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- EuroBasket 2017 power rankings - July 15, 2017
- New Zealand’s Webster Brothers invited to NBA Summer League - June 25, 2017
Summer League is over for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the most exciting basketball to take place between now and October will take place thousands of miles away on the other side of the Atlantic.
FIBA’s EuroBasket 2017 will feature a star-studded talent pool, as international basketball is arguably stronger now than it’s ever been at any point of history.
The amount of rising young stars, experienced NBA veterans, and overseas legends set to do battle in the three-week tournament, which takes place in Israel, Turkey, Romania and Finland, is something diehard basketball fans will want to tune in for, even if they have no rooting interest.
Rosters are not yet finalized for the tournament, which begins August 31, but many of the preliminary 16-man squads have been announced and there are big name players on just about every team.
Although rosters are subject to change, here are my power rankings for EuroBasket 2017 – assuming each nation gets their top-tier players.
Part of me wants to believe that there will be a new sheriff in town, as Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol are only getting older, but Pau is only one year removed from having one of the best individual performances in the 2016 Rio Olympics and Marc is coming back healthy and motivated after missing out on Rio.
Factor in Ricky Rubio‘s chemistry with La Roja, as he’s been playing with the Gasol Brothers since he was a teenager in the 2008 Olympics, Sergio Rodriguez and Sergio Llull forming an intimidating backcourt rotation, the reliable play of Nikola Mirotic and the rising prominence of the Hernangomez Brothers and Alex Abrines.
As much as Spain’s days of dominance appear numbered, they’re still the team to beat, at least for one more go-round.
No disrespect to Serbia, but Nikola Jokic has already announced he won’t be playing in EuroBasket. If he were playing, Serbia would clearly be the second-best team, if not the best.
Greece will have the best player any time they set foot on the court – Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Even acknowledging Greece’s depth is an issue, I can’t see any scenario where any of the other teams will be able to slow this guy down. It’s going to be like watching LeBron James when he was at St. Vincent-St. Mary.
He’s too fast, too skilled and too freakishly athletic for anyone in the field to defend.
Nick Calathes is a capable guard who will take care of the ball and is probably going to rack up quite a few assists, but more often than not, I expect the offense to start and end with Giannis. It’ll be interesting to see how Giannis’ brother Athanasios Antetokounmpo has grown since his last time on the big international stage, which left many fans hoping for more.
A Spain vs. Greece matchup in the final could set up for the end of Spain’s dynasty and the beginning of the new era of European Rule, led by the 22-year-old superstar.
The Milos and Bogdan show is going to be a joy to watch. Milos Teodosic and Bogdan Bogdanovic are sure to get Clippers and Kings fans hyped up by the time their EuroBasket sessions conclude.
Miroslav Raduljica had an outstanding performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics and he might be expected to carry more of the load without Jokic on the court.
The problem for Serbia is a lack of depth and lack of a transcendent superstar. As great as Teodosic and Bogdanovic are, the Serbs are missing their best player. His absence will be noticeable when it comes time for the real competition, against teams like Turkey and/or Spain and Greece. The way Serbia matches up with those contending teams does not bode well for their chances, as no one would be able to guard Giannis, Spain’s frontcout would give Serbia nightmares, and Turkey has the pieces to match up with Serbia, defensively.
Cleveland Cavaliers fans will want to watch all of Turkey’s games. 22-year-old forward Cedi Osman is poised for a breakout performance and by the time this tournament is done, he may very well prove to be one of the most instrumental players in the field.
His two-way ability will likely match him up against each team’s best scorer and if his reputation as a defensive stopper holds true, he could be locking down opposing players all the way through the bracket.
Many writers and fans have noted that Osman only averaged 7.1 points per game in EuroLeague play in 2016-17, but they’re discounting some significant factors.
For one thing, EuroLeague play consists of mostly veteran players – many of whom are from the United States – and those veterans take up the bulk of the playing time.
The fact that Osman was even contributing in such a huge role as a 21-year-old speaks volumes about his skill set and work ethic to get that point.
It’s also important to realize that when Osman’s team played games within their Turkish League, he averaged 14 points per game, approximately double his output in EuroLeague.
The level of competition at EuroBasket will vary from game-to-game, but when Turkey matches up against some of the weaker teams in the field, it’ll be a walk in the park compared to the teams he’s been facing on a regular basis for the past few years.
Turkey is in Group D, which is headlined by Serbia and doesn’t have any other teams close to as talented as those top two.
Ersan Ilyasova, Omer Asik and Sixers first round draft pick Furkan Korkmaz, along with Osman give Turkey one of the most well-rounded lineups in the field.
Osman and Korkmaz will have some of the best chemistry of any duo in the tournament, as they’ve been playing together year-round and should make for an electrifying one-two punch.
It’s also important to remember that Turkey is one of the host nations in the tournament and will have a huge home court advantage on its side in group play.
Osman is the x-factor to me in this tournament and I suspect he’ll be fully unleashed with this roster, unlike his EuroLeague and Turkish league play where he had to take a backseat to some of the more experienced veterans on his team.
Group D is setting up for Serbia and Turkey to be strong favorites in all of their matchups, aside from the head-to-head showdown. The fact that Serbia will be without Jokic and Turkey will have the home crowd on its side makes for what I believe will be the most interesting battle in the tournament.
It’s also worth noting that the championship game of the entire tournament will take place in Istanbul and if Turkey can make it to that point, hold on to your seatbelts.
Bojan Bogdanovic and Dario Saric are expected to play, so that alone gives Croatia a fighter’s chance against anyone in the field. However, I have trouble seeing Croatia making a deep run in this tournament. They drew the short end of the stick, getting paired up in the same group as Spain.
When Croatia beat Spain in the 2016 Olympics, it was a huge upset, but keep in mind Marc Gasol, the best player on Spain’s roster was not able to play.
If Croatia was in Group B, which is headlined by Lithuania, Germany and Israel, it would have a great shot at coming out on top. But sometimes you need the ball to bounce your way to have a deep tournament run and Croatia is already behind the eight-ball.
I would say they have the fifth-most talented roster, but the odds are stacked against them.
In the Hunt
Lithuania, France, Italy
We’re still about a month and a half away from the start of the tournament and more roster details will be revealed in the coming weeks, but looking ahead, it’s already exciting to picture some of the head-to-head battles that will take place on the other side of the globe.