EuroBasket 2017 is the premier qualifying event for European national teams for the Summer Olympic Games and FIBA World Cup. This year is the 40th edition of the event and will be held between August 31-September 17 in four countries. Over 30 current and former NBA players are playing for their national teams in this competition. This includes several solid veterans and a number of promising youngsters.
Finland, Israel, Romania and Turkey were all automatic qualifiers for the event as they are serving as hosts. Spain, Lithuania, France, Serbia, Greece, Italy, Czech Republic, Italy, Czech Republic, Latvia and Croatia also were automatic qualifiers as a result of them finishing in the top-9 of EuroBasket 2015.
Spain is the defending champion of the event and the favorites to win their fourth gold medal since 2009. Spain, led by Pau and Marc Gasol, feature six current NBA players and two former NBA’ers (Sergio Rodriguez and Juan Carlos-Navarro). La Roja does not have the easiest rode in Group C as they were paired with automatic qualifiers Czech Republic and Croatia.
Croatia has a lot of young talent. The Croatians, who are making their 15th EuroBasket appearance, finished ninth in 2015. But they got several players who spread the floor with their shooting. Current NBA players Bojan Bogdanovic, Dario Saric and Dragen Bender lead the way for the Kockasti, who are fourth in the FIBA Europe Power Rankings. Montenegro, Romania and Hungary round out the group.
Serbia may be Spain’s biggest challenger this year. The Serbs, who had their best finish in 2009, are making their sixth EuroBasket appearance. The Eagles (Orlovi) will not have the service of Los Angeles Clippers point guard Milos Teodosic (injury) but are pretty loaded nevertheless. 2014 first round draft pick Bogdan Bogdanovic and. Detroit Pistons center Boban Marjanovic are players lead the squad.
Serbia is joined in Group D by Great Britain, Russia, Latvia, Turkey and Belgium.
France, Greece and Lithuania are the other top contenders for gold. France is participating in its 38th EuroBasket Championship, following its lone title in 2013 and a fifth place finish in 2015. Tony Parker retired from international competition while Rudy Gobert and Nic Batum along with Timothe Luwawu-Cabaret (injury) are not playing this year. Still, France should be competitive with Boris Diaw, Evan Fournier and Joffrey Lauvergne leading the charges.
Greece will likely be France’s chief competition in Group A. While the Greeks won’t have Giannis Antetokounmpo or Kosta Koufos this go around, they do have Sacramento Kings second-year 7-1 center Georgios Papagiannis. Former NBA players Nick Calathes, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Kostas Papanikolaou are also on the squad.
Lithuania have finished runners-up in the last two EuroBasket events. The three-time EuroBasket champions, their last title coming in 2003, won’t be as strong as the past few years as they are missing several key members. But Jonas Valanciunas and New York Knick Mindaugas Kuzminskas along with former New Orleans Pelican Donatas Motiejunas give the Baltic Giants are a formidable frontcourt. Georgia and Italy could give Lithuania a run for supremacy in Group B.
Slovenia, Latvia and Turkey could surprise, if everything comes together. The top-6 finishers automatically qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Here is a look at 10 players to watch during the tournament.
Dario Saric - Croatia: The 2017 NBA All-Rookie first team selection could be one of the top players in the tournament.
Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia: One of the best youngsters in the game today who could lead Latvia to its best finish in the modern era.
The Hernangomez brothers, Willy and Juan, Spain: Both brothers are coming off solid rookie season. Willy, 23, was fantastic with New York averaging 8.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in less than 19 minutes a game. Juan, 21, compiled 4.9 points and 3.0 caroms in less than 14 minutes for Denver.
10. Luka Doncic, Slovenia
Ok, Doncic is not technically an NBA player, but he is projected to be a top- lottery selection in the 2018 NBA draft. It will be interesting to see how he does against some of the best in the world, including current NBA players.
The 18-year-old is versatile, extremely gifted offensively and possesses a high basketball-IQ. He can score on all three levels as he possesses a sweet-looking jumper. The 6-7 wing sees the floor extremely well, is a terrific passer which complements his above average ball-handling skills.
Defensively, he competes but his lack of quickness and lateral speed hurts against more explosive players.
Doncic has played for Real Madrid the last two seasons. He was named the Spanish League Best Young Player and Euroleague Rising Star this past season, averaging 7.8 points along with 4.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He shot 46.0% from the field and 34.7% from beyond the arc in 67 total games.
This is Doncic’s first EuroBasket competition.
9. Daniel Theis and Isaiah Hartenstein, Germany
Theis is one of a few players participating in the EuroBasket Tournament who could their NBA debuts this year. Theis signed a two-year deal with the Boston Celtics free agent deal though only this year is fully guaranteed. He will likely make the team though his position is tenuous at best. The 6-9 power forward-center will likely spend most of the season with the G-League’s Maine Red Claws.
Theis is an athletic big who can score inside as well as stretch the floor with his shooting. He also is proficient in pick-n-rolls. But it is on the defensive end is where he thrives. Theis, who was named the German BBL Defensive Player of the Year in 2016-17, is an excellent shot-blocker and good rebounder.
In 2016-17, Theis produced 9.5 points along with 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 19.2 minutes of action for Brose Baskets. He shot 57.7% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc.
Hartenstein was a second round selection of the Houston Rockets in 2017. The 7-foot center will stay over in Europe this event will give him a chance to go against NBA bigs for the first time. The 19-year-old is raw offensively but he is a capable playmaker who can play inside and out. He is an excellent rebounder.
Hartenstein played for Zalgiris (Lithuania) last season, averaging 4.1 points along with 3.0rebounds while shooting 49.6% from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc.He also averaged 4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in 9.6 minutes with Houston’s Las Vegas Summer League squad.
8. Cedi Osman, Turkey
Osman will be joining the Cleveland Cavaliers after the competition. The 6-8 Macedonia native was selected with the 31st overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. In a draft night deal, the Wolves sent Osman along with fellow second round choice Rakeem Christmas to Cleveland for point guard Tyus Jones. Osman signed a three-year, $8.3 million deal though only the first two seasons are guaranteed.
The 22-year-old is a spot-up shooter who does have the ability to come off screens. He will post up small wings, shooting short jumpers over them or floaters in the lane. Defensively, Osman can basically just defend shooting guards as he is not fleet of foot though he can move laterally decent enough to keep in front of players of similar size. Foul trouble is an issue for him.
Osman played the last five seasons for Anadolu Efes in the Turkish Basketball League, averaging 10.17 points along with 3.43 rebounds in 22.1 minutes a game in 70 games last season. He shot 46.2% from the floor and 36.5% from beyond the arc.
Osman is playing in his fourth event for Turkey’s National Team. He struggled with his shot during the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, producing 17 points and 11 rebounds while shooting just 26.5% from the field in two games. In the 2015 EuroBasket Tournament, Osman scored in double-figures in four of the six games as he averaged 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
If Osman can produce offensively, Turkey could possibly qualify the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Philadelphia 76ers rookie Furkan Kormaz, former Sixer Furkan Aldemir and former NBA player Semih Erden are also on the squad.
Osman will likely be the Cavs 14th or 15th man this season, meaning he will spend a lot of time with the G-League’s Canton Charge.
7. Georgios Papagiannis, Greece
The big thing for the 20-year-old Sacramento Kings reserve center is to keep progressing in his development. And a good way to measure his improvement is to see how he does against savvy veteran players like he will go against in this event.
Papagiannis, the 13th overall pick in 2016, showed promise late last season -- registering two double-doubles in his final 13 games. For the season, Papagiannis produced 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 54.9% from the field in 22 games. He then averaged 5.7 points and 7.6 in six summer league games.
Papagiannis is making his first senior national team appearance and should see considerable time as Greece’s backup center.
6. Donatas Motiejunas, Lithuania
Will Motiejunas return to the NBA? The 7-foot power forward center recently signed a $3 million deal with Chinese club Shandong Golden Stars for the upcoming season.
Motiejūnas has been limited the past two seasons in the NBA, spending 2015-16 with Houston and last season in New Orleans, due to back injuries. Prior to the injuries, he was a serviceable backup big whose biggest asset was on the defensive end as he is a banger. Offensively, he is strong around the basket and knows how to use his body to get deep in the lane.
Motiejunas’ best season came in 2014-15 where he averaged 12.0 points and 5.9 boards a game. He has appeared in just 71 games the last two seasons.
5. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia
Bogdanovic will finally make his NBA debut this year. Bogdanovic is projected to backup Buddy Hield at shooting guard in Sacramento this year, however, he could see time at small forward. The sweet shooting 6-6 wing was chosen by the Phoenix Suns with the 27th overall pick in the 2014 draft.
Bogdanovic is a shot-maker who is very good with the ball in his hand though his best skill is shooting off the catch. The 25-year old has the ability to run pick-n-rolls and can get to the rim despite not being overly explosive. He is a good passer and has improved defensively since being drafted.
Bogdanovic had his best season of his career with Fenerbahce Ulker last year, compiling 14.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 27.8 minutes of action. He also shot 48.5% from the field 37.6% from beyond the arc.
Serbia is ranked third by FIBA and will need a solid performance by Bogdanovic in the EuroBasket 2017 if they are going to challenge Spain for gold. Bogdanovic is a seasoned international player, averaging 12.7 points along with 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in five events.
4. Lauri Markkanen, Finland
Markkanen became the first Finnish player ever to be selected in the NBA lottery when the Minnesota Timberwolves, who sent him to Chicago as part of the Jimmy Butler trade, nabbed him with the No. 7 pick this past June.
Markkanen is very skilled who can score inside and out as well as get to the bucket off the dribble. The athletic 7-footer had a fantastic season at Arizona and was impressive during summer league action, averaging 14.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in three games in Vegas. He also made two three-pointers a game, however, he only shot 29.3% from the floor and 24.0% from long-distance.
Markkanen, who is making his senior national debut, is part of a veteran Finland squad. He is projected to see time off the bench in EuroBasket 2017.
3. Tomas Satoransky, Czech Republic
Satoransky had a disappointing rookie season with the Washington Wizards. So, this competition is very important for the 25-year-old in his development.
Satoransky is a big combo guard who is an excellent distributor. His best asset, at this point, is his versatility as he has yet to show that he can shoot the ball consistently. The 2012 second round draft pick recorded one double-double though he just scored in double-figures three times in 57 regular season appearances. Satoransky averaged 2.7 points and 1.6 assists while shooting 41.5% from the field and 24.3% from beyond the arc this season.
Satoransky has been very productive with the Czech senior national team, having participating with the squad since 2009. He averages 11.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists in international competition.
2. Dragan Bender, Croatia
Bender is still learning the professional game and this event will be a nice barometer on his development. The 19-year-old, who struggled during his rookie season with Phoenix, did have a solid summer league campaign.
Bender has major potential on both ends of the floor as he is skilled offensively and possesses elite athleticism and length for a player who stands 7-1. Bender will likely to the season behind Marquese Chriss at power forward for the Suns though a big EuroBasket session could give the Suns brass more confidence in the youngster. Bender, who posted one double-double, averaged 3.4 points and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 35.4% from the field and 27.7% from beyond the arc.
Bender is making his Serbian national team debut. Croatia should be an entertaining team to watch as Bender, Saric and Bogdanovic are all versatile and very talented offensively.
1. Pau and Marc Gasol, Spain
Spain is a veteran squad led by Gasol brothers despite their advanced age. Pau 37, and Marc 32, have been playing together for the national team since 2006, helping Spain claim three golds and two silvers. Overall, Pau has earned nine medals (four golds) since joining the national team in 2001. In the meanwhile, Marc has collected seven medals (three golds). Marc has not played in the international competition since 2013.
Pau has posted career average of 20.6 points and 8.0 rebounds in international competition. Marc has been a little less effective, producing 9.5 points and 5.4 boards.