EuroBasket 2011 Preview: Group C Team Capsules
• EuroBasket 2011 Preview: Overview | Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D
• 2011 FIBA Americas Preview
Group C games will be played in Alytus from August 31-Sept. 5
(In the U.S., every game can be viewed for free via ESPN3.com.)
(predicted order of finish - top 3 advance)
4) (FYR) Macedonia
The Balkan-heavy group seems to be wide open, as the separation between the teams is not that significant. Leaning toward Croatia to win the group, but by no means are they locked into the top spot.
Greece looked to be in dire straits earlier in the summer but they seem to be rounding into form without some of their stars. Slavic neighbors Montenegro and (FYR) Macedonia are pretty closely-matched and their matchup on the first day could determine 3rd place in Group C.
Bosnia is not too far behind the other former Yugoslavic republics and has plenty of players who can put up points. Finland's chances of winning a game are slim, but they have some talent and can really shoot the ball.
Key Absences: Roko Ukic; Marko Banic; Zoran Planinic
Croatia has high-level Euro talent up and down the roster and should be the slight favorite to win this group. Will be without the services of PG Roko Ukic because of a broken leg. But it was quite prescient they decided to naturalize PG Dontaye Draper recently. Draper was the 2011 Eurocup MVP, and should do fine job filling in for Ukic.
He can make up for the loss of dribble penetration with Ukic's absence. Draper is one of the tougher PGs in Europe to contain and his crossover moves often leave defenders in the dust. Though like Ukic, Draper is a shaky perimeter shooter.
Ukic has played well for Croatia over the last few years. Ukic was a big chunk of their offense last year and have to think SG/SF Bojan Bogdanovic will be given even more responsibilities this summer.
Recent NJ Nets draftee Bojan Bogdanovic is coming off a stellar club season with Cibona where he led the Euroleague in scoring. Bojan also played exceptionally well at last summer's Worlds. Bojan averaged 11.6 ppg on 55% overall, 46.7% on 3PA and a sizzling 70% eFG pct.
Bojan can hurt the defense in a variety of ways: running pick/roll, isos, post-ups, shooting off screens, spot-shooting and driving to the rim.
Croatia has been allowing Bojan to isolate quite a bit in the prep phase. Can drive the ball effectively going either left or right and can finish in traffic.
Croatia will post Bojan up and he's one of the better perimeter post-up threats in Europe. Likes to methodically back his defender down usually looking to turn over his left shoulder for a reliable turnaround jumper. Sometimes will shoot a half-hook in place of a jumper. Much smoother going over his left shoulder. I expect big things from Bojan in Lithuania.
Like Bogdanovic, combo guard Marko Popovic is coming off of a sterling Worlds performance. Marko was ridiculously efficient scoring the ball: led Croatia with 14 ppg on 75% eFG% (47% 3PA) in 20 mpg.
Popovic (6-1) runs the offense a fair amount, but his specialty is shooting coming off ball screens. Popovic has the ability to score points in bunches off the bench--the Croatian Vinnie Johnson. Popovic also has an uncanny knack of drawing fouls 20 feet away from the basket. He's not on the floor for his defense.
6-7 SF Marko Tomas brings more potency on the wings as a dangerous shooter on the catch or off-the-dribble. Adept at quick dribble pull-ups. Tomas is a solid athlete who can put the ball on the deck to the left or right & finish in the lane. Croatia will place Tomas in some isos and ball screens. Tomas is their best perimeter defender.
6-6 wing Krunoslav Simon will give Tomas and Bogdanovic some rest, and provides another player who can handle the ball. Simon is an erratic shooter but does a solid job on defense.
In the past, Croatia looked to generate most of its offense on the perimeter, trying to free its guards to drive-n-kick and unleash their shooting acumen. Croatia will also look to exploit the interior skills of 7-footer Ante Tomic (Jazz hold rights).
Real Madrid's Ante Tomic's offensive skill-set is the envy of every big in Europe not named Erazem Lorbek or Pau Gasol. Combines deft footwork with a feathery touch to do damage on offense. Can bury hooks with both hands. Can hit jumpers out to 17 feet. Good offensive rebounder. Pretty good passer who puts good zip on the ball.
Ante is often pushed off his spots on both ends of the floor. Tomic does not enjoy contact and has a tendency to disappear for extended stretches.
Croatia will try to establish Tomic early on the block. For a guy as long and agile as Tomic, it's disappointing what a non-factor he is defensively.
Have the luxury of backing up Tomic with Stanko Barac (Pacers own rights). Barac hurts the defense with his mid-range shooting ability and he's effective in the pick-n-roll either as a popper or roller (moves better than you would expect). Croatia has been feeding Stanko on the block in exhibitions but he's not that adroit with his back-to-the-basket. Barac also collects rebounds at a high rate and is a deterrent defensively.
Croatia has invited PF Damir Markota (former Milwaukee Buck) back into the fold to replace Marko Banic. Markota's primary objective on Croatia is to act as a stretch-4 option. Reserve bigs Luka Zoric & Luksa Andric might see a little bit of burn and both can hit the offensive glass. Croatia will set Zoric up on the block occasionally where he can hit a turnaround jumper.
Croatia has good depth, multiple shooters and a handful players who can create offense for themselves. Croatia just needs to find a way to take it up a notch. They usually have plenty of top Euro talent on their roster, but they always seem to play so-so ball. Seemingly always end up a middle-of-the-pack team. Never seem to reach their full potential.
The draw sets up very nicely for them and not making the quarterfinals would be a disappointment.
Key Absences: Vassilis Spanoulis; Sofo Schortsanitis; Strat Perperoglou; Dimis Diamantidis; Theo Papaloukas
If I told you I had a firm grasp on what to expect from this team, I'd be lying. Honestly can't get a good read on Greece right now with all the roster upheaval and loss of their two best scorers, Vassilis Spanoulis and Sofo Schortsanitis.
Things seemed bad at the start of training camp with injuries and no-shows piling up. But Hellas' fortunes have slowing been on the ascendency as the exhibition stage has progressed.
They have played solid ball over the last few weeks: the ball movement has been crisp in prep phase and have done a fine job in transition.
On a positive note, they will be getting Nick Calathes back after it seemed he would be sidelined with a bad ankle. And luckily they're in Group C, which is wide-open.
Under former Coach Kazlauskas, Greece got away from the tenacious defense that was its calling card in '05 & '06. New coach Ilias Zouros is trying to bring back the active, physical defense that brought them success under former Coach Giannakis. They've done a very good job keeping their opponents' score down--60s & 70s. That's vintage Giannakis-era defensive numbers.
Expect a physical brand of defense with active hands. Also, Greece contests shots as well as any team (besides Russia).
And they are going to need to be tough defensively since they lack the scoring punch they've had the last few years.
The big question for Greece: how successful will they be generating points with their best shot-creators (Spanoulis, Diamantidis, Sofo) unavailable? When's the last time Greece has not played with either Spanoulis, Diamantidis or Theo Papaloukas running the offense? At least a decade. This is uncharted territory for Greece.
Panathinaikos' Antonis Fotsis is going to have to step up his scoring this summer. The national-team vet can put the ball on the deck, has good passing skills and is an underrated athletic finisher. Also an underrated defender who moves his feet well when he guards on the perimeter. Sneaks along the baseline for offensive rebounds. Sometimes he's just too reticent to assert himself.
Coach Zouros has tapped Fotsis to be his primary option. Not sure how that's going to work out. I just don't think Fotsis has the mentality to be go-to guy. He lacks assertiveness and will disappear for stretches--this has been his m.o. his whole career. He's more comfortable as secondary option. He has looked good in exhibitions, so we'll see how this pans out.
What's interesting is that they are running Fotsis off of screens more than I ever remember. Looks like Coach Zouros has installed some baseline screen action where Fotsis pops out either to the corner or top-o-key for a jumper. In general, Greece looks to be using plenty of off-ball screen action.
Giannis Bourousis (Olympiacos) is one of the most coveted free agents in Europe by NBA teams. One of the best rebounders in Europe. Can get rebounds out of his area. Great touch that extends to 20 feet.
Wouldn't call his post game amazing but has some crafty moves around the rim where he can finish with a hook. And Greece is going to need the big fella to score some points in the post with Sofo gone.
Denver Nuggets center Kostas Koufos will split time with Bourousis. Koufos will get a few post touches where he's alright with a hook and he can face-up.
Nick Calathes (Mavs hold rights) will be thrust into the role of primary ball-handler with Spanoulis and Diamantidis gone. On top of that added pressure, Calathes is trying to work his way back from injury. Calathes played solid ball at Worlds and helped Panathinaikos to the Euroleague title. Calathes sees the floor very well and has been running the pick-n-roll with savvy since his Florida days.
Veteran combo guard Nikos Zisis will have to take on more ball-handling duties than usual. Zisis can ably run the point for limited stretches, but he's more suited for the off-guard spot, looking for his mid-range jumper. Zisis likes to run thru off-ball screens, often curling off weakside screens.
6-2 PG Costas Sloukas will spell Calathes off the pine and provides shooting that Calathes can't--can hit jumpers and runners off the dribble. Sloukas is fast and shifty with the ball in his hands--uses hesitation, spin and behind-the-back dribble effectively.
Reserve PG Vasilis Xanthopoulos is not much of a scorer or shooter but he can run the pick-n-roll with a controlled, steady hand. A nifty passer--great at waiting for angles to open up before he delivers the pass.
SG/SF Kostas Vasileiadis is a fiery vet who'll finally get some burn with the senior team. Vasileiadis is a solid athlete who can drill jumpers off the dribble or catch-n-shooting--Greece will run him off screens.
Reserve wing 6-5 Mike Bramos, who was '09 MAC P.O.Y. at Miami (OH), uses his freakishly long wingspan to cause havoc on the defensive end--deflections, steals and a great shot-blocker for a guard.
Also missing Strat Perperoglou, who was nothing spectacular but would often start at SF over the last few years. 6-8 Kostas Papanikolaou (Olympiacos) will try to fill the void at SF. The agile lefty can knock down open jumpers and you'll have the Mon-chi-chi song in your head when he's on the floor.
6-8 combo forward Kostas Kaimakoglou (Panathinaikos) makes a positive impact on the game with his relentless activity. Kaimakoglou doesn't mind throwing his body around, which helps him grab boards and be a constant nuisance on the defensive end.
Greece did a great job keeping its turnovers low last summer, which was kind of a surprise with Spanoulis and Sofo on the team. That bodes well for this tourney since Spanoulis and Sofo aren't around.
Greece can legitimately challenge Croatia for Group C supremacy. Though, still not sure what to expect from this team offensively once the real games start. A knockout-round berth is in the cards.
Key Absences: Suad Sehovic; Peja Drobnjak
Montenegro's only been on the FIBA Europe scene for two years but are not wasting any time making their presence known. Next to Britain, have been the most impressive team during the EuroBasket qualification process over the last two summers.
The frontline rotation is high-quality, and it's huge. Very good rebounding team. Montenegro's top option is man-mountain Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic struggled in his first year in the NBA but he's a force in the painted area in Europe.
The primary line of attack for Montenegro is to pound the ball in to Pekovic. Pek was unstoppable in the Euro qualifiers, averaging 20 ppg on 63% and 5 rpg (2.5 off) in 24 mins/game.
Pekovic can establish deep post position anytime he wants--physically owns everyone. Draws tons of fouls and demands extra defenders. Pek grabs offensive rebs, but could increase defensive board output. Pek also has a tendency to get in foul trouble.
Recent Sixers draftee Nikola Vucevic will back up Pekovic and might see some minutes playing alongside Pekovic as well. Vucevic (7-0) has a reliable mid-range jumper, can score in the post with a hook and pounds the glass.
The massive 7-6 Slavko Vranes can be an interior presence in limited minutes simply because of his size. Slavko can't move, but is a defensive deterrent in the vein of Yao Ming. Takes up so much space.
Longshot NBA free-agent prospect 6-9 Vladmir Dasic is an inside-out threat who can play both forward spots. Montenegro will put Dasic is all types of offensive situations. His shooting ability allows him to be a threat in pick-n-pop action and isolation where he can hit pull-ups.
Dasic can put the ball on the deck and drive both directions. Likes to start his post-up on the perimeter, then will methodically back down his defender. 6-6 wing Milos Borisov will back-up Dasic at SF and can hit shots off the bounce or off screens.
Starting PF Vlad Dragicevic is a nice complement to Pekovic as he moves well off the ball--most of his points come off cuts. Dragicevic always shoots a high pct. (shot 82% last summer), grabs rebounds (especially off. rebs) and uses strength & anticipation to be an asset on defense.
Former St. John's standout Omar Cook is a top-flight PG in Europe and is consistently one of the top assist leaders. Not much of a shooting threat but has the ability to blow by most defenders.
Combo guard Goran Jeretin will handle the ball quite a bit himself regardless of whether Cook is on or off the floor. Jeretin's ability to drill pull-ups makes him very effective in the pick-n-roll. Jeretin is a quality passer but has issues with TOs.
The lack of depth on the perimeter is a significant concern. Montenegro will have to call upon a relic of the old Yugoslavian national teams, Vlado Scepanovic, to eat up some minutes while Jeretin sits. I believe the 35-year-old Scepanovic is the oldest player in the tourney and the only player, besides Saras Jasikevicius, to play at the '98 World Championships. Vlado's slowing down but he's still a deadly shooter.
Run some unique sets. A lot of off-ball movement when the ball-handler goes in motion. It's not so much about off-ball screening as players clearing areas or moving to open spots. This team cuts very well and gets plenty of points off cuts.
A shaky outside-shooting team; something to keep an eye on as the tourney moves along. Struggled from the 3pt. line last summer--32.3%. Scepanovic and Borisov are reliable, but Jeretin and Dasic can be inconsistent from deep. Need to keep the defense from collapsing on Pekovic.
This squad seems to have chemistry and they execute well. They have one of the most dominant players in the field in Pekovic. They can push Greece and Croatia for a top spot in the group and have a legit shot at getting to the quarterfinals.
Key Absences: Riste Stefanov
At the last EuroBasket, (FYR) Macedonia overachieved a bit by advancing to the second round. And they have a legit chance to again advance to the second round.
Like Montenegro, they have a solid frontcourt rotation paired with a naturalized PG from the US, Bo McCalebb. McCalebb is one of the better PGs currently playing in Europe and he was arguably the best player during last summer's Euro Qualifying tournament.
Would not really consider McCalebb a good perimeter shooter, though he shot the ball well in Siena during his club season. Would still dare him to shoot from the outside. Dynamic in the open-court. Doesn't need ball screens to shake free--can penetrate at will. One of the fastest players in the field.
Big, physical frontline rotation with the likes of Pero Antic, Peja Samardziski and Todor Gecevski. All three guys are tough on the offensive glass. Antic and Gecevski have legit 3pt. range while Samardziski can go out to 17 feet. Each give (FYR) Macedonia capable pick-n-pop options. This team is quite foul-happy--Antic is a foul machine.
6-9 PF Pero Antic is a nice athlete who gets plenty of touches. Loves to face-up and can knock down jumpers from way downtown. Antic will iso on the perimeter and can take other bigs off the dribble going left or right (uses ball fakes well). Sometimes jacks ups some dubious shots. Antic is not a great post threat, but he's OK with a turnaround.
Predrag "Peja" Samardziski is a 7-foot wide body who can hit the elbow jumper. Peja shoots a high pct. from the floor but struggles at the FT line. They've been pounding the ball in to Samardziski during the exhibitions and he likes to finish with a right hook.
Lumbering 7-footer Todor Gecevski is also a post option where he likes to go with a hook shot as well. Reserve big Kiril Nikolovski comes off the bench to pound the boards.
Guards Darko Sokolov and Vlado Ilievski will aid McCalebb in ball-handling duties. Sokolov is the most consistent shooting threat on the perimeter.
Like McCalebb, Ilievski causes problems for the opposition with his dribble--fast & shifty with the ball. Ilievski is a dangerous pull-up shooter going in both directions.
6-4 Vojdan Stojanovski will likely start at SF since (FYR) Macedonia is hurting for a true SF. Vojdan's twin, Damjan Stojanovski, will see minutes at both wing spots and can handle & drive the ball a little. Both brothers are subpar shooters.
(FYR) Macedonia smartly runs some Princeton-style sets that take advantage of their bigs' shooting and passing skills. Often see both bigs in double-high post alignment and they adjust into a hi-low set. Not sure I would call this team a great outside shooting team. Definitely adequate, some of their guards can be erratic and Ilievski can be streaky.
Closely matched with their Slavic neighbor, Montenegro, and the matchup of those two teams on the first day of EuroBasket could determine who gets the last second-round bid out of Group C.
Key Absences: Ratko Varda
Fairly talented roster with multiple players who have played well in the Euroleague. This team has plenty of players who can put points on the board. Mirza Teletovic, Henry Domercant, Ninad Dedovic, Kenan Bajrimovic and Nemanja Gordic. are proven scorers on the Euroleague level.
Somewhat peculiar why this team was not better in qualifiers. The problem seems to be these guys don't mesh together well; too many guys want to be the main option.
Bosnia was dealt a blow when veteran bruiser Ratko Varda chose to leave the team during training camp (believe he had to get back to his male modeling career). Bosnia will miss Varda's toughness and ability to score in the post.
Over the last few years, the offense has featured a fair amount of post-ups. But with Varda out, Bosnia's back-to-basket game might suffer a little. This team can drill shots on the perimeter and has multiple bigs who can float out.
Bosnia hopes PF Mirza Teletovic can replace Varda as the top option after sitting out last summer. Caja Laboral's Teletovic is simply an elite shooter--one of the best in Europe. See shades of Peja in Mirza: a 6-9 solid athlete who can bury shots coming off screens, off of quick dribble pull-ups, step-back pull-ups and can drill shots with defenders in his face. Bosnia will also post Mirza up. Believe he can be rotation player in the NBA.
Chicago-born SG/SF Henry Domercant (2003 NCAA leading scorer at E. Illinois) is another top option for Bosnia. Domercant will have the ball in his hands quite a bit either running pick-n-rolls or isos. Great all-around shooter who can hit pulling-up, spotting up or off screens. Well-built athlete who will defend the opponent's best player.
Possible NBA draft prospect Ninad Dedovic's strength is aggressively driving the ball to the rim --great finisher in half-court or transition. 21-year-old Dedovic had a solid season with Lottomatica Roma, averaging 9.3 ppg, 3 rpg & 2 apg in 27 mins. of Euroleague action. Dedovic's jumper is not reliable, but he can handle the ball well enough to be effective in p/n/r where's he a willing passer. Definitely should sag off him.
Dedovic's Lottomatica teammate, Nemanja Gordic, is another young up-and-comer for Bosnia to turn to in the backcourt. Gordic (6-3) can drive the ball to the rim going either way and finish in traffic. 23-year-old Gordic was also productive in Euroleague, averaging 10 ppg & 2.5 apg in 22 mins/game. Often looks off-balance on his jumper, but he's still an effective shooter, if a bit streaky. Sometimes is looking score too often instead of looking to distribute.
Sasa Vasiljevic (6-0) is more of a classic point guard than Gordic in the sense that he thinks pass first. Sasa runs the pick-n-roll with veteran savvy and will knock down jumpers when given the opportunity. Reserve wing Goran Ikonic's primary purpose is to spot up.
Lietuvos Rytas' leading scorer Kenan Bajramovic has a knack for finding ways to exploit the defense. Kenan will get some post touches where he has an effective turnaround jumper over his right shoulder and a decent hook shot.
For guy who's a subpar athlete, Bajrimovic (6-9) is surprisingly effective iso-ing up his defender on the perimeter and driving the ball to the rim. Savvy at leaning his body into the defender to draw fouls. Physical on both ends of the floor. Is a capable mid-range shooter.
Edin Bavcic (Sixers own rights) is another stretch-4 option for Bosnia. 6-11 Bavcic is a big who basically just wants to stand behind the arc; occasionally uses a quick first step to drive the ball.
Elmedin Kikanovic is another 6-11 big who prefers to shoot jumpers but fails to put his size to good use on the boards. 6-10 Ermin Jazvin is a mobile big who can be effective as a roll man and tough on the offensive glass.
For a team with decent size they don't rebound all that well. Only shot 32.6% from beyond the arc in qualifiers but don't think those numbers are indicative of how well this team can shoot the ball.
This team definitely has the raw talent to compete with any team in this group. They just haven't properly meshed as a cohesive unit on the court yet. Think they are very close to Montenegro and (FYR) Macedonia, and 3rd place is well within their reach.
Finland returns to its first EuroBasket since 1995 after going 4-0 in the Additional Qualifying tourney. Finland has a heavy NCAA-flavored roster with five key guys having played college ball in the States.
Former German coach Henrik Dettmann we'll try to get this sweet-shooting team to perform better than they did last summer (1-7 in qualifiers). One way he hopes to achieve this objective is by adding NBA draftee (Portland '07) Petteri Koponen back to the mix after sitting out last summer.
Combo guard Petteri Koponen (Mavs own rights) is Finland's featured player, whose 14 ppg and 5 apg led them in the qualification stage. Koponen (6-4) is effective at both guard spots and alternates ball-handling duties with starting PG Teemu Rannikko. Petteri is the one guy on the team who can attack the rim--very aggressive driver who finishes well. Petteri was off on his 3pt. looks in qualification, but in general, he's a capable shooter with his feet set or pulling up.
Teemu Rannikko is a savvy PG who has proven his worth at the top levels of European basketball for the last decade. Rannikko and Koponen will split ball-handling duties. Rannikko's smooth stroke makes a dangerous shooter. In pick-n-roll, Rannikko is a danger to pull-up but rarely takes the ball to the rim.
Former Old Dominion star Gerald Lee is their main interior option. Finland likes to milk Lee on the right block where he prefers to finish with his left hand. Solid post footwork and can make hooks with both hands. Lee is a subpar rebounder for size and needs to be more assertive. Finland needs him to use his size since he's their only quality center.
No surprise, the main weapon of Finland's offensive arsenal is the jump shot. Don't have too many guys who can drive the ball to rim and this team doesn't finish at the rim well, besides Koponen. Will feature a fair amount of post-ups, but they're almost exclusively called for Lee.
Tuukka Kotti and Kimmo Muurinen are both good athletes who play with great activity. Both PFs are strong defensively (Kotti has quick hands) and rebound well. Kotti (Providence alum) scores points off of cuts while Muurinen (Ark.-Little Rock alum) can hit from behind the arc.
Former Valparaiso wing Shawn Huff is another shooting threat for Finland who also serves as Finland's top perimeter defensive stopper.
20-year-old guard Sasu Salin's smooth mechanics make him a deadly floor-spreader. Salin has a little Euroleague experience playing for Union Olimpija and put up 10.6 ppg (46% on 3PA) in 20 mins/game for Finland during qualification.
Coach Dettmann coaxed former Atlanta Hawk/Utah Ute PF Hanno Mottola out of retirement for a last swan song with the national team. Mottola is not the player he once was and will be more of a tertiary player. Hanno can still knock down some mid-range jumpers and score a bit on the block.
Another Euro team with multiple shooting threats. Need to curtail its TOs--Koponen and Rannikko can get careless. This team needs to tighten its defense, particularly in pick-n-roll & transition.
Finland is not a pushover; there's some talent here. Koponen and Rannikko are solid players in the Italian league. Wouldn't be too surprised if they stole a victory by raining jumpers on the opponent.
• EuroBasket 2011 Preview: Overview | Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D
• 2011 FIBA Americas Preview