We conclude our previews and power rankings marathon with the last batch. These teams are projected to be the weakest or the most disappointing ones in the tournament which tips off in a few hours. We present you Czech Republic, Ukraine, Sweden and Great Britain.
21. CZECH REPUBLIC
If their group wasn’t so tough, the young and soft Czech team would seem like a likely top12 one. In the group of France, for example, they might be in position to fight even for the 2nd spot of the group, given that they have a starting lineup, good depth in some positions, while their youngsters carry relevant club experience.
The team’s main names are Tomas Satoransky of Cajasol and Jan Vesely of Washington, both belonging to the same generation, while next to them there is a good combination of veterans and talented youth in David Jelinek, Lubos Barton, Jiri Welsch, Pavel Pumprla (in the backcourt and wings) as well as Petr Benda, Pavel Houska and the very long Ondrej Balvin in the paint.
Overall they arrive to Slovenia full-team, they have decent depth and good offensive spirit, though in most of the friendlies they weren’t looking dangerous or scary at all. Defensively they are not aggressive enough and while the long, athletic and lanky Vesely might be their most talented player, his lack of offensive fluidity and creativity, forces Satoransky (who is the most offensively complete one in the backcourt) to be the leader of this team, especially since they don’t have any solid back-up PG for him and he will see many minutes of action.
In order to qualify, they need wins against Poland, Georgia and one of the three big names (Spain, Slovenia and Croatia). It really looks unlikely that they will make it through.
The only team that has yet to announce their final squad for the Eurobasket is Ukraine. Mike Frattelo’s squad is going to be in a rather interesting position again. In Eurobasket 2011, they were in Group D, by far the easiest group, and they didn’t manage to qualify in the top12. This time, their group is even easier, but they haven’t progressed much since then and now they are looking rather thin in almost every single position of their lineup. Group A consists of powerhouse France, medium teams Israel, Germany and Belgium and the hammered by absences Great Britain. Can they make it this time?
Sergii Gladyr, Pooh Jeter and Oleksandr Lypovyy headline a talent-wise strong backcourt starting lineup in all three perimeter positions, though Lypovyy has yet to play significant minutes and a more definite role at the senior level. Jeter played in China this year and the undersized PG had a very productive season. Gladyr, however, will remain their main force from the backcourt positions.
In the paint, in the absence of Alex Len, Viacheslav Kravtsov will be the sole NBA big man. Without many offensive skills, Kravtsov can still be a key factor but he is not talented enough to emerge as a number 2 option to Gladyr. Usually a team with many big bodies, the Ukranian side will not have this advantage to its side this time. Hopefully for them, Fratello will make the right cuts in order to avoid early elimination this time though.
A user in a basketball forum was writing a few days ago that he can’t believe that a team of Sweden’s level actually will be playing in the Eurobasket. It’s understandable, not only because of the image the team presented in the preparation games before the tournament but also because many basketball fans haven’t noticed many Swedish players succeeding in that specific sport.
Nevertheless, the Swedish have an NBA player (and a part-time starter, or at least last season) in the offensively limited but talented all-around power forward Jonas Jerebko as well as a Sweden born and raised, scoring wing Jeffery Taylor, who was scoring in bunches in the friendly games. Point guard Kenneth Grant was the only other player who averaged double digits for the Swedes in the qualification tournament last summer, while the sole recognizable face in the frontcourt alongside the team’s star Jerebko will be the veteran center Joakimi Kjellbom, who is a good rebounder and finisher in the post.
Overall, very low expectations for Sweden, who is already very successful for even making it to Slovenia. The top12 qualification is obviously out of reach, since among Greece, Turkey, Russia and Italy, there isn’t a team that looks in their standards, while Finland is also clearly deeper than them. And to make it further they need three wins, so even a positive surprise in one match won’t be enough for them.
24. GREAT BRITAIN*
Great Britain will be without the services of their three leading scorers in Luol Deng, joel Freeland and Pops Mensah-Bonsu for Eurobasket, which has hurt them a lot. The warm-up games have seen them go 1-6 with the lone win over a Puerto Rico “B” team the only success.
New GB coach Joe Prunty has put his faith in a team with no real major scorer. Devon van Oostrum averaged big numbers during the nation’s successful under-20 campaign earlier on in the summer but under Prunty is playing a much different role and if it wasn’t for Alex Murcotullio’s fitness problems, would have possibly found himself back in Spain preparing for the new domestic season rather than being in Ljubljana.
Prunty wants GB to be defensive-minded but as the tournament begins on Wednesday, it still needs work. Offensively, the team needs to be patient to get better results but instead, GB have wasted possessions by rushing them, leading to quick and needless shots or turnovers.
One thing that you will never take away from this young and inexperienced group of players is the determination to fight to the end. Buoyed by the news that Dan Clark will play has given them a glimmer of hope – and GB will play with nothing to lose. The eyes of the Eurobasket community are expecting very little from the Brits in this group, but it could play to their advantage.
* Great Britain preview was written by our own John Hobbs, who is already in Slovenia to cover the entire tournament for TalkBasket.