FIBA EUROBASKET 2017: Spain are Favorites Again
After the long wait, the 2017 FIBA Eurobasket is finally at our doorstep. Europe’s biggest basketball tournament begins on August 31, 2017 and will be staged in four European cities namely Helsinki, Tel Aviv, Cluj-Napoca and Istanbul.
Europe’s 24 best basketball teams are divided into four groups. After the elimination round, the best four teams from each groups will advance in a single elimination knockout stage. The eight surviving teams then knock each other off in the quarterfinals on September 12 with the four remaining teams playing in the semifinals on September 14. A new European champion will be crowned on September 17. Who will it be?
Many countries are bolstered by players from the National Basketball Association ( NBA ) with the defending champions Spain having the most number of NBA talent in their line-up. Absence of key players due to injuries could play a factor for several contenders and expect several NBA scouts to be at hand to witness a handful of future NBA Draft prospects.
Spain leads the way with seven players having NBA experience, including six who are currently on NBA team rosters. These are Pau and Marc Gasol ( of the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies, respectively ), Alex Abrines ( Oklahoma City Thunder ), Juancho Hernangomez ( Denver Nuggets ), Willy Hernangomez ( New York Knicks ) and Ricky Rubio ( Utah Jazz ). A seventh team member, Sergio Rodriguez, played for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2016-17.
Croatia and Germany have three current NBA players each. Dragan Bender ( Phoenix Suns ), Bojan Bogdanovic ( Indiana Pacers ) and Dario Saric ( Philadelphia 76ers ) lead the Croatian side while Germany will lean on Dennis Schroder ( Atlanta Hawks ), Daniel Theis ( Boston Celtics ), Isaiah Hartenstein ( Houston Rockets ).
France’s Fantastic Four
France has four players with NBA experience. Leading the way are Boris Diaw ( who last played for the Utah Jazz in 2016-17 ) and Kevin Seraphin ( who last played for the Indiana Pacers in 2016-17. Current NBA players Evan Fournier ( Orlando Magic ) and Joffrey Lauvergne ( San Antonio Spurs ) complete France’s Fantastic Four.
Greece also has four NBA veterans in their roster. Former NBA Players Thanasis Antetokounmpo ( last played for the New York Knicks in 2015-16 ), Nick Calathes ( last played for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2015-16 ) and Kostas Papanikolaou ( last played for the Denver Nuggets in 2015-16 ) will be the main men for the Greeks along with current NBA player Georgios Papagiannis ( Sacramento Kings ).
NBA Prospects Too
Lithuania and Russia each have three NBA players in their squads. Jonas Valanciunas ( Toronto Raptors ), Donatas Montiejunas ( New Orleans Pelicans ) and Mindaugas Kuzminskas ( New York Knicks ) will strut their stuffs for Lithuania while Sergey Karasev ( last played for the Brooklyn Nets in 2014-15, Alexey Shved ( last played for the New York Knicks in 2014-15 ) and Timofey Mozgov of the Brooklyn Nets lead the Russian attack.
Slovenia will parade Goran Dragic ( Miami Heat ) and Anthony Randolph ( last player for the Denver Nuggets in 2013-14 ). Also seeing action for Slovenia is NBA draft prospect Luka Doncic. Other 2018 NBA prospect playing for his country in the Eurobasket 2017 is Great Britain’s Sacha Killeya Jones and Tryggvi Hlinason of Iceland.
More NBA Vets
Italy has a couple of NBA vets in Marco Belinelli ( Atlanta Hawks ) of Italy and Luigi Datome ( last played for the Boston Celtics in 2014-15 ). Serbia has two current NBA players in Bogdan Bogdanovic ( Sacramento Kings ) and Boban Marjanovic ( Detroit Pistons).
Latvia also only has two NBA players in the tournament in Davis Bertans ( San Antonio Spurs) and the New York Knicks’ unicorn Kristaps Porzingis. Host Turkey also has two upcoming NBA rookies on their team. These are Cedi Osman ( Cleveland Cavaliers ) and Furkan Korkmaz ( Philadelphia 76ers ).
Other NBA Players
Other NBA players seeing action in the 2017 Eurobasket are:
Tomas Satoransky ( Washington Wizards ) of the Czech Republic
Lauri Markkanen ( Chicago Bulls ) of Finland
ZaZa Pachulia ( Golden State Warriors ) of Georgia
Adam Hanga ( San Antonio Spurs ) of Hungary
Omri Casspi ( Golden State Warriors ) of Israel
Nikola Vucevic ( Orlando Magic ) of Montenegro
Conspicuously absent in this tournament are the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo ( Milwaukee Bucks ) and Milos Teodosic ( Lost Angeles Clippers ). Antetokounmpo is out with a knee injury which was a cause of controversy between the Greek basketball federation blames on his NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks. Likewise Teodosic is out because of injury but his absence was agreed upon by his National Team and NBA team. Also out with injury is French Tower of Power Rudy Gobert who withdrew from the tournament to work on his body after suffering an injury during the 2017 NBA playoffs.
Spain as Favorites
With the absence of these three Euro superstars and the presence of many NBA veterans on the Spanish side, Spain becomes an even more overwhelming favorite to win Eurobasket 2017. The reigning 2015 Eurobasket champions are expected to win their fourth European title in the last five editions.
Despite Sergio Llull suffering an ACL injury, Spain has the awesome armada to pull off another European title. With five players under 24, Spain’s team is a mix of up and coming talents plus battle tested veterans. With Pau Gasol at 37, this could be the last time we see the Gasol brothers together. And this could also be the time for the Hernangomez brothers to take over as the new Spanish brother tandem.
Dragon’s Last Ride
Speaking of last, Goran Dragic has also declared that this will be his last international competition. Dragic began his international career at age 17 with KD Ilirija in the Slovenian Second Basketball League in 2003. He later joined Union Olimpija in 2007, winning the Slovenian Basketball title with the team in 2007-08. Dragic played for the Phoenix Suns after being drafted by the Suns in the second round in 2008. He later moved to the Miami Heat, where he currently plays.
Dragic and Slovenia make their Eurobasket debut on Thursday against Poland in Helsinki, Finland which is one of the four cities around Europe which hosts the 40th edition of this prestigious international competition. Interestingly, this will be the last time that FIBA Eurobasket will be played as a biennial event as the tournament will next be played every four years.
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