FanPost

EuroBasket 2013 Preview: Group A

Christian Petersen

This is the first of four previews for the EuroBasket 2013 which will start next week. In Group A, the super talented powerhouse from France will go against a young German squad, intriguing teams from Ukranian and Israel as well as Great Britain and Belgium who are happy to be there.

You can look up the competition format here. Group stage one is played with 6 teams per group and 3 teams advancing to the second group stage. There, 4 teams advance to the playoffs.

* number in ( ) brackets is player's age.

* player in [ ] brackets means that he is a likely cut candidate before the tournament starts. Each team is allowed 12 roster spots.

UKRAINE

http://image.tsn.ua/media/images2/original/Aug2008/89f4539a15_77956.jpg

Roster:

G

Pooh Jeter (30)

Dmytro Zarbichenko (29)

[ Olexandr Mishula (21) ]

G

Sergii Gladyr (25)

Maksym Pustozvonov (26)

Dmytro Gliebov (25)

F

Artur Drozdov (33)

Olkesandr Lypovyy (22)

[ Leonid Stefanyshyn (28) ]

F

Maxym Korniyenko (26)

Kyryl Natyazhko (23)

Stanislav Tymofevenko (24)

C

Viacheslav Kravtsov (25)

Ihor Zaytsev (24)

[ Artem Pustovyi (21) ]

Notable Absentees: Steven Burtt, Alexey Len, Oleksiy Pecherov, Kyrylo Fesenko

NBA players: Viacheslav Kravtsov (Milwaukee Bucks)

Notable youngsters/NBA talent: Sergii Gladyr, Oleksandr Lypovyy, Artem Pustovyi

The most interesting tidbit for US crowd about Ukraine might be that they have been coached by Mike Fratello since 2011. Ukraine got a spot at the EuroBasket luckily by barely beating out inferior Austria and Bulgaria in its qualification division. They have always had a few interesting players up front, and while their wing rotations are getting solid, their lack of depth, especially at point guard should make them one of the bottom teams. Their best finish at a EuroBasket was 13th – that was in 1996 when the EuroBasket featured only 16 teams.

Former Sacramento King Pooh Jeter was the happy recipient of a Ukranian passport just a few weeks ago and will be a solid ballhandler for Fratello’s Team. Jeter is a very solid player but has played in the weak Chinese league last year. Thus, he might be looking a little slower and not quite as sharp, especially when having to run a team he is unfamiliar with at such a level. While Jeter is potentially a great addition, he comes at the expense of Steven Burtt, at least for this tournament. Burtt is another US-American who represented Ukraine since the EuroBasket 2011 up until the qualification for this tourney which he will miss. The Jeter/Burtt rotation would have been a dynamic one. Instead, with Zarbichenko backing up the PG spot, Ukraine will take a steep decline in creativity and pace when Jeter sits.

One of the team’s star players is 23-years old athletic shooter Sergii Gladyr who has been on the NBA radar for a while and was a member of Atlanta’s 2013 Summer League team (where he only logged 11 minutes). Gladyr is the only Ukranian perimeter guy playing in a strong league, the Spanish ACB, where he averaged 9.4 points on 50% 2FG and 41% 3FG in 21 minutes of play. Gladyr has nice handles and can work as a secondary playmaker, but does not have the vision to really help Jeter out in that department.

Artur Drozdov is a 33-year old vet who is generally overlooked in Europe. His ability to shoot, be a secondary playmaker and get in opposing passing lanes works tremendously with Jeter and Gladyr. That trio could do some serious damage if they get hot.

In Kornivenko and Kravtsov, Ukraine's frontcourt has two post presences who draw fouls and rebound very well. However, they should limit their backcourts nice spacing because both aren't quick, heady passers. Korniyenko also loves his three point shot more than he should and his shot selection might waste precious posessions that should be used by the competent backcourt.

22-year old Oleksandr Lypovyy is the most interesting young guy. The ballhandling guard/forward catapulted himself onto the NBA radar after a very strong EuroCamp MVP showing, but had a very disappointing pro season in Ukraine, especially struggling against international competition (39% FG%). He shot better in domestic competition but his per game line of 4 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists per 17 minutes does not seem overwhelming for a big time project. Consequently, Lypovyy was not drafted in 2013. His combination of size, shooting and ballhandling remains intriguing. Another interesting youngster is 2013 EuroCamper 21-year old Artem Pustovyi.

You can make a good bet that Ukraine will not achieve much again, but if things go well for them ( 1 - the backcourt starters can maintain consistency from beyond the three point line, 2 - Korniyenko hits his mid-range shots, 3 - they get a rebounding advantage) Ukraine might be able to sneak into the 2nd group stage.

Video: Gladyr & Jeter finish off Poland in wild end

GREAT BRITAIN

http://www2.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Andrew%2BLawrence%2BOlympics%2BDay%2B2%2BBasketball%2BNLQXtjjWgJql.jpg

Roster:

G

Andrew Lawrence (23)

Devon Van Oostrum (20)

Justin Robinson (26)

G

Kyle Johnson (25)

Alex Marcotullio (22)

[ Ogooluwa Adegboye (26) ]

F

Andrew Sullivan (33)

Gareth Murray (29)

Alasdair Fraser (21)

F

Daniel Clark (25)

Kieron Achara (30)

[Miles Hesson (23) ]

C

Eric Boateng (28)

Liam Potter (27)

Notable absentees: Luol Deng, Joel Freeland, Ben Gordon, Byron "Bizzaro 3-and-D" Mullens, Pops Mensah-Bonsu

NBA players: -

Notable youngsters/NBA talent: Devon Van Oostrum, Alasdair Fraser

This is not the same Great Britain we saw at the Olympics. The Islanders present many new faces and depending on who will get cut, Great Britain could present a load of young future prospects at the EuroBasket level.

After Supervet Nate Reiking (37 years of age!) announced his retirement following the Olympics, Andrew Lawrence will take over as starting point guard. Lawrence just finished his US College career at Charleston and played decent minutes on the Washington Wizards Summer League squad. I don't think that he signed a contract yet, so EuroBasket should be a nice stage for the undersized shooter.

The reason why I will watch as many GB games as possible is 20-year old super-athletic playmaker Devon Van Oostrum. The Brit with Dutch roots has been considered a top talent among youngsters at a very young age and left his homeland early to develop his skills in Spain. At the youth level, Van Oostrum has been pretty much unstoppable when going to the rim, finishing at high percentages and drawing lots of fouls. He still needs to invest a ton of work into his three point shot (he relies on it way too much as well) and playmaking skills as he turns it over too often. He’s playing in the second Spanish division and should play full pro next season. That year should be a great indicator of whether he is NBA talent or not.

Great Britain might have the thinnest wing rotation in the tournament. With the exception of Johnson, all of the guys at the 2 and 3 either come from US college where they did not carry a big scoring chunk (Marcotullio – also candidate for tourney’s Best Name Award, Alasdair Frasier), play in inferior leagues (Sullivan – England, Murray – Scotland), play in second divisions (Jackman – 2nd German League) or don’t play in decent leagues (Hesson – just a few minutes in the German League). The fact that most those guys are streaky shooters at best contributes to the wing minutes being very open at tournament’s start. Coach Joe Prunty might be forced to go with a Van Oostrum/Lawrence-Duo at times and playing Kieron Achara at the wing to open up the court.

In a perfect world for GB, Kieron Achara would make a wonderful stretch-4 for a young, inexperienced squad that needs space to test itself. Putting him on the wing wouldn’t even hurt that much either. The lack of talent GB has at the wings is made up by the frontcourt. 30-year old 6’10" Kieron Achara could be suited well at the three because of 6'10" Daniel Clark, who is an above average deep shooting big himself. 24-year old Clark has been on the NBA radar for a while but couldn’t ever use his size and shooting to solidify himself as an elite big in European basketball. Then again, the frontcourt apart from those two guys and Boateng is thin as well so they shouldn’t be able to shift around for big minutes that much.

The absence of Pops Mensah-Bonsu who played very well at the Olympics will hurt their depth but Eric Boateng is also a solid and athletic defensive anchor who can carry some offense.

Offensively, the team should heavily rely on Achara, Clark and Lawrence. Lawrence is still very inexperienced and having Van Oostrum as the next best back-up is not the best thing for an offensively very limited team without much international experience. Marcotullio and especially Fraser could make a name for themselves, if they make the team.

Video: Andrew Lawrence highlights

FRANCE

http://blog.mysanantonio.com/olympics/wp-content/blogs.dir/2477/files/france-82-lithuania-74/149674981.jpg

Roster:

G

Tony Parker (31)

Nando De Colo (26)

Antoine Diot (24)

G

Mickael Gelabale (30)

Charles Kahudi (27)

Thomas Heurtel (24)

F

Nicolas Batum (25)

Florent Pietrus (32)

F

Boris Diaw (31)

Joffrey Lauvergne (22)

C

Alexis Ajinca (25)

Johan Petro (27)

Notable absentees: Joakim Noah, Mickael Pietrus, Kevin Seraphin, Ronny Turiaf, Ian Mahinmi, Rodrigue Beaubois

NBA players: Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs), Nicolas Batum (Portland Trail Blazers), Boris Diaw (San Antonio Spurs), Nando De Colo (San Antonio Spurs)

Notable youngsters/NBA talent: Joffrey Lauvergne, Antoine Diot

Look at the absentees first. Then look at the roster. Now look at France' recent results: 2006 World Championship – 6th. 2007 Eurobasket – 8th. Did not Qualify for 2008 Olympics. 2009 Eurobasket – 5th. 2010 World Championship – 13th. 2011 EuroBasket – 2nd.

With the exception of 2011, France has been underachieving with great player material for years. The roster tells you everything you need to know about what this team is capable of doing if everything goes well. The spacing and IQ that comes with the Parker-Gelabale-Batum-Diaw monster can only be matched by Spain. The bench might be the best in Europe too as talent-wise, De Colo, Lauvergne, and Petro/Ajinca are/have been fringe NBA-talent at least. Heurtel and Diot are deep point guards guards that a number of teams would love to have as starters or primary back-ups. If Gelabale of Kahudi have bad days, one of Diot or Heurtel can function just as well alongside Parker as they have OK size and good enough shooting to be off-guards.

The only flaw you can find in France’s roster is the lack of bodies in the frontcourt. Noah will be sorely missed anyway and Ajinca and Petro are not making any opposing guards reluctant in driving to the basket. Diaw might have to play the five a lot with smaller super-spacing lineups. 21-year old Lauvergne is an interesting option, especially in transition. He was picked 55th by Memphis in the 2013 draft and then sent to Denver in the comical Koufos-Arthur trade. It is a little disappointing to me that Mouhamadou Jaiteh didn't make the cut.

The French NT is basically assembled by Mr. Parker and Mr. Parker only so assume that he chooses guys that he can trust and can play PnR with. As with every year, you look at that team and are convinced that they’ll finish in the top 3. With Spain missing Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navvaro, and Tony Parker developing into one of the few very best Pick and Roll players on this earth, this might be France’s time. But that’s what you say about them every year. The group stage is no test for them and should give the coaching staff enough opportunities to try out bench players and examine which ones they can trust once they start facing contenders and middle of the pack teams.

Video: Tony Parker wills France to win over Serbia in preparation game

GERMANY

http://www.spox.com/de/sport/mehrsport/1003/Bilder/tibor-pleiss-bamberg-nba-514.jpg

Roster:

G

Heiko Schaffartzik (29)

Per Günther (25)

Bastian Doreth (24)

G

Lucca Staiger (25)

Karsten Tadda (25)

[ Nicolai Simon (26) ]

F

Philip Zwiener (28)

Niels Giffey (22)

Alex King (28)

F

Robin Benzing (24)

Maik Zirbes (23)

C

Tibor Pleiss (24)

Andreas Seifferth (24)

Notable absentees: Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman, Dennis Schröder, Tim Ohlbrecht, Elias Harris

NBA players: -

Notable youngsters/NBA talent: Tibor Pleiss, Maik Zirbes

Germany’s EuroBasket hopes took a huge hit with every German NBA player declining participation in the tournament. Even though it was clear they couldn't have counted on Nowitzki from the start, there was hope that at least Schröder, Ohlbrecht and Harris, maybe even Kaman, basically all starters, would join the team.

Dirks and Ohlbrechts declination hurts Germany especially since the team is left without any natural 4s. Whomever coach Frank Menz decides to play at the PF spot, it won’t be ideal – either at the expense of spacing or defense. Benzing is a great shooter and can create off the dribble astonishingly well for a 6’10" guy but his tiny frame already gives him problems defending forwards on the perimeter. Having to defend big forwards could be a disaster. Zirbes, Pleiß and Seifferth are all better suited to play inside due to their lack of range.

Tibor Pleiß is the only really interesting player on this team. The 24-year old 7’1"-giant will have to anchor a porous defense and be a factor inside to give shooters like Schaffartzik, Staiger and Benzing space. Drafted by OKC a few years ago, Pleiss has left Germany two years ago to compete in the much stronger ACB league. This year, Pleiss was very solid with 6.2 points on 59% shooting, 4.9 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per 15.8 minutes in a back-up role.

Schaffartzik is one of the most entertaining, fierce and fearless gunners who can shoot his team in and out of games. You could say he's the German J.J. Barea. Check the video at the bottom. Staiggers contribution as an efficient high volume shooter and perimeter defender should be crucial to this team.

All in all the recruiting process did a good job of giving a bunch of youngsters a chance to gain international experience. Too bad that most of the young talent isn't special. Germany’s offense involving Schaffartzik, Staiger and Benzing has enough fire power and speed to carry them to wins, but this team should have major defensive issues. Getting into the second group stage should be very doable with bottom teams Great Britain and Belgium, and equally strong Ukraine and Israel in the group.

Video: Heiko Schaffartzik destroys Latvia at EuroBasket 2011

ISRAEL

http://www.fibaeurope.com/files/%7BFB749F75-EA99-4D8D-82F7-0A1488D0700E%7Dbig_h.jpg

Roster:

G

Yogev Ohayon (26)

Afik Nissim (32)

Yuval Naimy (28)

G

Yotam Halperin (29)

Nitzan Hanochi (27)

[ Ben Reis (23) ]

F

Omri Casspi (25)

Guy Pnini (30)

[ Raviv Limonad (29) ]

F

Lior Eliyahu (27)

Elishay Kadir (26)

Ido Kozikaro (35)

C

Alexander Tyus (25)

Yaniv Green (33)

[ Alexey Chubrevich (27) ]

Notable absentees: Gal Mekel

NBA players: Omri Casspi (Houston Rockets)

Israles has strong vet power as the only player under the age of 25, Ben Reis, should get cut before the tournament starts.

Israel’s core is made up of the starting guards and forwards and even though Dallas Maverick playmaker Gal Mekel cannot be replaced, the core is extended nicely by a range of deep shooting and playmaking-savvy two-guards like Hanochi and Naimy. They are all very familiar with each other due to the strong inclusivity of the Israeli Super League. Israeli star and Houston Rocket Omri Casspi will look at another attempt to form a dangerous inside-outside punch with Lior Eliyahu and Yotam Halperin. As admirable as Israel’s talent has been, as disappointing were its collective results: Israel has not qualified for a World Championship since 1986 and its best placement in the EuroBasket of the last 10 years was the 7th place in 2003.

However, the chemistry between Casspi and Eliyahu, the team’s stars, might not even matter. The synergetic backcourt is restrained by a heavy imbalance inside, and relies strongly on naturalized Alexander Tyus as a defensive presence and workhorse on the boards. Unfortunately, Tyus has sustained a groin injury recently and might be out of EuroBasket for good.

Israel’s preparation did not go well at all with losses to inferior teams like Belgium and Georgia. They should still be a lock to make the second round. If Tyus is able to play at a decent level, Israel could secure the second rank in this rather weak group and make serious damage. If Tyus is out for good, Israel is in deep trouble and could find themselves going home after the first group stage.

Video: Alex Tyus EuroBasket 2013 qualification tournament highlights

BELGIUM

http://www.sporza.be/polopoly_fs/1.1708196!image/3817405715.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape670/3817405715.jpg

G

Sam Van Rossom (27)

Roel Moors (35)

G

Jonathan Tabu (28)

Guy Muya (30)

F

Matthew Lojeski (28)

Wen Mukubu (30)

Jean-Marc Mwema (24)

F

Axel Hervelle (30)

Sacha Massot (30)

Maxime De Zeeuw (26)

C

Yannick Driesen (25)

Christophe Beghin (33)

Notable absentees: D.J. Mbenga (don’t laugh)

Belgium does not have a rich pool of basketball talent so their recruiting process did not take very long. The roster features a good portion of players in their thirties, few internationally known players and lots of unknowns.

The staring backcourt is actually very solid, even though a little small. Point Guard Sam Van Rossom has been playing in competitive leagues for a few years now (Italy, now Spain) who does everything quite well – deep volume shooting, playmaking, rebounding. His partner in the backcourt, Jonathan Tabu, might be better suited playing point guard himself, but the extreme thinness of Belgium's roster should make him see lots of minutes at shooting guard.

Due to size, minute management should be a concern for Belgium. With the absence of DJ Mbenga, Yannick Driesen is the only 7 footer on the team. The second tallest player on the squad is Sacha Massot with 6’9". Driesen is not a very talented player and weak rebounder for his size so Belgium might have to play undersized lineups for a good portion of minutes.

Belgium’s basketball community is eagerly anticipating Matt Lojeski’s tournament debut in their black-and-red uniforms. Wisconsin-born Lojeski has dominated the Belgian League the last two years, won several MVP trophies and now signed a deal with back-to-back defending Euroleague champ Olympiacos of Greece for next season. Lojeski’s size, shooting and all-around-game is a huge boost to Belgium’s talent level and gives them a nice go-to-guy. But as with Israel and Tyus, Lojeski might have to quit the tournament before it starts due to a tear in one of his leg muscles.

Axel Hervelle has been the face of Belgian basketball and a serious contender for an NBA roster spot for some time. Hervelle has been declining for a while now, but remains efficient even though the lack of options on the Belgian squad should make it easier to limit him.

Lojeski’s participation could make or break Belgium’s aspirations, but even with him on the roster, there is not much to expect. It is a little disturbing that there is no young talent in Belgium. What happens when Hervelle, Massot, Moors, and Beghin retire? Lojeski himself is already 28 years old. Belgium's U-20 and U-18 squads have dipped around in the B-Division, the lower tier of national youth competition. There might be some light at the tunnel though. For 2014, Belgium’s U18-NT has qualified for the A Division’s European Championship and it’s U20 counterpart missed qualification for the A Division by just one spot.

Video: Matt Lojeski highlights

All in all, France is the major favorite to win this group without much effort. Germany and Israel are mostly seen as runners-up due to past performances and talent level, but both have question marks. Can Israel survive if Tyus cannot play? Isn't Germany missing too many pieces? Ukraine could be benefiter of the other midling team's uncertainities. Great Britain and Belgium are completely outmached and might be worth a look because of Lawrence, Van Oostrum and Lojeski, should he play.

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