The Dream Team’s children

The now elder statesmen of international hoops often speak about the influence the Dream Team had on them but what about the players who were born in the wake of that defining event in international basketball? Emmet Ryan looks at the most interesting young players at the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball.

This seems like as good a time as any to talk about youth at the World Cup given Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has been named in Ukraine’s squad. For the purposes of this we’re defining these players as any born from 1992 onwards. That means one or two were born before the 1992 Olympics but we’re going to allow them those couple of months when it’s safe to say they didn’t develop all that much as ballers.

What was stunning in our look across the squads was how few young players feature on teams from the Americas. Outside of Team USA, it’s a string of veteran heavy outfits. Europe, by and large, is sending more balanced squads but there are plenty of younger players knocking around.
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Highlights: Jonas Valanciunas scores 19 points against Australia

It was a big night for Jonas Valanciunas as he scored 19 points and snagged 8 rebounds in Lithuania’s World Cup warm-up win over Australia. Here’s the Raptors’ big man doing his thing.
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Euro ballers get the NBA Sweets treatment

Despite a whole lot of genuinely interesting things happening in the world of basketball right now, it’s a tough time to manage a NBA social media account. Most free agents are signed, the summer league is long over, and there’s still a good chunk of time until pre-season. Throw all that together and NBA Twitter accounts start getting silly. On Wednesday the theme was #NBASweets and Euro ballers in the association didn’t get left out of the nonsense.

Here are the highlights:
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EURO-NBA: Europe is on Team Hill

With all three Europeans in Friday’s NBA Rising Stars game being selected by Grant Hill for his team to go up against Chris Webber’s selection, BiE pays tribute to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pero Antic, and Jonas Valanciunas.

No need to divide your loyalties this Friday night. If you are European and watching the NBA Rising Stars game, there’s only one possible team to root for. All three Europeans have been selected to play for Team Hill. Here’s a look at all three of them.

Pero Antic – Atlanta Hawks
Season stats: 5.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 15.5 MPG
The Macedonian big man was a cult favourite in Europe and nothing has changed since moving to the NBA where, at 31, he is the oldest man in this year’s Rising Stars line-up. Antic started slowly but a few double digit explosions have secured Antic’s place in this game.

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EURO-NBA: Jonas and the gang ruin Kobe’s party

The Raptors ruined Kobe’s comeback party but the road ahead for Jonas and co. is long and miserable.

Thank you Terrence Ross for setting the tone. The Raptors ruined Kobe Bryant’s comeback party with a 106-94 win in the Staples Center. Your reward, Mr Ross, is increased minutes and touches. Actually to all you Raps out there, congratulations you’ll be seeing a lot more of the ball and the opposition. Woj broke the news shortly before tip that Rudy Gay, the under-performing but still pretty useful star of the Raps, was being traded to Sacramento. That’s going to see a lot of pressure humped on the younger stars in Toronto’s line-up. Jonas Valanciunas is going to become a bigger part of the offence because everyone is. Last night’s 6 points and 5 boards outing wasn’t exactly typical Jonas but he’s going to have to fight harder now for his scores. On the upside, losing Gay’s contract makes the re-build in Toronto that bit easier especially as the move was made before 19 December. That makes further flipping more straight-forward later in the season.

Andrea Bargnani went 1 of 7 for just 2 points in 22 minutes as the Knicks got routed at home by the Celtics 114-73. Boston burst out the gates to lead 34-11 at the end of the first and the Knicks never looked like making a game of it.

Jonas Jerebko has 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals in 21 minutes for the Pistons as Detroit fell 110-95 to the visiting Heat. Gigi Datome got 8 minutes but failed to make an impact for Detroit.

Omri Casspi got 6 points and 6 boards for the Rockets in 23 minutes of action as they downed the Magic 98-88. Donatas Montiejunas grabbed 2 boards in his 4 minutes on the floor.

It was a reasonably quiet night for Serge Ibaka as he scored 13 points and grabbed 3 rebounds as the Thunder rolled past the Pacers 118-94. Thabo Sefolosha scored 4 points and had 2 boards in the contest for OKC.


EURO-NBA: Parker strikes gold, Jonas dunks on LeBron, Schroeder’s 7 dimes

Jonas Valanciunas scored 18 points in a losing effort for the Raptors last night but none of his buckets stood out quite like the one above as the big Lithuanian posterised the best player in the game. Valanciunas added 9 boards for his trouble but it wasn’t enough as LeBron James scored 35 points, grabbed 8 boards, and disheed 8 assists in a 104-95 win for the Heat.

Tony Parker had a big night in Denver. Parker went 9-13 from the field as he scored 24 points and had 6 dimes in a 102-94 win for the Spurs. Parker’s French national team-mate Boris Diaw chipped in with 9 points and 8 boards in 26 minutes of play while Italy’s Marco Belinelli had 4 points, 1 assist, and 1 steal in 10 minutes off the bench. Timofey Mozgov had 11 points and 6 rebounds for the Nuggets in 21 minutes of action while Evan Fournier had a minor impact off the bench, grabbing 2 boards and 1 assist in his 9 minutes of action.

Dennis Schroeder continued his impressive start to life in the NBA as he dished 7 assists in Atlanta’s 105-100 win at Sacramento. The German guard added 6 points and 2 boards but managed to pick up 4 fouls in just 19 minutes of game time. Pero Antic matched his career high, admittedly it’s been a four-game career, with 5 points for the Hawks. The Macedonian also snagged a rebound. Most promising for Antic was the trust placed in him on Tuesday night as he got 16 minutes, the most in any of his outings so far, on the floor.

The good news for Mirza Teletovic is he played 12 minutes and the Nets won. The bad news is he shot 0-5, managing just 1 point from the charity stripe, and had 1 rebound. #FreeMirza and bring him home. Andrei Kirilenko scored 6 points and grabbed 5 boards in 17 minutes for Brooklyn as they beat the Jazz 104-88. Enes Kanter scored 21 points and grabbed 8 boards but the Turkish big had 7 turnovers in the loss. Rudy Gobert grabbed 11 boards in 16 minutes off the bench.

Omer Asik had 8 points and 5 assists in Houston’s 116-101 win in Portland. Nicolas Batum had 13 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 3 boards in a losing effort for the Blazers. Spain’s Victor Claver saw just a minute of court time.

Ian Mahinmi (Pacers) and Gigi Datome (Pistons) both had quiet nights as Indiana rolled to a 109-100 win in Detroit.

Andrea Bargnani scored 6 points and grabbed 2 boards as the Knicks fell 102-97 to the Bobcats.
EDIT: Thanks to the guys at Swedish Basketball for pointing out that Jeff Taylor had season highs of 13 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes for Charlotte.

Ukraine’s Viacheslav Kravtsov scored 3 points off the bench as the Suns beat the Pelicans 104-98.

And finally, two of Europe’s most storied ballers clashed in Dallas on Tuesday night. Dirk Nowitzki took the W over Pau Gasol as the Mavs beat the Lakers 123-104. Dirk had 11 points, 8 boards, and 4 assists for Dallas while Pau scored 10, had 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. Spain’s Jose Calderon had a good night for the Mavs, with 12 points, 5 assists, and 4 boards.


EuroBasket: It all comes down to this

After 11 games and ups and downs, France and Lithuania enter Sunday’s EuroBasket 2013 final with a clean slate. The only thing that matters is who is in front when the final buzzer sounds.

Key man: Tony Parker He is the tournament’s top scorer and unquestionably its biggest star. Whatever else happens in Ljubjana today, you can bet your house that Tony Parker will get buckets and lots of them today. It’s not the array of honours he’s won with the San Antonio Spurs that makes him a marked man today. Parker has done enough in the blue jersey of France to make the continent aware of what he can do. Lithuania will be tempted to overload on Parker but given nobody has been able to stop him so far, there’s a more important area to focus in stifling the French offence.
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EuroBasket: Lithuania beat Italy 81-77 in a classic

Lithuania and Italy served up the quarter final we had been waiting for in EuroBasket 2013. A battle down to the wire where Lithuania finally pulled through to book a date with Croatia.

Finally a game worth killing for. The quarter finals were lacking something up until this point. We needed joie de mort. Where the end of a team’s quest for the title actually caused us to feel it inside. That is what Italy, unwillingly no doubt, delivered on Thursday. The underdogs were dominated on the boards, as any observer no doubt expected, but Marco Belinelli and Alessandro Gentile wouldn’t let that stop them. For all his issues winning rebounds, Gentile delivered offensively with 15 points in the losing effort. Belinelli, ever the stoic operator, was a one man army for the Italians. His haul of 22 points and 2 steals dared the Lithuanians to match him.

In Mantas Kalneitis he had a worthy adversary. It’s easy for Lithuanians to say none of their guards are Saras but for once Kalneitis forced the doubters to be silent. He led the team with 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. In Ljubjana he stood on the floor and demanded respect. Renaldas Sebuitis match Kalneitis in scoring and added 6 rebounds too. This was a team that could match the Italians outside as they sought victory on the interior.

This night however was not one for Jonas Valanciunas. The fearsome big man was quiet all evening, only featuring for 11 minutes, as his team mates carried the load. Trailing 58-57 going into the final frame, Lithuania broke for home with a 15-0 run that would have ended the battle of a lesser foe.

Credit therefore to Italy who battled gamely to the death. One would expect no less from Gigi Datome but to see those around him fight hard was inspiring. Reeling in Lithuania was always going to be unlikely after that run but there was no quarter given by the Italians down the stretch. The preceding quarter finals had been about progression. This game was one of survival.

Italy’s mettle was not enough to take the day but proved their character. They now enter the classification round where they take on Ukraine to lock up a place in the FIBA World Cup next year. Lithuania’s 2014 qualification is assured with this victory. That won’t be on their minds tonight. This is an evening for resting and refocusing. The greater challenge awaits on Friday. Croatia and a place in the final of EuroBasket 2013.


Preview: EuroBasket Quarter Finals – Croatia vs Ukraine and Lithuania vs Italy

Three more teams will book their place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup on Thursday as the quarter finals of EuroBasket 2013 conclude. Here’s are take and picks on both games as well as the classification game between Slovenia and Serbia where the winner books a ticket to Spain. 

Croatia lost their first game in Slovenia and then rattled off seven straight wins to secure a favourable draw in the last eight. The Croats have power inside and will look to dominate on the glass, where they have averaged 43.1 rebounds per game. After beating Ukraine home and away in the qualification round last year, it’s hardly a surprise to see Croatia as favourites for this game. This is a team however which is almost addicted to making life difficult irrespective of the opponent. Only one of Croatia’s run of victories came in a manner that could remotely be described as comfortable. Every other game was a battle often of the Croats own doing. This will give hope to Ukraine which will rely heavily on three-point shooting to keep the game competitive and make the favourites nervous. Mike Fratello’s team lives and dies by how Pooh Jeter plays. What Croatia do to shut down the world’s biggest fan of borscht could prove decisive. The bookies have Croatia down as -8 favourites. That looks about right to me. Croatia to advance.

The second quarter final today sees Italy take on Lithuania. Raptors Republic is calling this tournament JonasBasket and while there’s an element of insular thinking there, for one evening they may have a point. Lithuania can bang hard with anybody and Jonas Valanciunas will have an important role to play in this game. Italy’s struggles inside hurt them in the second stage and they will need Alessandro Gentile to match his big display against Spain for this game to be competitive. There’s certainly talent on the Italian roster, with Marco Belinelli and Gigi Datome both impressing at this tournament. What the duo needs most is help. I expect a heavy emphasis on defence from Lithuania early to try and frustrate Italy before the favourites look to punch a big hole on the scoreboard in the second quarter. Lithuania are favoured by 5.5 points and again this looks about right. Power inside will make the difference. Lithuania to win.

Before today’s quarter finals take place, the first of the classification games will see Slovenia take on Serbia. The home side lost to France in a contest that took a while to get going last night while the Serbs were swept aside by Spain. The emotional energy spent by Slovenia is a big concern going into this game. While Serbia will have been shocked by the way they were manhandled by Spain, it’s easier to get back mentally after a laugher than the type of draining game Slovenia played. I’m going for the slight upset here and picking Serbia.


EuroBasket: Jonas Valanciunas Leads Centres in Points Per Possession

Lithuania may want to consider giving Jonas Valanciunas more minutes after checking out this chart. The Toronto Raptors big man leads all centers in points per possession (PPP).


This chart by Simon Jatsch of shows, unsurprisingly, that Valanciunas does most of his work around the rim. The “Rest Two” category relates to jump hook shots and other close range efforts that are not strictly jump shooting. Valanciunas has yet to record an assist in the tournament and his total shots per game ranks relatively low among big men. Much of this can be attributed to Valanciunas playing mostly off the bench for Lithuania through the tournament. Serbia’s Nenad Krstic leads all centers in shots created with 5.5 per 28 minutes.

Israel’s Afik Nassim is the only player with a higher PPP than Valanciunas, at 1.226. Greece’s Kostas Papanikolaou, currently with FC Barcelona and whose NBA rights are held by the Portland Trail Blazers, has matched Valanciunas 1.189 PPP.

Goran Dragic is by far the most pass happy point guard in the tournament with 49.6 per cent of his possessions turning into assists.

Simon has produced 50 charts covering the most interesting players in the tournament, including most of the top 10 at every position. Check them out here.