Gearing Up for the 2011 Eurobasket: Group B Preview

Check out the Group A Preview if you haven't already!

Group B Overview:

This will probably be my favourite group to watch from the get-go, because it has a lot of intrigue. France have assembled an All-Star team of players, but how long will it take them to pull together? Italy has fallen in recent years, but will the addition of Gallinari bring them any luck? Israel had good luck in the prelims, but can they continue their success with a untalented roster? With possibly the last pairing of Kaman and Nowitzki, can Germany make the most of this post combo? Will Serbia continue their recent success, or has the loss of Velicovic hurt them too much? Lastly, can the fast-paced Latvian team pull off a miracle and win a game? Okay, maybe the last one is a stretch, but you get my point. A lot is up in the air for this group, and at least one strong team is going to be left out moving into the next round.

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#6. Latvia

FIBA World Ranking: 27th

 

Qualified Via: FIBA Europe Decision*

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Eliminated in Group of 16 (4th of 4, Group B)

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Did Not Qualify

 

Thunder Connection? None.

 

NBA Players? Davis Bertans, San Antonio Spurs.

 

The Shakedown: If you were looking for the Golden State Warriors of this tournament, you've found them. Latvia is a team that pretty much ignores playing defense, and would like to outscore you if at all possible. Sometimes, they can even eclipse the 100 point mark (remarkable considering International Basketball is only 40 minutes long) when facing inferior competition. However, they'll often find themselves outgunned and running into long offensive droughts, leading to huge deficits and embarrassing losses. There is a Latvian-born NBA player, Andris Biedrins, who would help combat this, but he elected not to play with his national team this year. Thus, the team sinks to the bottom of the standings, providing an entertaining game at times, but not much else.

 

Video: 2009 Eurobasket Qualifying: PortugalMacedoniaEstonia

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Janis Strelnieks, a Westbrook-like point guard who can rebound, pass, and shoot. He plays for BK Ventspils. Lauris Blaus, their Andris Biedrins substitute who plays for BK Ventspils.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: They'd need to shoot about 70% to have a chance to get out of their group, let alone get beyond that.

 

Below: The Top 5!

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 #5. Israel

FIBA World Ranking: 27th

 

Qualified Via: Initial Qualifying Round

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Eliminated in Group of 16 (4th of 4, Group A)

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Did Not Qualify

 

Thunder Connection? None.

 

NBA Players? Omri Cassipi, Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

The Shakedown: Israel is a nation that normally rests its' competitive European hopes on their strong club team, Maccabi Tel Aviv. But this year, Israel will be no slouch in the 2011 Eurobasket. They are led by NBA player Omri Cassipi, Olympiakos player Yotam Helperin, and a variety of players from Maccabi Tel Aviv and other strong domestic clubs. Unfortunately, they don't have the talent necessary to beat out the teams in this group, and, being a shorter club that focuses on offense, they often have trouble locking down on a good scorer for the other team, especially if he is tall. Thus, they fall to fifth in my group preview, out of the tournament stage, but still with the luxury of beating up on Latvia.

 

Video: 2009 Eurobasket: MacedoniaCroatiaGreece.

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Yotam Halperin, everything you'd want in a point guard. He defends, passes, and scores well, and he plays for Olympiakos in Greece. Lior Eliyahu is probably the best domestic league player on the team coming out of Maccabi Tel Aviv. He's also an excellent inside scorer. David Blu (previously Bluthenthal), a former USC player and decent post guy out of Maccabi Tel-Aviv.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: It's not beyond the realm of possibility to see them in the second group stage, but anything beyond that would be a small miracle.

 

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 #4. Germany

FIBA World Ranking: 7th

 

Qualified Via: Participation in the 2010 FIBA World Championship

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Eliminated in Group of 12 (5th out of 6, Group B)

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Eliminated in Group of 12 (5th out of 6, Group E)

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Eliminated in Group of 24 (5th of 6, Group A)

 

Thunder Connection? Tibor Pleiss is a overseas asset of the Thunder. He was selected 31st overall by the New Jersey Nets in the 2010 NBA Draft, and his rights eventually found their way to the Thunder, who purchased them from the Hawks.

 

NBA Players? Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks. Chris Kaman, Los Angeles Clippers.

 

The Shakedown: The German basketball team has never been particularly good, but this might be their last shot at greatness for a good while. The aging Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman provide the tournament's second best front court, and the team's best players from the 2010 World Championship are back, including Jan Jagla, Heiko Schaffartzik, Tibor Pleiss, and Tim Ohlbrecht. Unfortunately, Germany is pretty lacking in the guard department. Schaffartzik, Hamann, and Schwethelm are capable, but they aren't going to set the world on fire, and will pale in comparison to France, Serbia, and Italy. Thus, the Germans finish slightly outside of the first cut, as they have in their past three tournaments.

 

Video: 2010 World Championship: Group Stage: ArgentinaSerbiaAustraliaJordan. 2008 Olympics: USAChina

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Heiko Schaffartzik, a good scoring guard who plays for Turk Telokom Ankara. Steffen Hamann, the teams assist master from ALBA Berlin. Tibor Pleiss, a developing center currently playing for Brose Baskets Bamburg. Tim Ohlbrecht, a solid center from Telekom Baskets Bonn. Philip Schwethelm and Robin Benzing, two youngsters who would make a difference.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: If they get the right matchups and win the right games, they can make it to the tournament stage. But this team is too flawed to make it too far before they've met their match.

 

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 #3. Italy

FIBA World Ranking: 7th

 

Qualified Via: FIBA Europe Decision*

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Did Not Qualify

 

Thunder Connection? We've seen Danilo Gallinari several times throughout the late season and playoffs, in action for the Denver Nuggets.

 

NBA Players? Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors. Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets. Marco Bellinelli, New Orleans Hornets.

 

The Shakedown: Italy is a team that has recently fallen on hard times. They used to be a regular contender for medals at the Eurobasket and other international tournaments, but after their Silver in the 2004 Athens Olympics, they have fallen into relative obscurity. Right now, the Italians rely heavily on their NBA players, Andrea Bargnani and Marco Bellinelli. Gallinari hasn't played with the team yet, so he could inject a slight boost into Italy's production. But the team is known for being soft on the inside, meaning they'll do poorly against athletic teams or teams with a big bruiser inside. Otherwise, if the other team plays traditional European ball or like to run the floor, this team can play with the best of them. Thus, this group is a dream for the Italians, with two of the stronger teams, Serbia and Germany, playing right into their hands. Thus, I have them finishing a bit higher than they should in this group, but they probably won't be too major of a factor in the later stages of this tournament.

 

Video: 2009 Eurobasket Qualifiers: Versus France

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Stefano Mancinelli, a slightly more athletic version of Gallinari who currently plays for Armani Jeans Milano. Antonio Maestranzi, a solid point guard out of Northern Illinois who currently plays for Montegrenaro. Marco Carraretto, a veteran sharp shooter from Montepaschi Siena.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: They're a longshot to win, but I wouldn't put it past them to qualify for the tournament stage. Their success largely depends on matchups.

 

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#2. Serbia

FIBA World Ranking: 8th

 

Qualified Via: Participation in the 2010 FIBA World Championship

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Silver Medal (Lost to Spain in the Final)

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: 4th (Lost to Turkey in Semi-Finals, Lost to Lithuania in 3rd Place Game)

 

Thunder Connection? Nenad Krstic, a current Center for CSKA Moscow, played for the Thunder last season.

 

NBA Players? None.

 

The Shakedown: Serbia is a team that has found strong recent success. After splitting off from Montenegro, there were some questions as to how competitive the new nation would be. They proved doubters wrong by getting to the 2009 Eurobasket Final and the 2010 FIBA World championship Semi-Finals, despite an almost complete lack of NBA talent. However, their sights have to be set a little bit lower this year with the absence of Noviko Velicovic, the team's number four option and go-to guy while Krstic and Teodosic were serving their suspensions during the 2010 World Championship. Picking up the slack will be Dusko Savanovic and Alexsandar Rasic, both capable scorers with the ability to go off on certain nights. The Serbians will also struggle to adapt to the smaller paint area, as their forwards and centers are more suited for hitting mid-range jumpers with only the occasional foray inside. But Serbia is still a solid team that is used to playing with each other, so they'll get decently far in the tournament. A semi-final appearance, though, seems out of the question.

 

Video: 2009 Eurobasket: Semi-Final vs. SerbiaFinal vs. Spain. 2010 FIBA World Championship: Quarter-Final vs. SpainSemi-Final vs. Turkey

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Nenad Krstic, a good mid-range shooter who just signed with CSKA Moscow. Milos Teodosic, the #2 scoring option and point guard for CSKA Moscow. Dusko Savanovic, a nice partner for Krstic in the post when wither is double-teamed. He plays for Anadolu Efes S.K. (formerly Efes Pilsen). Kosta Perovic, a former Warriors center very much in the mold of Nenad Krstic. He plays for FC Barcelona. Aleksandar Rasic, a three point marksman from BC Lietuvos Rytas.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: They have an outside chance, but they have to prove they can play with the best (Spain, Turkey, Greece) before anyone takes a gold medal bid from them seriously.

 

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#1. France

FIBA World Ranking: 14th

 

Qualified Via: Participation in the 2010 FIBA World Championship

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: 5th (Eliminated in Quarter-Finals against Spain, Defeated Croatia in 5th Place Game)

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Eliminated in Round of 16 Against Turkey

 

Thunder Connection? Johan Petro, a former Thunder player, is a native of France and has played for their national team.

 

NBA Players? Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs. Nicholas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers. Mickael Pietrus, Orlando Magic. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls. Ronny Turiaf, New York Knicks. Boris Diaw, Charlotte Bobcats. Rodrigue Beaubois, Dallas Mavericks. Ian Mahimni, Dallas Mavericks. Kevin Seraphin, Washington Wizards

 

The Shakedown: Hands down, this has to be the favourite team to defeat Spain this year. France isn't traditionally a basketball powerhouse, and they didn't exactly impress last year in the World Championship. But this year, a perfect storm has come together for them with the arrival of the NBA lockout and sudden willingness of French NBA players to come over and play for the team. In essence, first round elimination fodder has been turned into a championship contender. The team features 9 NBA players, plus a couple of players who were integral to the 2010 World championship run (De Colo, Traore, and Gelabale). From top to bottom, France has the best roster. The only real question for them is how well they can come together (many of the players have never played on the same team before) and how well they stand up to superior talent. Parker, Batum, Pietrus, and Noah are nothing to sneeze at, but most would agree they're in the shadow of P. Gasol, M. Gasol, Ibaka, and Calderon. All in all, the team might have some growing pains, but if they can get out of the first group and find their go-to guys, they stand a strong chance of winning this tournament.

 

Video: Eurobasket 2009: Group Play: GreeceCroatiaQuarter-Final vs. Spain. 2010 FIBA World Championship: Group Play: LithuaniaEighth-Final vs Turkey

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Nando De Colo, a former Spurs draft pick and good all-around guard. He plays for Valencia. Mickael Gelabale, a former SuperSonics player who is extremely athletic and plays for Spirou basket. Ali Traore, a good post player and defender from BC Lokomotiv-Kuban Krasnodar. Florent Pietrus, the older brother of Mickael who will most likely sit on the bench.He plays for Caja Laboral.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: They are probably the second most likely team to win it all.

 

*This team originally would have not qualified for the Eurobasket, but the tournament was expanded to 24 teams, allowing their qualification based on their standing in the initial qualifying round.

**This team originally would have not qualified for the Eurobasket, but the tournament was expanded to 24 teams, allowing their qualification based on their finish in the additional qualifying round held this August.

 

Who do you think will come out of Group B? Vote in the poll, post a comment!

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