The 2011 Eurobasket is nearing its' conclusion as we enter the tournament stage, where the top 8 teams will compete for a spot in the Olympics and the much-prized gold medal. There are four Thunder-related players in the tournament, all of which I have seen play in person. Here's an update on how they're playing, along with links to all of the scouting reports I've done so far.
Relation: Yotam Halperin remains an overseas asset of the Thunder, as he was a draft pick of the SuperSonics back in 2006 and never came to the states. It's unlikely he'll ever come over to the states, but I thought it would be fun to learn about him anyway.
I didn't get to see much of this guy, but he was definitely the leader of a under-manned Israel team. He was playing in front of a largely hostile crowd, as most of the Lithuanians were cheering for their Latvian neighbors. But he did do a good job of working off of the ball and finding some slick open shots. His best moment came towards the end of the game against Latvia, when he got a driving foul late in the game for two free throws, and then faked doing the same thing again on the next possession just so he could make a hockey assist for another player. Though he wasn't the ball-handler, he was definitely the floor general, and I'd like to see him try out for the Thunder one day. Israel was eliminated in the first stage of group play.
Below: Tibor Pleiss, Nenad Krstic, and Serge Ibaka!
Relation: The Thunder bought his rights during the 2010 draft, where he was the 31st overall pick.
I didn't get to see much of Pleiss either, but it's clear his role with the national team has diminished since the 2010 World Championships in Turkey, only getting 6 minutes a game during the Eurobasket. Nowitzki and Kaman weren't on the team in 2010, but it is nevertheless a disappointment not to see him showcase much of his skills, especially since there were no big men between him and the starters that got more minutes. Still, 2 Points and 2 Rebounds in 7 minutes is nothing to sneeze at, and with Nowitzki's and possibly Kaman's imminent departure from the team, we can look forward to seeing much more of him at the Eurobasket in 2013. Germany was eliminated in the second stage of group play after losing to Lithuania.
Relation: Krstic started at center for the Thunder from December of 2009 until February of 2011. He was traded to the Celtics, and after his contract expired at the end of this year, he signed with CSKA Moscow.
Krstic is the emotional leader of his Serbian team, leading the offensive attack with driving guard Milos Teodosic and deadly shooter Marko Keselj. By European standards, Krstic is an excellent scorer in the paint, and he has success on most centers from the region, with the exception of Spain's Marc Gasol and Turkey's Omer Asik. He hasn't regressed much in the few months we haven't seen him. He still hits the mid-range jumpers with ease, and he still defends well enough to not be a huge liability for his team.
Serbia faces Russia in the Quarter-Finals on the 15th.
Relation: He starts at power forward, you dummy!
Ibaka had a big challenge ahead of him heading into the 2011 Eurobasket. He was getting into what is already the most established and talented team in Europe, which features NBA and Euroleague All-Stars alike. Minutes should be hard to come by, right?
Wrong. Ibaka quickly sealed himself in the starting Power Forward position, and became a force for Spain. But it wasn't just all about points. Over the summer, Ibaka actually appears to have improved his game. He's smarter about fouling his opponent, he doesn't commit stupid mistakes like three second violations, and he has a better sense of where his team mates are. This is excellent news, as the Thunder are really needing a third scoring option, and if Ibaka can refine his game enough to where he can be a legitimate part of the offense (IE, not just someone who receives pick n' pops and rolls to the basket), he'll be a huge help to the Thunder.
Ibaka has, at times, struggled to get time in clutch situations, because he is clearly behind both of the Gasols on the depth chart and in offensive importance. Sometimes he'll hover around and not be a part of the offense at all, standing on the weak side while the rest of the team does work. But he has
Spain faces Slovenia in the Quarter-Finals on the 14th.
Other Scouting Reports I've Done:
Many thanks to all of the SBNation blogs that posted my analysis!
Who is your favourite Thunder-related player participating in the Eurobasket?
Nenad Krstic (3 votes)
Serge Ibaka (34 votes)
Tibo Pleiss (0 votes)
Yotam Halperin (1 vote)
38 total votes