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A EuroBasket Primer for NBA Fans

EuroBasket 2015 starts this weekend and it’s a fantastic opportunity for NBA fans to get their fix of (pretty) high quality basketball. A number of NBA players will be representing their countries — plus, these are the international teams the USA will have to take down in the 2016 Olympics. Make sure you check out Nate Duncan’s preview podcast with Finnish EuroBasket announcer Kristian Palotie, which was a great resource in compiling this primer.

There are four groups in EuroBasket, with six teams in each. Four teams advance from each group to a round of 16, which then plays out like a traditional tournament. I’ll go through each group and single out the teams you should try and watch if you’re fixing for some late summer hoops.

In this primer, the NBA player(s) section may include recently drafted players who are more likely than not to eventually come over. In those cases, I’ll clearly denote the player’s status.

Group A


NBA player(s): Tony Parker (Spurs), Nic Batum (Hornets), Boris Diaw (Spurs), Rudy Gobert (Jazz), Evan Fournier (Magic)

This is arguably the most talented team in the tournament and one of the two clear favorites along with Spain. For one, they have their key players in tow, with a starting lineup likely consisting of the above five NBA players. Headed by Rudy Gobert and aided by Nic Batum on the wings, France should have the best defensive team in the tournament. Denver center Joffrey Lauvergne provides even more defensive depth behind Gobert.


NBA player(s): Marcin Gortat (Wizards)

Poland should definitely advance to the round of 16. Marcin Gortat is far too strong and skilled around the basket for most teams to deal with. Aside from some tough draws like France and Rudy Gobert, Gortat should absolutely dominate the tournament.


NBA player(s): none

While Finland has no current NBA players — Bulls fans may remember recent second-round pick Erik Murphy — Petteri Koponen should be one of the top players in the group. A 6’5″ 27-year-old point guard, Koponen was once drafted by the Mavericks and could still yet appear in the NBA. He’s strong and athletic for the position, and Finland is counting on him to take them as far into the tournament as they can get.


NBA player(s): none

Russia is a team in crisis at the moment. Far from full strength, they were only recently reinstated to even play in EuroBasket. They’ll be sorely missing Timofey Mozgov (Cavaliers), who underwent offseason surgery, and legend Andrei Kirilenko retired from the team. David Blatt also no longer coaches the squad.


NBA player(s): Omri Casspi (Kings)

Bosnia and Herzegovina

NBA player(s): none

Group B


NBA player(s): Nikola Mirotic (Bulls), Pau Gasol (Bulls), Guillermo Hernangomez (Knicks’ 2015 35th pick)

Group B is ridiculously stacked and easily the toughest group in a very lopsided tournament. Even so, Spain is the clear favorite here and possibly in the tournament itself. Though they’ll miss Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Ricky Rubio, Spain still has more than enough talent to make the other EuroBasket teams sweat. Losing Ibaka at least allowed Spain to add the emerging Nikola Mirotic as its naturalized player. He and Pau Gasol combine to make a formidable big man duo in the tournament that Bulls fans should easily recognize.


NBA player(s): Dennis Schröder (Hawks), Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), Tibor Pleiss (Jazz)

Germany won’t be great defensively, but with Dirk and Dennis Schröder, they’ll be awfully hard to stop from scoring. Dirk is getting up there in age, but he’s still a force to defend in international play. Germany should undoubtedly advance to the round of 16, but just how far they go likely depends on how ready Schröder is to carry the team.


NBA player(s): Nemanja Bjelica (Timberwolves), Bogdan Bogdanovic (Suns 2014 27th pick), Nikola Milutinov (Spurs 2015 26th pick)

Serbia is a deep and talented group with a strong national program. They should advance out of this super-group. None of the above players have appeared in the NBA yet, but each very well might. Bjelica is joining Minnesota this season, and Joshua Riddell profiled him for NBA fans earlier this summer at BBALLBREAKDOWN. He was the 2015 Euroleague MVP.


NBA player(s): Danilo Gallinari (Nuggets), Marco Belinelli (Kings), Andrea Bargnani (Nets)

Italy finally has all of its guys, but that just might not be enough to go as far as they’re hoping. According to Kristian Palotie, Bargnani has often been the focal point of the team’s offense in their tuneup games. Both Gallinari and Belinelli are better suited to run Italy’s offense, but all three have trouble creating their own shots. Furthermore, they won’t be able to stop anyone on defense. Advancing to the round of 16 will be a challenge.


NBA player(s): Ersan Ilyasova (Bucks), Furkan Aldemir (76ers)

Turkey probably doesn’t have enough firepower to advance in this stacked group. They have a big deficit in guard play and no longer have Hedo Turkoglu to facilitate on the wings. More importantly, Omer Asik is sitting out the tournament with back issues.


NBA player(s): none

Group C


NBA player(s): Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Kostas Papanikolaou (Nuggets), Kostas Koufos (Kings)

Greece has a deep roster and enviable defensive versatility, led by the incredible length of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Papanikolaou and Koufos are both quality NBA players who are even better in international play, particularly Koufos. Nick Calathes, formerly of the Memphis Grizzlies, is on the team at point guard. They don’t have a ton of shooting but should suffocate teams defensively; Giannis will be a big factor in how scary they can be. Fun fact: they have FOUR players named Kostas.


NBA player(s): Mario Hezonja (Magic), Dario Saric (76ers’ 2014 10th pick), Damjan Rudez (Timberwolves), Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets)

Croatia is a team that can definitely make some noise in the tournament. Hezonja is the name that’ll excite NBA fans most, but he may not play a ton of minutes. Croatia is sorely lacking at point guard and will struggle defensively. On the flip side, they have a lot of offensive talent elsewhere and could be seriously tough to beat. Dario Saric will play in Philadelphia soon enough, and this is a great chance to watch him in action.


NBA player(s): none

Zoran Dragic recently signed in Europe after being cut by the Boston Celtics, else he would have been their lone current NBA player. Slovenia will badly miss Goran Dragic; without him, they’re not a threat in the tournament. They may upset a better team, but won’t seriously contend.


NBA player(s): Zaza Pachulia (Mavericks)

Georgia also has Jacob Pullen, who you may remember starring at Kansas State.

MKD (Macedonia)

NBA player(s): none


NBA player(s): none

Group D

NBA player(s): Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors)

Lithuania is the clear favorite in this laughably weak group. Talented young center Jonas Valanciunas is backed up by Domantas Sabonis, the son of former NBA star Arvydas. Sabonis currently plays at Gonzaga and is considered a potential first-round pick. He’s a lefty big man, a good rebounder with nice touch around the rim. Lithuania traditionally likes to push the pace, so it’ll be interesting to see how they work to integrate Valanciunas, who is now clearly their best player. They could miss the presence of Linas Kleiza, who briefly played in the NBA.


NBA player(s): none

Likely the second-best team in this group, Latvia is a growing program that is still some years away from being a contender. Jannis Timma, a 6’7″ wing, could play in the NBA in the future.

Czech Republic

NBA player(s): none

Former Wizards lottery pick Jan Vesely is on this squad.


NBA player(s): none


NBA player(s): none


NBA player(s): none

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