FanPost

EuroBasket 2013 Preview: Group C

Christof Koepsel

This is the third of four previews for the EuroBasket 2013 which will start next week. Group C features Ricky's Spain, hosts Slovenia, two teams in Croatia and Poland that might surprise with interesting youngsters, and limited Czech Republic and Georgia.

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.


POLAND

http://informacjesportowe.pl/zdjecia/lampe_gortat_jest_rozczarowany_45943.jpg

Roster:

G

Lukasz Koszarek (29)

Krzystof Szubarga (29)

G

Adam Waczynski (24)

Michal Chylinski (27)

F

Thomas Kelati (21)

Mateusz Ponitka (20)

Przemyslaw Zamojski (27)

F

Maciej Lampe (28)

Michal Ignerski (33)

C

Marcin Gortat (29)

Przemyslaw Karnowski (20)

Adam Hrycaniuk (29)

NBA players: Marcin Gortat

Notable youngsters: Przemyslaw Karnowski, Mateusz Ponitka

Poland has been intriguing for a few years and might finally hit jackpot with their super synergetic roster that features their top players in Gortat, Lampe, Kelati, and projects Karonwski and Ponitka. Few frontcourts can mess with Gortat and Lampe.

The backcourt is just really solid. the team is run by 29-year olds Koszarek and Szubarka who are sure handed point guards playing in the mid-talented Polish league where both show a nice balance of scoring and playmaking. 24-year old Adam Waczynski and 27-year old Chylinski are a fantastic versatile swingman who are are dangerous as on-ball players slashing into the paint, passing the ball as well as off-ball threats. Thomas Kelati is a naturalized American who once almost got a roster spot on the Lakers. Kelati has been a great outside player and defender in some of the best leagues in Europe. Kelati bounced back from a somewhat mediocre shooting season last year in Russia, was a 50/40/90 player in Spain and will continue his career in Turkey.

Kelati is backed by 19 year old Mateusz Ponitka who took on a prominent role on the club level and played extended minutes in the Euroleague where he stood his ground as a surprisingly good shooter and energy guy for his age. Ponitka’s is a potentially great shooter who has been somewhat inconsistent yet, but well, he’s just 19 years old and looks to be a very hopeful candidate for the NBA even though his size (6’5") in combination to his below average ballhandling is a concern. Ponitka is in competition for minutes with Zamojski who brings equal things to the table with maybe more reliable shooting.

Shooting is crucial for Poland as they could be a scary inside-out team with Gortat and Lampe doing their magic inside with bulldozer Karonwski helping out and a trigger-happy and terrificly shooting backcourt profiting from the double teams. Maciej Lampe’s NBA stint unimpressive, but after some injury-pleaged seasons he’s carved out a very good career in Europe, having secured a spot with FC Regal Barcelona after a pretty good season with Caja Laboral. The pairing with Gortat is not totally ideal as Lampe doesn’t have much of an outside game, but could work nonetheless because of both player’s quality as inside presences and the strong shooting around them. 33-year old Michal Ingnerski is a lot more trigger-happy from outside than Lampe, but had a down year in range shooting. If he can establish himself as an outside presence too, this team could be a match-up nightmare offensively.

You think Marcin Gortat is a big dude? Well, please meet Przemyslaw Karnowski. At 7’1", 303 pounds, a nice mid-range shot (although bad free throw shooting) and a passing touch Karnowski reminds one a little of Marc Gasol, even though he has to go a very long way defensively to even warrant that comparison in the slightest.

Karnowski and Ponitka both played well at the U20 Euro Championship this year with Karnowski averaging 15.9 points, 11.9 rebounds (almost half of them offensively!) and 1.4 blocks (he’s still not really great defensively though due to slowness mostly) in 27 minutes. At Gonzaga, Karnowski was backing Kelly Olynyk and played only 10.5 minutes per game.

This team could be really dangerous with inside players who are hard to stop outside and a throughout strong shooting backcourt. Watch out for this team. I think they are almost a lock to make it into the second round and from then on, they are a team nobody would want to face. Of course, a lot will depend on the chemistry between Gortat and Lampe.

SLOVENIA

http://turkey2010.fiba.com/images/web/News/Photos/2010/06/11/_483x332/SLO.jpg

Roster:

G

Goran Dragic (27)

Jaka Lakovic (35)

G

Jaka Blazic (23)

Domen Lorbek (28)

F

Zoran Dragic (24)

Edo Muric (22)

Nebosja Joksimovic (22)

F

Bostjan Nachbar (33)

Jure Balazic (33)

Uros Slokar (30)

C

Mirza Begic (28)

Gasper Vidmar (26)

Notable absentees: Erazem Lorbek, Beno Udrih

NBA players: Goran Dragic (Phoenix Suns)

Slovenia is the host of the tournament and was enthusiastic about its medal chances in preparation, but stars Beno Udrih’s (right, don’t laugh) and especially Erazem Lorbek’s decline has left experts pessimistic about this team’s chances

The backcourt is still quiet competent with G. Dragic, Lakovic and Blazic being the main players, but has shooting woes. As a backup to Goran Dragic, 35-year old Jaka Lakovic is still able to play at a surprisingly competent level as an outside threat, even internationally. Goran’s brother Zoran had a nice rookie season in the ACB. The rest of the pack is not very realiable.

Bostjan Nachbar can help the spacing as a terrific volume shooter from the outside but having low usage inside guy Mirza Begic beside him just isn’t the same as having Erazem Lorbek whom he also plays with in Barcelona. Lorbek who also has a soft touch from outside would have opened up the floor up with Nachbar, Lakovic for Dragic’s slashing and Gasper Vidmar’s post play. Uros Slokar once played in the NBA! Does anybody remember that? In 2007 for the Raptors. Well, Balazic is still sturprisingly good yet unimpressev at 33 and Slokar is just obviously on the decline.

Without Lorbek the pieces don’t really fit together and Slovenia suffers from the fact that they have a few top caliber players at this tournament in Dragic and Nachbar, but have them surrounded with a supporting cast that can’t be relied on in bringing out their strengths. With generous refereeing that is guaranteed and some Goran heroisms they are a threat to make it into the playoffs but a medal seems out of reach.

SPAIN

http://blogacb.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/mg_6140.jpg

Roster:

G

José Calderon

Ricky Rubio (23)

Sergio Lull (25)

G

Rudy Fernandez (28)

Sergio Rodriguez (27)

F

Victor Claver (25)

Fernando San Emiterio (29)

F

Alex Mumbru (34)

Xavier Rey (26)

C

Marc Gasol (28)

Pablo Aguilar (24)

German Gabriel (33)

Notable absentees: Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Serge Ibaka

NBA players: Jose Calderon (Dallas Mavericks), Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves), Victor Claver (Portland TrailBlazers), Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)

Only Spain has the national depth to miss an all-time great like Gasol, a defensive stud in Ibaka and an offensive hero like Juan Navarro yet still be seen as favorites for this tournament. Well, this does say a little about the absence of A-list stars at this tournament, but also about Spain’s basketball program of the last 10 years. More than anything, Marc’s recent development as one of the best defensive bigs in the world and a capable offensive player with great passing mechanics should be a factor of why Spain can chill despite losing key players.

Calderon, Rudy and Sergio are known commodities in the backcourt, but this team’s success should also linger a lot on how youngsters Rubio and Claver respond in bigger roles. As far as I could see, the coaching staff seems to be much more open to give Ricky the keys to the offense while he is on the court and involve him in beautiful motion plays with longtime backcourt partner Rudy Fernandez among others in that deadly backcourt.

In preparation, Spain’s offense has been top notch and the unselfish system-over-player approach that leads to seamless, beautiful offense should be able to make up for the loss of Juan Navarro and the offensive heroism that he brought to the table. Like the backcourt of no other team, this one consisting of our Unicorn, Calderon, Sergio Rodriguez (or a bum imposting as Sergio Rodriguez), Claver, ever-project Llull and the more ball dominant Rudy can bring chemistry onto another ‘Pacific Rim’ like symbiotic level read-and-react plays. While teams like France, Greece and Lithuania are capable of getting there too on great nights, Spain merely needs a good night to do so. The wealth of ballhandling options not shy of becoming off-ball threats is just astounding. Ricky, Rodriguez and Llull seem to be a questionable trio shooting wise, but llull actually has had a great season from long range and Spain’s fine-tuned offense should help them really get the shots they are comfortable with.

Up front, as mentioned, Marc Gasol is the alpha male taking the torch from his brother for now and without having another defensive monster in Ibaka besides him. Gasol’s durability after the long season with a heavy offensive and defensive role for the Grizz might be questioned, but as far as I could tell, he looked just as sharp and ready to the test as ever as a central brain in the middle of the floor deciding whether to look for his own offense or push the ball outside.

CROATIA

http://hyposavjetnik.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/eurobasket_cr.jpg%3Fw%3D620

G

Dontaye Draper (29)

Roko Leno Ukic (29)

G

Bojan Bogdanovic (24)

Ante Delas (25)

F

Krunoslav Simon (28)

Dario Saric (19)

F

Damjan Rudez (27)

Mario Delas (23)

C

Ante Tomic (26)

Luksa Andric (28)

Luka Zoric (29)

Notable absentees: Zoran Planinic, Marko Popovic, Marko Tomas

Notable youngsters: Dario Saric, Mario Hezonja

Croatia is another team that would be on another level with scorers Planinic, Tomas, Popovic on the team. Roko Ukic seems to have some fitness issues as well which threatens Croatia’s chances of advancing past the first round even more, especially since the team should have chemistry issues missing so many backcourt constants.

If Ukic can be close to his best form the Croatians still have a lot to look forward to as the core of Draper-Ukic-Bogdanovic-Saric-Simon-Tomic is intriguing and uncomfortable to play against. Draper is a defensive-minded point guard who gets into the paint easily, mostly to pass the ball, and should be a joy to watch with outside threats Bojan Bogdanovic (really would have loved to join the Nets this year) , Simon, Rudez, and A. Delas. Croatia could really be a scorching team from outside with their ballhandling wizards at the point guard position and a few talented bigs who are limited from range but are quick and heady enough passers humble enough to play for the team like Ante Tomic and Dario!!!!

Without the missing players the roster is very tight with the best and most promising of Croatia’s basketball being put together to work as a team. Thus, not very surprisingly (even though still disappointing), Mario Hezonja, an 18 year old combo guard did not make the team. Croatian’s see in Hezonja and Saric the future and players who could take Croatia back to the glorious days of Petrovic and Kukoc who led the team to the silver medal in Barcelona 1992. They are an incredibly interesting duo, something like Anakin Skywalker (Dario!!), , a unique talent that shows flashes of his talent every now and then, is very competitive but also quite naive. On the other end, there’s Darth Vader (Mario), the sureshot who fulfilled his immense talent but is a huge jerk. Well, Mario is far from having fulfilled his talent, but boy is he an interesting prospect. At 6’6", the 18 year old is of rare athleticism and explosivity, has fine ballhandling skills and a decent shot. He has been a force of nature in recent years but his epic success story has come to a halt somewhat as his first year with FC Barcelona’s team was not satisfying for a big time project, mostly because of his attitude, as observers said. Yeah, attitute. The problem is that he can be a jerk, getting annoyed easily, obviously slacking around and showing undisciplined behavior towards his teammates if things don’t go the Mario way. The Dario/Mario-dynamic is one of the most interesting and best kept secret upcoing operas in all of Europe right now as Croatians see them as a golden pairing to reinstate the glorious days of Croatian basketball when Tony Kukoc and Drazen Petrovic led them to a silver medal at Barcelona. How will these different characters co-exist if both succeed in the NBA? Will Mario get envy if Dario becomes the more impactful player and poster child he’s been anyway of Croatian basketball? If Mario will be the next great Coratian, will he make Dario feel it? For now, Hezonja might have overtaken Dario already. My view of them might have a narrative in there, but one not too unlikely. As talents, I like them equally well. The next 5 years will be interesting.

Enough of that. I like this team more than most people, not so much because Dario "The Dalai Lama of Basketball" Saric is on this team, but because on a neutral day they have enough to get into the playoffs and on good days, have great ingredients to be a match-up nightmare. Capable guards, defense, reliable shooting and some high caliber youngs ready to break through who are important to the system too.

CZECH REPUBLIC

http://encestan-cp80.wordpresstemporal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/satoransky.jpg

Roster:

G

Tomás Satoransky (21)

Jakub Kudlacek (23)

G

David Jelinek (23)

Vojtech Hruban (24)

Jiri Welsch (33)

F

Lubos Barton (33)

Pavel Pumprla (27)

F

Jan Vesely (23)

Kamil Svrdlik (27)

C

Ondrej Balvin (21)

Petr Benda (31)

Jakub Houska (31)

NBA players: Jan Vesely (Washington Wizards)

Notable youngsters: Tomas Satoransky, Ondrej Balvin

Most people are talking about how this tournament is a chance for Vesely to revive his career and show that the Wizards used him wrong by putting him inside instead of at the perimeter. The Czech team has been really supportive of Jan, talking about how important he is to their team but also that people shouldn’t expect wonder things of the super athletic youngster who had such a brutal time in the US.

It should be interesting to see how he responds but I am more interested in 21-year old Tomás Staronasky who was drafted by the Wizards last year and should be a lock to get a chance in the NBA in the next two years. Satoransky took over the starting job of ACB team Cajasol Sevilla this team and responded well to his increased role as a scorer even though having problems as a primary ballhandler and creator, turning over the ball a lot. However, he also was second in assists in the ACB. In the end, his team was quite bad but he seemed to be its best player. All in all, if Satoransky improves his shot, the 6’7" prospect who could become a boxscore-filling secondary ballhandler and threat as cutter with his decent athleticism (I think he won Spanish dunk contest).

David Jelinek is another interesting young player playing in Spain but isn’t a good outside player like most of the backcourt which limits Vesely and Satoransky immensely. Barton, the only really reliable three point shooter off the ball will have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders getting and making good looks from outside.

Ondrej Balvin is another youngster who got extensive minutes in Spain but he’s just 21 and his work should be limited by the shaky backcourt and general lack of shooting as much as Vesely’s and Satoransky’s. Satoransky should turn some heads, but Vesely just finished two very humbling years and shouldn’t be radiating confidence. The Czech Republich shouldn’t go very far.

GEORGIA

http://www.worldsport.ge/uploads/photo/main/114/114514.jpg

Roster:

G

Ricky Hickman (28)

George Tsintsadze (27)

Otar Pkhakadze (20)

G

Anatoli Boisa (30)

Besik Lezhava (27)

Duda Sanadze (19)

F

Manuchar Markoishvili (27)

Levan Patsatsia (25)

Viktor Sanikidze (27)

F

Beka Burjanadze (19)

Nikoloz Tskitishvili (30)

C

Giorgi Shermadini (24)

Notable absentees: Tornike Shengelia, Zaza Pachulia

Notable youngsters: Beka Burjanadze

Georgia is a team with minimal serious talent and half of that talent, Shengelia and Pachulia won’t be playing in the EuroBasket. Ricky Hickman and Tsintadze are decent playmakers but they don’t have much player material around them that they can work with well enough on an international level.

Beka Burjanadze is a project getting his education in Spain but aged 19 and not really considered a top youth prospect, he’s obviously far from being a capable player on this level. Aged 30, Nikoloz Tskitishvili might or might not have been the MVP of the Lebanese league this season and his profile on the Eurobasket 2013 homepage starts with "Nikoloz is still one of the most mentioned names in the NBA when "draft busts" are in discussion, .." … yeah, that should tell you what to expect from him.

Georgia’s only reliable quality player at this tourney is swingman Manu Markioshvili, but he just not good enough to carry this team anywhere with a pair of decent guards. Sorry Georgia, you’re out.

Well, ovbviously Spain should be seen run away favorite to win this group but it's going to be interest what happens after that. Slovenia has the advantage of being the host country but teams like Croatia and Poland won't go down without a fight.

(sorry, now video right now because formating is killing my computer.... I might add some vids later on.)

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