this summer without Pops. Also, Britain cleaned the glass very well last summer, though Pops' 13.5 rpg were a huge reason for these numbers.

Luol Deng is the focal point of the British attack and last summer he helped Britain to the top of the Euro qualification standings. In qualification, Deng did a good job hitting his 3PA, but shot his 2PA poorly and turned the ball over four times a game. Deng seems to have the green light.

Deng will isolate quite a bit on the perimeter and in extended post-ups. Britain will also run Luol off some screens and run a some pick-n-roll looking for switches.

Portland Blazer draftee Joel Freeland leads a nice frontcourt rotation that won't be overwhelmed by the other strong frontlines in Group A. Freeland didn't play last summer and Britain hopes his addition can lessen the impact of Pops' absence.

Freeland is one of the better bigs currently playing in Europe and has the goods to be a quality rotation player in the NBA. Joel can step out to 20 feet. Very capable in the post--very effective righty hook and likes to go with a turnaround jumper on the right block. His good mobility to allows him to change some shots, snatch boards and drive the ball vs. slower bigs. Proficient on rolls or cuts--strong finisher.

Freeland's Unicaja frontcourt partner, Rob Archibald, is a physical veteran who can score from the post a little and is a sneaky driver when faced up 12-15 feet away. PF/C Dan Clark gives Britain another sweet shooting big with range out to the 3pt. line. Clark can score in the paint with an old-school hook as well. Clark is currently trying to recover from a hand injury.

The backcourt is definitely a step down in caliber from the talent on the frontline. Britain will count on two lefty combo guards to lead its backcourt--Nate Reinking will split ball-handling duites with Lenzly. 6-0 Reinking (Kent St.) is a dangerous pull-up shooter, but can get used on defense because of his lack of height & agility. 6-3 Mike Lenzly is a more erratic shooter than Reinking, but he's a better athlete who rebounds well for his size.

Former St. Bonaventure PG Ogo Adegboye gives Britain an athletic boost off the bench, just not much of a shooter. Ex-Villanova forward Andrew Sullivan provides some rebounding and top-notch defending on the wings.

PG Devon Van Oostrum is definitely a player Britain can build around in the future, just not sure the 18 year-old will make the final roster or see much floor time. Devon (6-3) is a possible NBA prospect with good athleticism and terrific ball skills.

Britain's roster has not been finalized yet but two former PAC-10 bigs, Eric Boateng and Matthew Bryan-Amaning, could play roles off the bench. Former Arizona St. center Boateng shoots a high pct. and is solid on the boards while Bryan-Amaning's combo of long arms and explosiveness make him an exciting finisher and shot challenger. Both bigs can't make free throws.

Some concerns for Britain: they shot only 62% from the FT line last summer and they averaged 15 TOpg. Deng hurt Britain's FT numbers by shooting 64%.

I would like this team's chances of advancing to the second round if it was in Group C or D. Don't see any way they can beat Lithuania or Spain. Don't think their chances against Turkey are great, but I do think Turkey is as likely as any team to underachieve.

POLAND:
Key Absences: Marcin Gortat; Maciej Lampe; Michal Ignerski


Poland was one of the few countries hurt by the lockout as they could not get Marcin Gortat's insurance covered. Polish fans can comfort themselves in knowing that even at full-strength, their chances of advancing out of Group A were slim.

Maciej Lampe decided to skip this summer's festivities and now Poland will be missing its two best players. Also, SF Michal Ignerski won't be available, so Poland will be without its '09 starting frontline of Ignerski, Lampe & Gortat.

Poland underachieved last summer in the qualification process even with Gortat and Lampe playing and are only in Lithuania because of the expansion to a 24-team field. Former Slovenian head coach Ales Pipan will try to make due with a depleted frontcourt.

Poland will call on former Washington State guard Thomas Kelati and Szymon Szewczyk to be its primary options in Gortat & Lampe's absence.

6-5 Kelati's strength is shooting--can hit off screens or off the dribble. Kelati will start at SG but will also handle the ball often. Kelati is Poland's designated defensive stopper.

PG Lukasz Koszarek is an aggressive penetrator with reliable shooting prowess. The speedy Lukasz is creative with the pass as well, but can be inconsistent. Veteran Robert Skibniewski will back up Koszarek, and is a sharp passer,as well.

SG/SF Dardan Berisha will also handle the ball a little and is an aggressive player who likes to barrel his way to the rim (usually going left). 6-6 Adam Waczynski is another solid athlete on the wings who can hit some jumpers, handle the ball some, pass well and defend the wings.

In the past, Poland has run some Princeton sets and expect them to utilize some this summer. They like to keep the basket area open. Liked to pound the ball down low last year, but imagine there will be fewer post-up opportunities without Gortat and Lampe around.

Former Buck draftee 6-11 Szymon Szewczyk is the primary frontcourt option. A solid athlete with some bulk who rebounds well, guards the post well, finishes strong and hits jumpers out to the 3pt. line. Can hit turnarounds in the post and is a nice pick-n-pop threat.

6-10 Adam Hrycaniuk (ex-Cincy Bearcat) will see more minutes in the middle in Gortat's absence. Hrycaniuk ain't the athlete that Gortat is, but he is a physical presence and will get some touches in the post where he has nice footwork.

Poland's chances of advancing to the next round are slim-to-none. They should handle Portugal, maybe give Britain a challenge, but the other three teams should overwhelm them.

PORTUGAL:
Key Absences: Joao Gomes


Some team has to be the weakest team in the field. Last time they were at EuroBasket, in 2007, Portugal surprised by advancing to the second round. That ain't happening this time.

PF/C Miguel Miranda has been Portugal's top scorer during the entire qualification process. Likes to jack up shots behind the arc--he just doesn't hit at a good clip. Miranda (6-9) is a subpar rebounder for his size. Former Nevada Wolfpack forward Joao Santos (6-8) can bury jumpers but is another subpar rebounder for his size.

Filipe da Silva & Miquel Minhava combine forces to man the PG spot. da Silva (6-4) is a nice distributor and rebounds well for his size, while Minhava can shoot from the perimeter.

Center Elvis Evora is a veteran wide-body who has a soft touch on his mid-rangers. SF Carlos Andrade's athleticism allows him to crash the offensive glass and be an effective role player.

This team loves to bomb from deep--averaged nearly 30 3PA/game. They just don't make 'em--30% from deep. The bad thing for Portugal is they seem to be poor at nearly every aspect of the game. They can't shoot from the floor (37%) or FT line. They can't protect the glass or the ball (15 TOpg) and they foul a ton.

Poland should be the only team that Portugal might be able to challenge. Just winning one game would be an accomplishment.

*--(the rosters have not been officially finalized yet, so a few of these players might be scratches.)

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

3 Comments:

At 10:48 PM, Blogger john marzan said...

turkey will miss gonlum's thuggery.

 
At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have no idea about Basketball. You put Turkiye at the 3rd spot!!!
They were the runner-up of the world champioanship, On the paper Turkiye is the best team in Eurobasket.

 
At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you write England can upset Turkiye!!! Are you out of your mind man!!! What kind of basketball IQ you have???? You gotta be an idiot!!!!

 

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