EuroBasket 2017 Preview Group B: Lithuania Finally Trying to Get Gold

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EuroBasket gets ready to start on August 31 and is one of the best competitions of international basketball out there. It’s taking place in Finland, Romania, Israel and Turkey from August 31 – September 17. There are plenty of big names playing in the event and some missing due to injury. EuroBasket is made up of 24 teams, playing in 4 groups. The top-4 from each group advance to the knockout round. Spain is the reigning champ from 2015. We’ll be taking a look at each group over the next few days, breaking down the roster and picking who should advance to the knockout round. I highly suggest watching the event if you can as it is probably the third most competitive event behind the Olympics and World Cup for basketball. 

Group B

Venue: Tel Aviv, Israel

Teams (World Rank): Ukraine (38), Lithuania (5), Italy (35), Israel (37),Georgia (47), Germany (29)





Story lines to watch: 

1. Can Lithuania easily win the group: 

This is probably the weakest group in EuroBasket, setting Lithuania up for a nice run assuming they don’t shoot themselves in the foot. Lithuania is the favorite to win this group fairly easily and one of the favorites to win the entire tournament. They boast a handful of NBA players and plenty of guys with experience playing in EuroBasket and the Olympics. Last year Lithuania was expected to be a team to medal at the Olympics, but found themselves eliminated by Australia in the quarterfinals, a game in which they lost 90-64. It wasn’t a great showing for a team that is coming off of a couple of silver medals in EuroBasket. If they can coast during group play, they’ll be one of the more rested teams come knockout time.

2. How healthy is Zaza’s ankle? 

Yeah, I know a lot of people like to knock on Zaza because of the All-Star Game voting and the fact he’s an average NBA player. But, the dude is big time in international basketball and clearly the best team on Georgia. He nearly notched a triple-double earlier this summer against the Czech Republic and if Georgia wants to advance to the knockout round he needs to be healthy. He suffered an ankle injury during the tune-up games (Georgia played 9 of them) and Zaza was limited during most of those. He has the capability to carry Georgia to a win in the knockout stage if he’s fully healthy.

3. Germany without Dirk 

We’re starting to see the older international guys that helped the growth of basketball outside of the US starting to step away from international play. Dirk is the latest one as he’s no longer playing for the German national team. Instead they have guys like Dennis Schroder, Daniel Theis and Ike Hartenstein – shoutout TylerIAm. This is clearly Schroder’s team though. That was evident during the 2015 EuroBasket Tournament and will be even more clear now. He needs to be aggressive and look to attack off the bounce to give Germany a shot in this event. Celtics fans will want to watch Germany for Daniel Theis as he’s expected to be one of the three key players for this team.

4. Tel Aviv hosting with Israel in the group: 

Israel was one of the best teams during EuroBasket warm ups as they went 8-2 and finished 10th in the 2015 EuroBasket. Throw in the fact they get to play home games throughout the group stage and this is a team that could surprise some people. Israel has always been a hotbed in international basketball as Maccabi Tel Aviv is one of the more familiar EuroLeague teams – winning the EuroLeague title six times. Everyone knows the name Omri Casspi and he’s the best player on the team for sure, but they have guys who can create for themselves as well. Most notably Israel has Gal Mekel, who spent time with the Mavericks and Pelicans over the last couple of years before playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

5. Italy’s injury problems: 

Italy was supposed to contend in this group and possibly make a run in the knockout stage. However the moment Danilo Gallinari punched a player from the Netherlands during a warm up game, injuring himself in the process, it eliminated Italy from being a serious threat. Especially because they are also going to be missing Andrea Bargnani. That means it’s going to be a whole lot of Marco Belinelli.

Five best players: 

1. Dennis Schroder (Germany)

2. Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania)

3. Marco Belinelli (Italy)

4. Omri Casspi (Israel)

5. Zaza Pachulia (Georgia)

Projected order of finish: 

1. Lithuania

2. Israel

3. Italy

4. Germany

Not Advancing to Knockout Stage

5. Georgia

6. Ukraine