2010 FIBA Worlds: Group D Preview
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The 2010 FIBA World Championships tip off in Turkey on Saturday, and run through the medal games at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul on Sunday, September 12. The Painted Area will provide analysis throughout the tournament.
Our preview of the four groups continues with Group D. The top 4 teams will advance to the 16-team knockout stage.
GROUP D (Predicted order of finish):
Lithuania would be probably finishing in 4th place in any other group, but has lucked out being placed in Group D. France has not been impressive in the prep phase but should still have enough talent and strong defense to advance to the Round of 16.
Hell if I know who will take the last knockout-round berth. Canada should once again be inept offensively and could be without Andy Rautins. New Zealand is a one-man gang that lives and dies by how Kirk Penney plays. Lebanon has three quality players, but its talent level dips after that. Flip a coin for the last spot.
(Teams listed in predicted order of finish)
- Notable Players: Marc Gasol; Rudy Fernandez; Juan Carlos Navarro; Ricky Rubio; Sergio Llull, Fran Vazquez; Jorge Garbajosa; Victor Claver; Felipe Reyes
- Notable Absences: Pau Gasol; Jose Calderon; Sergio Rodriquez
Should roll through Group D with little resistance and should beat each opponent by double-digits. Can experiment with different lineups and rest guys the first week of the tourney.
Spain just needs to avoid the complacency that plagued them at the start of EuroBasket last summer. Spain played with half-hearted effort in the first four games. Then, midway through the Lithuania game, Spain decided to flip the switch and they rolled the rest of the way. In its first four games, Spain had a total point differential of +4. In their last five games: +96.
Everyone is back from the EuroBasket championship team besides Pau. Plenty of firepower with Rubio, J. Navarro, S. Llull, Rudy, Vic Claver, F. Reyes, Garba and Marc Gasol at Coach Scariolo's disposal. Just expect more minutes and more touches for Marc. Expect uptempo play combined with lots of ball pressure in group play.
Spain's m.o. last summer was to let its perimeter players pressure their men, and even overplay sometimes, knowing that the ballhandlers would be met by bigs. Spain always had a big waiting near the rim, with another big hovering, and sometimes a weakside wing near as well. This would often force the ballhandler to kick the ball out where Spain had two to three perimeter guys (Rubio, Rudy, Navarro) ready to pounce on these passes like a cornerback.
The recent loss of Calderon hurts some but it might be a blessing--I think it relieves pressure on Rubio and Coach Scariolo. Now Scariolo does not have to worry about juggling egos. Though, my partner thinks Calderon's loss might have a bigger impact since Calderon takes better care of the ball.
Primary line of attack in the half-court offense is to run JC Navarro and Rudy thru off-ball screens all game. Navarro & Rudy also will run some pick/rolls sometimes--a few La Bomba floaters are likely. Navarro is one of the best pure scorers in this competition.
Spain will mix in some post-ups for Marc and Reyes. Often set up their post-ups with high-lo action. Watch out for Marc's quick baseline spin on the left block and soft hook in the lane. Felipe Reyes has some nifty footwork himself.
Rudy Fernandez has had a well-publicized rough year in Portland, but he was terrific last summer. Rudy had a great EuroBasket (named 1st Team All-EuroBasket) last summer and played a great second fiddle to Pau. Rudy's 2.1 spg and 88% FT shooting both led the tournament. Expect another strong FIBA performance this year.
Ricky Rubio is here to steer the ship. Hopefully, Ricky is aggressive in looking for his shot, in addition to displaying his sterling court vision with the pass.
Sergio Llull will primarily back up Navarro but will get to handle the ball some, maybe even more PG duties with Calderon out. Llull has great speed and has improved his outside shooting. Scariolo does like Raul Lopez (he played for Scariolo on Khimki), so maybe Llull won't get more PG minutes.
Vic Claver, Fernando San Emeterio and Alex Mumbru will have to share what's left of the SF minutes that Rudy doesn't use. Sorry, Stumptown fans, but I don't think you will get to see many minutes from Blazers draftee Claver.
Reyes and Jorge Garbajosa will split time at PF. Garbajosa is still a help defender deluxe inside and out. Fran Vazquez returns to the Senior National Team to hopefully replace some of the interior defense lost in Pau's absence. Vazquez uses his combo of length and athleticism to change shots, board and finish strong on rolls/cuts. My partner would like to see some twin tower alignments of Marc & Fran, and I second that notion.
Expect some zone looks--they've featured 3x2 in the past. Spain's zone is usually top-notch--only Russia's zone looks might be better. You can bet Team USA will see some if they meet in the semis. You won't see Spain go zone-less like they did in the exhibition in Madrid.
Spain was in the weakest opening group in 2006 and rolled thru undefeated. Same should happen this year, likely setting up a date with Team USA in the semis on Sat., Sept. 11th. Should be good.
- Notable Players: Linas Kleiza; Robertas Javtokas; Mantas Kalnietis; Martynas Gecevicius
- Notable Absences: Saras Jasikevicius; Ramunas Siskauskas; Rimas Kaukenas; Donatas Motiejunas; Lavrinovic Bros.; Darius Songaila; Marijonas Petrivicius
This year's version of the perennial Baltic basketball power won't be as potent as past clubs. Many familiar names like Jasikevicius, Siskauskas, Songaila, Kaukenas and the Lavrinovic Bros. have decided to stay home, so Lithuania's chances at medalling are slim.
But this team should be somewhat competitive this summer. Finding quality replacement players is easy, thanks to the country's seemingly endless pool of b-ball talent. It's no surprise the Lithuanian roster is littered with dependable shooters.
Lithuania played some the worst ball they ever have at EuroBasket 2009. Their only win came against Bulgaria last summer. Led the EuroBasket with 16 TOs per game. Only shot 30% on their 3PA last summer, but can't imagine that happens again.
Had an poor overall defensive showing and got torched beyond the arc--allowed their opponents to shoot 40% on 24 3PA. And I continue to feel uneasy about their defensive ability. Lithuania has rarely been known for its defensive play. They were always successful mainly because of their tremendous offensive execution.
Lithuania comes into this tournament with the same major question marks they had last summer about the makeup of its backcourt. And the underwhelming backcourt play was the main reason for their failures at EuroBasket.
The crux of Lith's problems last summer revolved around a patchwork backcourt that could not come close to replicating the playmaking brilliance of Jasikevicius and Siskauskas.
Lithuania could never get into a consistent groove on the offensive end like they did when Saras was orchestrating. The typical quick ball movement and quality shot selection was sporadic. Taking too long to get into their offensive sets was a constant problem. Players were not getting the ball on time and on target. Couldn't drain the deep ball like they normally have in the past.
Lithuania will turn to a point guard-by-committee set-up once again. Mantas Kalnietis, Tomas Delininkaitis and Martynas Gecevicius will share ball-handling duties.
Kalnietis ran the PG spot the last time Saras was absent, at the '06 Worlds, with mixed results. 6-5 Kalnietis is a big, fast guard who likes to push & attack the rim. He's a subpar shooter who makes careless decisions sometimes.
Delininkaitis and Gecevicius are dangerous shooters off ball screens. Gecevicius possesses a textbook stroke and buries pull-ups everywhere.
Linas Kleiza is the primary option who will look to iso and post-up. Kleiza will often get screens to set up his post-ups.
SF Jonas Maciulis could be considered a poor-man's version of Kleiza with his combo of strength and athleticism. Like Kleiza, Lith. will isolate and post Jonas, often flashing him across the lane. Maciulis has turned himself into a reliable shooter over the last few years and he led EuroBasket in 3pt. pct. (58%).
Athletic veteran 7-footer Robertas Javtokas is back to add rebounds, interior defense and strong finishing. PF Paulius Jankunas likes to float out to the perimeter, where he likes to release his awkward, yet effective, jumper. The rugged Jankunas is tough on the boards and bodies up well on defense.
Lithuania does have decent talent on the wings. SF Simas Jasaitis is another long-range sniper who sneaks to open spots. Former Dukie Martynas Pocius loves to aggressively attack the rim and can draw fouls. Pocius is another quality spot-shooter for Lith., but is not as good pulling up.
If Cavs and Bulls fans are wondering what became of Martynas Andriuskevicius, watch some Lith. games to get your answer. The big fella should get some quality floor time behind Javtokas. Former Mavs draftee Renaldas Seibutis adds more talent on the wings but he might get caught in a numbers crunch.
- Notable Players: Boris Diaw; Nic Batum; Nando De Colo; Florent Pietrus; Ian Mahinmi
- Notable Absences: Tony Parker; Roddy Beaubois; Joakim Noah; Ronny Turiaf; Mickael Pietrus; Kevin Seraphin; Alexis Ajinca
Certainly missing some big names but still have enough manpower for a knockout round berth. Have a very hard time getting a read on this team. Have been unpredictable in prep phase. But expect Les Bleus to be a top-rate defensive club once again.
France has historically struggled in the half-court over the last decade because they couldn't space the floor. They have perennially been one of the worst outside shooting teams in FIBA ball. Teams would pack the paint for most of the game.
But France had a bit of a breakthrough at EuroBasket by shooting 38% behind the arc. Think that number was a little fluky. But they are definitely better thanks to the improved jumpers of Nic Batum, Boris Diaw, Mickael Gelabale and the addition of Nando De Colo.
Though, France can still go thru extended lulls on the offensive end in the halfcourt. Tony Parker was the only Frenchie to average double figures last summer. Consistent production in the half-court offense could be an adventure again.
The opposition's m.o. still has to be to pack the paint vs. France and make the French prove they can hit from outside.
France has somewhat counteracted its perennial offensive woes with great effort on the defensive end & on the boards. France is the most athletic team in Europe, and has the goods to smother teams defensively. Diaw, Batum, Gelabale and Florent Pietrus can guard multiple positions, and switch assignments.
They have the ability to create turnovers, which should come in handy to create transition offensive opportunities. Also, always a very strong rebounding club.
Though, France improved their outside shooting some last summer, they could not improve on their perennial woes at the free throw line--dead last at Eurobasket with 63.4% FT shooting. This is something to keep an eye on.
Boris Diaw becomes the focal point of the offense with Parker absent. Diaw's biggest problem in FIBA play has been inconsistent effort; expect a few no-shows. Also, in the pre-tournament phase, Boris looked as though he'd had a few too many croissants in training.
Nic Batum had a solid EuroBasket tourney last year and his improved shot is much needed. Last year, France would sometimes isolate Batum, and the explosive young Blazer was dangerous driving the baseline.
Ex-Sonic wing Mickael Gelabale returns to national-team duty and adds more versatility on the wings. Gelabale is renowned for his defense and has improved his shooting since leaving the NBA. Gelabale has post-up ability as well.
Looks like recent Spurs draftee Nando De Colo will be thrust into the playmaker role in Parker's absence. De Colo is a 6-5 combo guard who's a terrific ball-handler with great court vision. Nando can slice into the lane to finish or dish. Let's call De Colo an solid shooter.
De Colo will split time at the point with Yannick Bokolo. Bokolo is a great athlete who pushes the pace but lacks a reliable jumper. Potential draft prospect Edwin Jackson (6-2) is a nice athlete with a sweet shooting stroke. Doubt he will get many minutes, which might not be a good idea since France could use the shooting.
6-7 Florent Pietrus is an underrated cog on this team--rebounds extremely well for his size, excellent defender & great activity overall. Pietrus can play both forward spots but will mostly play the 4. Not a good shooter.
6-10 Alain Koffi does not provide much offensively (besides dunks), but he can help on the boards (great off. rebounder) and defensively.
Starting center Ali Traore (6-10) is a very capable scorer on the blocks. Can't do much over his left shoulder, but he's quite effective turning over right shoulder--turnaround jumper and loves to go with a lefty hook. Also, can consistently hit 15-footers.
Dallas Mav Ian Mahinmi has never seen much time with the Senior team but should see some burn with Turiaf out. Mahinmi will likely spell Pietrus at the 4. Ian can help on the glass, but is limited to just finishing on offense.
The defense should not be a problem. Can they shoot their perimeter jumper like last summer is the main question mark.
- Notable Players: Matt Freije; Fadi El Khatib; Jackson Vroman
- Notable Absences: Daniel Faris
Lost in the bronze-medal game to Mideast neighbor Jordan at last summer's Asian championship. Thanks to strong grass-roots support from a devoted fan base, Lebanon secured a Worlds wild-card berth.
At the 2006 Worlds, Lebanon did pull off an upset of France, but they did get pounded by another wild-card hopeful, Nigeria, 95-72 in group play. Though, this year's squad looks better than the 2006 version.
Pretty good shooting team and projects to be good on the boards. Lebanon shows a lot of double-high post and likes to run isolation plays. Also feature some UCLA-type sets. Former NCAA standouts/fringe NBAers Matt Freije and Jackson Vroman give this team talent upfront.
Think of Freije as a (very) poor-man's Dirk. Lebanon moves Freije all over the floor and uses him as a ball screener. Freije's got 3pt. range and can put the ball on the deck to get himself into mid-range scoring opportunities.
Jackson Vroman is an active athlete who runs the floor well, passes, bangs the offensive glass (dangerous on put-backs) and finishes strong. Vroman seems to have improved his jumper and can put the ball on the deck.
PG Rony Fahed ain't big and ain't too quick, but he does drop some pretty nice passes in the half-court and knock down jumpers. Ali Mahmoud is another diminutive PG who can't shoot but causes some problems darting around the floor.
6-6 SF Fadi El Khatib was the star of the 2006 Worlds, team but has ceded some of the spotlight to Freije and Vroman. The Lebanese legend is a multi-skilled threat who does most of his damage inside the arc. A terrific ball-handler who can create shots for himself or others (racks up assists). Khatib uses his strong frame well to back his man down in the post and is an plus rebounder for his size.
Elie Rustom and Jean Abdul-Nour give Lebanon two 6-6 wings who rebound well. 6-10 big Ali Kanaan will spell Vroman & Freije and provides more rebounding to the mix.
We're giving them an edge over Canada since it seems Rautins won't be ready for Saturday. They beat Canada in exhibition play recently, and they should have good fan support in nearby Turkey.
- Notable Players: Joel Anthony; Andy Rautins; Levon Kendall; Robert Sacre
- Notable Absences: Steve Nash (ret.); Sam Dalembert; Jamal Magloire; Carl English; Jesse Young; Greg Newton
Canada earned a trip to Turkey by slipping past Dominican Republic 80-76 for the last qualifying spot in the Americas Zone. But their Round of 16 hopes could be derailed by Lebanon on opening day because Andy Rautins has an ailing knee.
Same story as always for Team Canada in the post-Nash era: no one to create easy scoring opportunities on offense. Plus, they lost their best offensive threat when Carl English decided to rest.
What continues to hold this team back is a lack of playmakers, which makes for a constant struggle on the offensive end. No player who really creates anything on the perimeter. Not to mention, not much of a post scoring presence, which makes for a team with no one who needs to be doubled.
Coach Leo Rautins smartly added some more motion to their half-court sets last summer, which helped to a degree at the FIBA Americas. Leo has figured out a better system (creating shots with player/ball movement instead off the dribble) for his talent.
Like to circle their wings around screens. They might run the least amount of pick/roll of any FIBA team, which is smart since their guards don't do much with the ball screens. Lots of screens off the ball.
Recent NY Knicks draftee Andy Rautins is probably this team's main option. Will run Rautins off screens, usually getting him open up high. Might be better off letting Rautins handle the brunt of ball-handling duties like he did at Syracuse.
If Rautins can't go, Canada's best option might have to be entering the ball into Joel Anthony and Robert Sacre. That's right, Joel Anthony might have to be the answer to Canada's scoring problems. I don't think this a great idea, but I'm just spitballing here.
Canada actually has a collection of solid shooters--Rautins, Jermaine Anderson, Kelly Olynyk, Aaron Doornekamp & Olu Famutimi--they just have no players who draw extra defenders.
They've added Denham Brown and Jevohn Shepherd (ex-Mich. Wolverine) to the wing rotation in place of Carl English. Both are nice athletes but I would not call either one a good shooter.
When your main option right now is trying to free Denham for jumpers off screens, you know your offense is in serious trouble. Though, I imagine if Rautins comes back, those plays are for him. Hopefully.
Shepherd is a nice athletic guard who handles the ball some. He can create space for himself (step-back dribbles), just too bad his jumper is broken.
The one saving grace for Canada: they tend to be a quality defensive unit anchored by a stout interior defense. And Canada should be good inside this year.
Miami Heat's Joel Anthony is an active body who will board & change shots on the backline. Anthony might see some touches in the post and he can hit a baby lefty hook sometimes. He also likes to turn & face, where he shows nice touch on short jumpers.
Former Pitt Panther Levon Kendall will start alongside Anthony and provides stout positional defense on the block & timely help. Not to mention, sets good screens, runs the floor hard, and can hit the occasional elbow jumper.
Canada will definitely miss Jesse Young's toughness on the frontline. Canada will try to replace him with two Gonzaga bigs, Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynyk.
7-0 Sacre is a burly dude with a decent post game, where likes to turn & face like Anthony. 6-11 Olynyk likely won't get much run, but does have 3pt. range, which is nice.
6-1 Jermaine Anderson (ex-Fordham) is an effective jump shooter but can't really penetrate off the bounce, and has little in the way of point-guard instincts. 6-0 PG Tyler Kepkay (ex-Utah Ute) provides adequate shooting but little in the way of playmaking.
6-7 combo forward Aaron Doornekamp is another reliable shooter on the roster and plays some physical defense. Athletic swingman Olu Famutimi has shown in the past he can create in the mid-range area, but only in short bursts. Though, it seems Fatutimi has lost his place in the rotation in favor of Brown & Shepherd.
Even if Rautins can go, the Maple Leafers are not a lock for the knockout phase and should be pushed by both New Zealand & Lebanon. Gave Lebanon the edge because it appears Andy won't go.
- Notable Players: Kirk Penney; Pero Cameron; Craig Bradshaw
- Notable Absences: Sean Marks
Got to Turkey by winning the Oceania Zone title last summer over Australia. Actually, even if they lost to Australia's B-Team last year, they would have still gotten a Worlds berth. Yep, the Oceania Zone setup is a joke.
Very unimpressive play in their last Worlds appearance in 2006, after a stunning 4th-place finish in 2002. There is some semblance of talent on this roster, they just have not played well over the last few years of int'l competition. Would not be a stunner if they stole a playoff spot from Canada or Lebanon.
The Tall Blacks will ride Kirk Penney as far as he can take them. The former Wisconsin Badger guard is basically New Zealand's #1, #2, and #3 scoring option rolled into one. Penney can really get on rolls offensively. Will have the ball in his hands a lot to either run isos or pick/rolls. Has a very quick release and will also be run thru off-ball screens. Puts up shots with little hesitation.
6-6 Mika Vukona is a valuable asset to the Tall Blacks, thanks to his heady versatility. The athletic SF crashes the off. glass well, makes nice passes with some zip and can guard multiple positions.
Athletic PG Lindsay Tait is adept at penetration in the half-court and will rack up steals. Phil Jones is a lefty sharpshooter who rebounds well for a guard.
Craig Bradshaw and Alex Pledger are two bigs who prefer to face up. 6-6 Thomas Abercrombie is a bouncy wing with good rebounding and finishing ability.
The hero of New Zealand's 2002 Worlds surprising run to the semis, Pero Cameron, returns for one last shot at glory.
New Zealand could easily beat Canada or Lebanon, but I had to pick someone to finish last in this group. Don't like how they rely so heavily on Penney to create everything.
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